Expat Destination Ranking: Bahrain Shines, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia Lag Behind
Bahrain, for the second consecutive year, has claimed the top spot as the leading global expat destination, according to a survey conducted by InterNations. In contrast, its Gulf counterparts, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, find themselves at the bottom of the expat destination ranking.
Male and female participants in the 2018 Expat Insider Survey ranked Bahrain as their preferred choice, driven by its exceptional performance across various categories. A significant 72 percent of respondents reported minimal communication difficulties in the country. Bahrain secured second place out of 68 countries for friendliness and finding friends, as well as first place for feeling at home and ease of settling in.
The Gulf state excelled in the working abroad index, claiming the top spot, and ranked seventh out of 50 countries in the family life index. However, it faced challenges in terms of personal finance, dropping to 22nd place out of 68, likely due to the impact of the recent oil slump. Bahrain experienced an improvement in its quality of life ranking, climbing from 32nd place the previous year to 20th in 2018.
In the Gulf region, Oman secured the 31st spot, followed by Qatar at 38th and the UAE at 40th. Interestingly, male and female respondents in Oman had contrasting opinions, with women ranking the country sixth for satisfaction and men ranking it 53rd. Female expats rated Oman highly for settling in (fifth place), personal finance (11th place), and quality of life (27th place), while male expats ranked it at 25th, 41st, and 52nd, respectively. This disparity could be attributed to more men moving for work (54 percent) compared to women (28 percent), with 31 percent of women indicating that they relocated for their partner’s career.
Qatar secured the 42nd position for quality of life, 41st for ease of settling in, 35th for working abroad, 27th for family life, 30th for personal finance, and 62nd for cost of living. The UAE ranked at 25th, 26th, 46th, 31st, 59th, and 55th, respectively, with a notable first place in the personal safety category.
Overall satisfaction among expatriates was highest in Bahrain, with an impressive 90 percent expressing contentment. Oman followed closely at 79 percent, while the UAE and Qatar achieved satisfaction levels of 75 percent and 69 percent, respectively. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait reported significantly lower levels of satisfaction, with only 41 percent and 35 percent of expats expressing contentment, respectively.
Kuwait, consistently at the bottom of the ranking, secured the 68th position, having previously held the same position from 2014 to 2016, with a second-to-last ranking in 2017. The country ranked last in categories such as quality of life, ease of settling in, and general satisfaction with life abroad. Additionally, it was among the bottom five for working abroad and family life, and ranked 50th for personal finance. Kuwait’s poor results coincide with its ongoing efforts to replace foreign workers in government roles and rebalance its population.
Saudi Arabia, standing just one place above Kuwait, has consistently ranked in the bottom 10 of the survey since 2014. In the 2018 survey, it secured the 67th position, ranking in the bottom five for all indices except personal finance (31st). While three in five expats stated that their disposable household income exceeded their needs, 40 percent of respondents expressed negative views about life satisfaction in the country.
In the Gulf region, except for Bahrain at 49th place, all other countries ranked in the bottom 10 for online freedom, while safety and security emerged as the strongest subcategory. Expatriates across the region displayed high dissatisfaction with working life, with more than a third of Saudi expats (35 percent) expressing job dissatisfaction compared to the global average of 18 percent. Job security was also a concern, with 70 percent of regional expats stating they felt secure in their roles, compared to the global average of 59 percent.
Bahrain’s top ranking as an expat destination reflects its favorable conditions for visa procedures, interactions with local authorities, and opening bank accounts. However, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia face challenges in attracting and satisfying expatriates. The Gulf region as a whole has room for improvement in areas such as online freedom and job satisfaction.