Article by Nicole Frost | domain.com.au
Sydney is back in favour with expats – but Melbourne’s still on top in Australia, according to a global survey that compares expats’ experiences living abroad.
The InterNations’ Expat City Ranking placed Melbourne 16th worldwide, ahead of Sydney at 21st, and both Australian cities beat Auckland, which came in at 37th. This was a big drop for New Zealand’s most populous city, which came in 14th in the 2017 ranking, whereas this year Sydney has leapt up over 20 places from 44th in 2017.
The cost of housing is still one of the biggest bugbears for all three cities, with 82 per cent of Sydney expats ranking the cost of housing as too expensive, compared to 44 per cent globally. For the local cost of living, Melbourne was ranked 46th best globally, with Sydney at 60th and Auckland at 64th.
Melbourne performed well in quality of urban living and getting settled, although it was worst out of the Oceanic cities for “quality of urban work life”, with 26 per cent saying they were unhappy with their job situation.
Sydney’s weather is still winning fans, with the harbour city ranked fifth worldwide for leisure and climate. Expats also feel welcome, with Sydney placing ninth, and eighth for work-life balance, far above Melbourne at 30th.
This year Taipei scored the top spot, with Asian cities generally performing well.
One relatively recent arrival, Niamh O’Donoghue, said that the cost of living, including rent, eating out and buying necessities, was a shock when she first moved to Sydney.
“My wages compared to Ireland are so much better – at least 25-30 per cent more,” she said. “However the cost of living is so expensive; the rent is so expensive.”
The marketing professional, who has been in Sydney for two years, initially struggled to find somewhere to live, describing the process as “really, really challenging”. However, the lifestyle offered was attractive.
“Overall the quality of living, it’s the best city I’ve ever lived in,” Ms O’Donoghue explained. “And every public amenity is very well managed. The beaches have water fountains; the parks have barbecues.”
“You never feel unsafe. It’s very clean, very safe,” she said.
Another expat, Italian consultant Raffaele Sacco, 35, said his initial impression of Sydney as expensive has eased over time.
“I think that the life here is quite balanced with the salary you can earn,” Mr Sacco said. “Sydney seems very expensive, but after you get a job, I think that the purchasing power is higher than in Europe.”
He had found it easier to find accommodation when he arrived, noting that well-known areas like Bondi were more expensive.
Mr Sacco added that he found Sydneysiders to be “very polite and chilled people”, but had found people tended to live with others from similar backgrounds, rather than intermingle.
Professor Billie Giles-Corti from RMIT Centre for Urban Research said that while housing affordability was an issue for locals and expats alike, rankings such as the recent one from InterNations didn’t reflect the lived experience of residents in Sydney or Melbourne.
“Expats are probably going to be highly paid, they are going to live in the best suburbs in the city,” she explained. “They’re not necessarily going to be living out in the suburban areas, where people are experiencing a lot of housing stress.”
She said that the results would probably be of more interest to companies looking to attract international workers, rather than local government bodies concerned with city planning.
“In all Australian cities, housing affordability has declined,” Professor Giles-Corti said. “That suggests that quality of life is being impeded.”
Melbourne was the highest ranked city in the Oceania region.
Taipei took out top spot globally in InterNations ranking, followed by Singapore, Manama in Bahrain, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Aachen in Germany, Prague, Madrid and Muscat, in Oman.
The top three cities, in particular, performed well for ease of settling in, friendliness of the local population and personal safety.
Australia as a whole improved its ranking, coming in 12th in 2018, jumping 22 spots from 34th in the 2017 results. More than half of the respondents who had relocated to Australia said that it was easy to make friends locally, and three quarters said attitudes to foreign residents were positive.
The Expat City Rankings are based on an Expat Insider Survey, which had 18,000 respondents from 178 different nationalities, living in 187 different countries. The rankings themselves are drawn from 11,966 people living in 55 different countries.
Historically, Australian and New Zealand cities perform well in quality of life surveys, with Melbourne only just losing its first place ranking to Vienna in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Index, held for seven years. Sydney also ranked in the top five. Meanwhile, the Mercer 2018 Quality of Living Survey released in March of this year ranked Auckland third globally, above Sydney at 10th and Melbourne at 16th. The company’s Cost of Living Survey, released in June, ranked Sydney as the most expensive Australian city at 29th, although all Australian cities experienced a fall.
The InterNations results come at a time of increased anxiety around Australia’s levels of immigration, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison announcing a plan on Monday to cut the number of migrants coming to Australia, citing concerns about traffic, overcrowded public transport and schools. The year ending June 30 saw 162,000 permanent visas approved, less than the 190,000 target.