Why South Africa ranks as one of the worst places to live

InterNations, a network for expats, has published new data highlighting the best and worst countries for expats to move and live. In 2021, Taiwan, Mexico, and Costa Rica are the best expat destinations globally, attracting expats with their ease of settling in and good personal finances.

Unfortunately, South Africa (57) joins Kuwait (59) and Italy (58) in the bottom three.

Taiwan ranks first out of 59 destinations for the third year in a row in the Expat Insider 2021 survey. It also comes first in the Quality of Life and Working Abroad Indices: Most expats are satisfied with their job security (83% vs. 61% globally) and the state of the local economy (85% vs. 62% globally). Additionally, the majority is happy with their job (75% vs. 68% globally) and their life in general (80% vs. 75% globally).

The vast majority (96%) of expats rate the quality of medical care positively (vs. 71% globally), and another 94% are satisfied with its affordability (vs. 61% globally).

Although Taiwan places slightly lower in the Ease of Settling In Index (13th), it is the best-ranking destination worldwide in the Friendliness subcategory (1st). Most expats find it easy to make friends there (62% vs. 48% globally) and describe the Taiwanese population as friendly towards foreign residents (96% vs. 67% globally).

Mexico ranks second out of 59 destinations globally. It is even rated the best country for expats in the Ease of Settling In Index (1st): 85% find it easy to settle down in Mexico (vs. 62% globally), and 78% say it is easy to make local friends (vs. 44% globally).

Mexico also scores well in the Personal Finance (2nd) and Cost of Living (4th) Indices. Four in five expats (80%) are satisfied with their financial situation (vs. 64% globally), and 90% say their disposable household income is enough or more than enough to cover their living expenses (vs. 77% globally).

Mexico performs slightly below average in the Quality of Life Index (31st). It comes in 42nd place in the Quality of the Environment subcategory, with 27% of expats being unhappy with the water and sanitation infrastructure (vs. 12% globally).

Additionally, Mexico is among the bottom 10 of the Safety & Security subcategory (51st), with 20% of expats concerned about their personal safety (vs. 8% globally). Despite that, 89% of expats in Mexico are happy with their life in general (vs. 75% globally), placing the country first worldwide for personal happiness.

Worst countries to settle

For the seventh time in eight years, Kuwait comes in last place in the Expat Insider survey (59th out of 59 countries). The country ranks last in the Quality of Life Index (59th), with especially poor results in the Leisure Options, Personal Happiness, and Travel & Transportation subcategories (59th for all).

Kuwait is also the worst expat destination worldwide in the Ease of Settling In Index (59th), with 46% of expats not feeling at home in the local culture (vs. 20% globally) and 45% finding it difficult to settle down in this country (vs. 22% globally). Moreover, 51% have trouble finding new friends (vs. 32% globally), and 62% find it difficult to make local friends in particular (vs. 36% globally).

Placing 56th in the Working Abroad Index, Kuwait performs poorly in both the Work & Leisure (58th) and the Career Prospects & Satisfaction (57th) subcategories. More than three in ten respondents (31%) are dissatisfied with their job in general (vs. 16% globally), and 34% are unhappy with their work-life balance (vs. 17% globally).

Coming in 58th place, Italy is the second-worst country for expats. In the Personal Finance Index (59th), the Southern European country even lands in last place worldwide: 30% of expats are dissatisfied with their financial situation (vs. 19% globally), 14% even very much so, twice as much as the global average (7%). Furthermore, one in three expats (33%) says their disposable household income is not enough to cover their expenses (vs. 23% globally).

South Africa

South Africa ranks 57th, performing worst in the Personal Finance Index (55th): over one-third of expats in South Africa (34%) do not consider their disposable household income enough to cover all their expenses (vs. 24% globally), and just 57% are satisfied with their financial situation (vs. 64% globally).

The African country is among the bottom 10 of the Working Abroad Index (54th), placing last in the Economy & Job Security subcategory (59th). Only 47% of expats are satisfied with their job security (vs. 61% globally), and less than a third (31%) are happy with the state of the local economy — exactly half the global average (62%).

Ranking among the bottom 10 in the Quality of Life Index (52nd), it is last in the Safety & Security subcategory (59th). More than a third of expats (34%) do not consider South Africa a peaceful country (vs. 9% globally) and just about one in four (24%) feel safe there (vs. 84% globally). An Ethiopian expat even says: “You are not able to walk around safely.”

Trends in the Top & Bottom 10

Portugal, 5th, is the only European destination to make it into the top 10 of the overall ranking. Expats appreciate most aspects of life in Portugal — its 36th place in the Working Abroad Index is the country’s worst result in an index ranking, while expats particularly appreciate the high quality of life (3rd).

Malaysia (4th) and Vietnam (10th) join Taiwan to represent Asia among the 10 best expat destinations globally. While respondents in all three of them appreciate the local cost of living and its impact on their personal finances — Vietnam places first in both indices — results in other areas of the survey vary.

Expats rate Malaysia the second-best country in the Ease of Settling In Index, for example, while respondents in Vietnam report the highest levels of overall job satisfaction worldwide.

New Zealand and Australia have both gained ground to rank sixth and seventh, respectively. This is the first time since 2016 that both countries have made it into the top 10 at the same time.

At the other end of the list, fellow Mediterranean destinations Malta (50th), Turkey (52nd), Cyprus (53rd), and Egypt (55th) join Italy in the bottom 10.

While all four receive at least average results when it comes to the ease of settling in, expats are particularly dissatisfied with their working life and financial aspects: Turkey, Cyprus, and Egypt land among the bottom 10 in the Working Abroad Index, while Turkey’s 44th place out of 59 destinations is the best result in the Personal Finance Index for one of these four destinations.

Russia (56th), Japan (54th), and India (51st) complete the list of the 10 worst countries for expats.


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Why South Africa ranks as one of the worst places to live