LONDON (Reuters) - Canada’s natural beauty, multicultural society, health care service and security made it the top place on the planet for UK expats, according to an annual index released on Wednesday.
The NatWest International Personal Banking Quality of Life Index also reported that despite a global economic malaise, more than two thirds of UK expats had not seen a reduction in their quality of life abroad and fewer planned to return home.
The fifth index by Britain’s Natwest bank revealed most UK expats believe their decision to move abroad was right and that more than half of them have not had to reduce their spending significantly despite the economic backlash from a debt crisis that has depressed the global economy for years.
NatWest head of International Personal Banking Dave Isley said in a statement that the index showed expats had sailed through the most troubled global economic period since the end of World War Two.
“Our Quality of Life Index - which examines expats real life perceptions and experiences and gauges their personal assessments - shows the global financial crisis has failed to dampen the spirits of expats who seem to have adopted the ‘keep calm, carry on’ philosophy,” he said.
Expats living in China, UAE, Hong Kong and Singapore said their financial position had ‘improved dramatically’ since moving to the country. Those living in Australia, Canada and New Zealand assessed their financial position as having ‘improved significantly’.
Those living in Western Europe, South Africa and the United States were less enthusiastic about the improvement in their financial prospects and reported their financial position to have ‘improved moderately’.
The index also reported that those Britons who escaped to the sun in Spain, France and Portugal are counting the cost of their moves as their disposable income is eroded and the cost of living rises during a period of budget austerity ushered in by a euro zone crisis that has hit market confidence in several countries tied to the single European currency.
When the first Quality of Life Index was carried out in 2007, confidence around the world was high as the global economy was expanding, household prosperity was increasing and global GDP forecasts were positive, Isley said.
“Fast forward five years and it’s a very different picture however, it is the expats who are riding the storm with the majority planning to remain abroad,” he said. “Those who are most likely to return home are those who retired to France, Portugal and Spain as their disposable income diminishes and the cost of living rises.”
The number one country for the best quality of life experience for expats (82 percent) is Canada. It’s the third year since the index began that the country renowned for its natural beauty, Mounties and maple syrup has topped the list.
Nearly nine in 10 (88 percent) of expats said that multiculturalism was a factor, with 90 percent rating Canada’s healthcare system as key and 96 percent feeling that Canada’s human rights and freedoms allowed them to feel safe and secure in the country.
Canada also came top in The Well Being Index which comprises six self-assessment categories: state of health, degree of prosperity, sense of belonging and acceptance, life satisfaction, sense of achievement and overall level of happiness.
“The Quality of Life factors that contributed to its number one spot in the rankings yet again range from the culture, standard of living, sense of belonging, work/life balance, equality of opportunity to the state of the economy and financial security,” Isley said of Canada.
China came last in the list of 12 countries ranked by the index. The list follows: 1. Canada 2. New Zealand 3. Australia 4. France 5. South Africa 6. Portugal 7. Spain 8. United States of America 9. United Arab Emirates 10. Singapore 11. Hong Kong 12. China
Reporting by Paul Casciato, editing by Patricia Reaney