Picture: REUTERS/INTS KALNIS
Picture: REUTERS/INTS KALNIS

New York/London — The UK now ranks as less politically stable than Greece or Egypt, and the US isn’t far behind, according to an extensive global survey of expats.

Political turmoil over Brexit means the UK is now among the world’s least desirable destinations for expats. Out of 64 countries ranked by the InterNations Expat Insider survey, Britain ranks 57th for political stability and 58th overall, down 25 spots since the vote to leave the EU in 2016.

The survey is conducted annually by Munich-based InterNations, a network of 3.6-million expats. More than 20,000 of them, including retirees, students, executives and skilled workers, were asked to rate the places they live on a variety of metrics. Some countries, including trouble spots such as Sudan, Syria and Venezuela, weren’t ranked because there were too few respondents.

“Expats in the UK now see the economy and their job security in a much more negative way,” said InterNations co-CEO Malte Zeeck. “This whole uncertainty surrounding Brexit has definitely influenced other factors.”

The US has also seen its reputation plummet as a destination for foreigners, according to the survey. As recently as 2014, expats rated the country as the fifth-most-desirable place to move. It ranks 47th this year.

Politics are to blame in the US, too. For the third year in a row — since Donald Trump was elected president in 2016 — the nation’s political stability was rated below Russia’s.

The US and UK are also both seen by expats as less inviting than a few years ago.

“When we arrived we felt welcome, but we haven’t since the Brexit vote,” said Gael Panhelleux, executive director of Focus, a London-based membership group for expats in the UK. Originally from Paris, she worries about how the nation’s political climate is affecting her children, who have been insulted when overheard speaking French on the way home from school.

“It’s been a tough few years,” she said. “We love the country and want to stay and feel welcomed.”

Healthcare

Expats living in the US expressed similar concerns in the wake of Trump’s election and his immigration crackdown.

“There’s often prejudice against foreign people,” a Mexican expat in the US said in the InterNations survey. “I’ve lived in both ‘blue’ and ‘red’ states, and there’s not much of a difference.”

Another drawback of the US, according to expats, is the cost of healthcare. More than seven in 10 said American healthcare is unaffordable, ranking the US dead last by that measure.

Overall, expats surveyed by InterNations ranked Taiwan as the top place to live in 2019. Kuwait, which many respondents see as unfriendly to foreigners, came in last for the second year in a row.

It has been a tumultuous year worldwide. France’s ranking for political stability dropped thanks to Yellow Vest protests that began late last year. The survey was conducted before the massive protests that enveloped Hong Kong, one of the world’s top destinations for expats.

Argentina, beset by economic woes, ranked last in political stability for the second consecutive year. Those who consider Argentina politically unstable climbed to 60% in the latest survey, up from 42% last year.

Luxembourg ranked as most politically stable for the fourth straight year, followed by Switzerland and Singapore, a possible destination for Hong Kong expats looking for an alternative home base in Asia.

Bloomberg