Expat Explorer Survey 2010: Country Reports

Expat Explorer

With the 2010 HSBC Expat Explorer Survey giving us all a great insight into the lives of expatriates around the world, let us now take a look at reports for five of the most popular individual countries.


Mother Russia was the country that topped the list of expat countries so it seems apt to examine her first.

As it did in 2009, Russia sits atop the throne of expat wealth hotspots. Around 36 percent of all expats in Russia earn in excess of $250,000 per year, and 85 percent of workers enjoy a large amount of disposable income.

Looking at actual employment, we can see that the financial world lays claim to a large number of the employed: 24 percent of expats in Russia work in finance, 15 percent work in construction and manufacture, 9 percent work in advertising, 6 percent in information technology, telecommunications and architecture, and 22 percent fell into the ‘other' category.

The male to female split is 82 percent to 18 percent, and the majority of expats working in Russia, 57 percent, fall in the 35-54 age group. Most of these expatriate workers, 42 percent, come from the UK, with the Netherlands contributing 12 percent and the rest made up of small numbers from an assortment of nations.

Living in Russia does not come cheap though, 55 percent of foreign workers based in Russia feel that accommodation is more expensive than their original home, and a further 76 percent say that daily groceries are also more expensive. Another area where Russia does well is public transport, with 82 percent of interviewees claiming the transport system is more reasonably priced than their original country.

The economy appears to be a small area of concern, as 45 percent of expats fear that the Russian economy is not as stable as it was a year ago. However the worries are not strong enough to spark any kind of exodus, only 4 percent are considering a return home.


Singapore is another immensely popular country, with many positives for expat workers. Singaporean expats make a lot of money, 45 percent of expats working in Singapore make more than $200,000 each year, and they also benefit from favourable taxes, with 92 percent saying that they pay less tax than at home. However living costs appear to be more expensive here, 72 percent find accommodation more expensive, and 60 percent spend more money on food.

Again, finance is where the bulk of expats, 29 percent, toil away, followed by 12 percent in construction/manufacture, 8 percent in advertising, 6 percent in transport and 32 percent as ‘other’. Interestingly 6 percent of expats in Singapore claimed to be unemployed.

The male to female split here is 78 percent to 22 percent, 73 percent of all expats are aged between 35-54 easily making it the largest bracket, and people from the United Kingdom again are the most represented, this time over half at 54 percent.

Morale amongst the expats is high, 51 percent agreed that that the economy is stronger than last year.

Hong Kong

Our next destination is another eastern hotspot, Hong Kong.

Here, around 35 percent earn over $200,000, with 93 percent claiming they are paying less tax than before. However, as with Singapore, living costs are more expensive- 60 percent pay more for accommodation and 66 percent pay more for foodstuffs.

Finance once again dominates the jobs, with 61 percent currently employed in that industry, only marketing was the other occupation of note with 7 percent, as 32 percent stated ‘other’. UK expats are also creating trends, as yet again they make up the majority of Hong Kong’s expat population taking 49 percent of the share, Australia had the next biggest slice with 13 percent. The male to female gap is slightly smaller here, with a 70 percent to 30 percent split.

Hong Kong expats are actually the most open to investing in their new country, with 58 percent investing in equity and 41 percent in the foreign exchange. The outlook for the future is also positive, with 53 percent happy with the economy, and confident that it is in better health than last year.

United Arab Emirates

With oil money fuelling the strong economy of the UAE, expats will always flock here to take advantage of high salaries and low taxes.

A theme amongst expats in the UAE was an increased level of luxury. 57 percent of expats in Dubai had domestic helpers, 57 percent were able to afford exotic holidays, 58 percent lived in spacious properties and 63 percent claimed to own a luxury car.

This could have something to do with the virtually non-existent taxes of the UAE, with 94 percent stating that they paid far less in taxes than they did at home. Once again the United Kingdom has the largest amount of expats in the UAE, 50 percent, and India came second with 10 percent.

The occupational statistics seem to prove that money makes the world go round as the financial sector employs the most expats with 26 percent. Construction was next with 12 percent, followed by management at 9 percent, education at 6 percent and a huge 47 percent opting for 'other'.

Surprisingly, since the UAE is known for its male dominated business world, the male to female divide was 74 to 26 percent, which is pretty much in-line with the figures from most other countries.

However, morale amongst expats in the UAE is not as high as you might think. More than three quarters believe the economy is in a worse state than it was a year ago, and 19 percent are thinking of returning home due to decreased career opportunities.


China is another expatriate hotspot, with Beijing and Shanghai both known for attracting a large number of foreign workers.

High earnings and good career prospects seem to be the big draw for luring foreign expatriates, 75 percent enjoyed higher salaries than before and 70 percent thought there was more scope for career growth. 26 percent said they were earning more than $200,000.

Expats in China can enjoy a relatively cheap standard of living, two thirds collectively agreed that they spent less money on day-to-day goods in China than they did back home. UK expats made up 30 percent of all the expats in China, closely followed by Hong Kong with 29 percent. The bulk of the expats work in finance (36 percent) with 10 percent working in education, 9 percent in construction and 36 percent in 'other'.

A large number of expats in China, 71 percent, also said that they were saving more money in the country and savings accounts are very popular, with 86 percent having at least one.