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The Legatum Institute, a London-based think tank, release their global Prosperity Index annually. The survey ranks the most prosperous countries in the world. Many assume prosperity is used in reference to the financial standing of a country and, while this is included, the Legatum Institute considers more factors in its ranking.
Ranking in 24th place in 2017 (out of 149 countries) was Hong Kong. This puts Hong Kong in the top 20%, with its rankings for Business Environment (3rd), Safety and Security (5th), and Health (9th) helping the country secure a place in the top 25. The country’s rankings for Natural Environment (105th), Social Capital (61st) and Personal Freedom (43rd) stopped Hong Kong from claiming a higher overall ranking.
With 4.6% of Hong Kong’s 7.188 million strong population being expats, what is drawing them to the country?
As one of the world’s leading international financial centres, Hong Kong’s economy is famed for its low taxed and virtually free port trade. The Index of Economic Freedom – an annual index created in 1995 to measure the degree of economic freedom in the world’s nations – reported that Hong Kong has had the highest freedom since its inception.
With a sound banking system, little public debt and substantial and sustainable government finance, it is no surprise that expats feel comfortable in Hong Kong when it comes to money.
The Hong Kong dollar is the official currency of Hong Kong and represented as HK$ or HKD. Each dollar is divided into 100 cents and three commercial banks in the country are licensed to issue their own banknotes for public circulation in the country – HSBC, the Bank of China and Standard Chartered. Therefore, you will often see different designs of banknotes during your time in Hong Kong and all are legal tender.
The shortest lease for rental properties in Hong Kong is usually two years so expats should be aware of the options before they settle on a place. Luckily, Hong Kong has one of the most varied rental markets worldwide. However, real estate prices in Hong Kong are ranked the highest in the world and expats will take some time to get used to the much smaller living spaces.
The majority of expats tend to end up living in cities due to work where the majority of housing is in the form of modern high-rise apartments. However, there are low or mid-rise apartment blocks and duplexes if you don’t have a head for heights.
Tong lau properties, also known as walk-ups, can be found in older parts of Hong Kong and these often have larger rooms and are located close to public transport. Although they may not have as many mod-cons as the high-rise or serviced apartments they are a hit with young professionals.
Lastly, on the outskirts of Hong Kong there are many villages and towns. These are home to much more affordable and sizeable properties, including townhouses and terraced village homes. Although getting to work might take a while, these locations are often much quieter.
Expats in Hong Kong will undoubtedly need comprehensive private medical insurance. Whilst both private and public hospitals offer world-class care and incredible staff and technology, the country is also home to some of the world’s most expensive medical costs. Therefore, it is best that expats have medical insurance coverage if this has not been covered by an employer through a relocation package.
Achieving educational excellence is encouraged heavily in Hong Kong and many expat children are not used to the competitive culture. Private tutoring is the norm for most Hong Kong children and the vast majority go on to higher education. With most schools teaching in Cantonese, expat children can struggle unless they are extremely young when entering the education system.
The vast majority of expats send their children to privately-run international schools. Places are often limited and getting in touch with the admissions office of your chosen school as soon as possible is paramount. Unless you are moving to Hong Kong due to being relocated by an employer and schooling is included in your package, look to spend between 100,000 HKD (£8,995) and 250,000 HKD (£22,487) on school fees per year.
Hong Kong’s job market is buoyant, and many employers are always seeking the talents of expats to diversify their teams. Historically, most expats work in the financial sector. However, this has expanded to include fields such as HR, IT, auditing, digital advertising, sales and marketing, and legalities.
Most business is carried out in English but having a basic level of Mandarin or Cantonese is an asset.
The world’s largest database, Numbeo, has a vast selection of user-contributed data in regard to Hong Kong.
The tables below provide an overview of the differences in costs between Hong Kong and the UK. Please note that all Hong Kong prices have been converted into British pounds.
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