Where Expat Families Love to Live
- #1 Finland ranks first for the fourth year in a row.
- #2 Sweden is back in the top 3.
- #3 Belgium joins the top 3 for the first time ever.
- Austria drops off sharply, going from 2nd to 15th place.
- Czechia still does well, only dropping from 3rd to 4th place.
The Top 15
To feature in the 2019 Family Life Index, a country needed to have at least 40 respondents with dependent children living abroad with them. In 2019, this was achieved by only 36 countries. The index covers various factors in six different subcategories: Availability of Childcare & Education, Costs of Childcare & Education, Quality of Education, Family Well-Being, Childcare Options, and Options for Children’s Education.
Finland Can’t Be Beat
Finland ranks first in 2019, as it has every year since 2016. Parents are particularly pleased with the cost, availability, and quality of education in Finland, ranking the country first for each of these factors. Only 3% of parents consider education in Finland unaffordable, compared to 35% worldwide who give this factor a negative rating. Slightly more than three-quarters of expat parents (76%) consider the options for education to be easily available (global: 53%). As for the quality, an impressive 62% of respondents living in Finland with their children think that the education system is excellent (global: 27%).
Finland also ranks first in the Family Well-Being subcategory. Nearly three-quarters of expat parents (74%) couldn’t be happier with their children’s health, almost twice the global average of 38%. And an extraordinary 100% are generally happy with their children’s safety (global: 81%).
Sweden: Back in the Top 3
Sweden is back in the top 3 in 2019, in second place, after it had ranked at fifth place in 2018. Despite this, the only subcategory where it comes in first is the Costs of Childcare & Education, where it has historically always performed best. This seems hardly surprising, considering Sweden’s maximum-fee policy, which sees parents pay at most 3% of the family’s income for childcare.
I love the childcare arrangements and financial support from the Swedish government.
Over three in five expat parents (62%) are overall satisfied with the availability of childcare options in Sweden (global: 47%). In addition to the good availability of childcare, parents in Sweden are also satisfied with the options themselves, with 35% saying they are excellent (global: 21%). An expat from New Zealand appreciates “the childcare arrangements and financial support from the government”.
Sweden puts in a very mediocre performance in the Family Well-Being subcategory, however, ranking 18th out of 36 countries. Its worst ranking in this subcategory is for the friendly attitude towards families with children (23rd).
Belgium: Never Better for Families
Belgium comes in third, making it into the top 3 for the first time ever, though it ranked in the top 10 in 2014, 2016, and 2018. It comes in fourth place for the availability of childcare and education, up from tenth place in 2018. A high 87% of expat parents are generally satisfied with the options available for children’s education (global: 69%). Over seven in ten parents (72%) agree that it is easy to get a spot for their children in the school of their choice (global: 53%).
In addition, 82% are generally satisfied with the quality of the education their children are receiving. A Romanian expat reports that “my kids are happy that they learn so many things at school”. And finally, close to double the global average think that this education is very easy to afford (34% vs. 19%).
Belgium also does well regarding the availability and affordability of childcare. Over six in ten parents (62%) generally agree that childcare in Belgium is easy to find. And only about one in six (17%) think it’s too expensive (global: 40%).
Belgium performs slightly below average in the Family Well-Being subcategory (21st place out of 36 countries). Nevertheless, 91% are overall happy with their children’s health (global: 77%), and only 2% rate this factor negatively (global: 10%). In addition, 85% of parents are generally satisfied with the available leisure activities for their children, compared to a global average of 75%.
Austria Drops Out of the Top 5
Family life in Austria fails to impress in 2019. The country has lost 13 ranks, going from 2nd place in 2018 to 15th place in 2019. This is surprising, as every other year except for 2017, it featured in the top 5. In 2015, it even placed first.
The new government has made it even more difficult for single moms.
Whereas in 2018, 85% of expat parents were generally satisfied with the childcare options, in 2019, only 63% say the same. Moreover, only 68% of parents are pleased overall with the quality of the education their children are receiving (81% in 2018). An even lower percentage of parents (59%) generally agree that education options are numerous and easy to get in 2019 (compared to 77% in 2018).
And although nearly half of expat parents (45%) were completely happy with family life in general in 2018, this percentage is just slightly above one-third in 2019 (36%). A Swedish expat laments that “the new government has made it even more difficult for single moms”.
Czechia: Still Great for Families
Czechia’s drop in the ranking isn’t quite as dramatic: from third to fourth place. It has even improved in some areas; for example, 22% of parents in 2019 agree completely that childcare options are numerous and easy to get, compared to 17% in 2018.
But losses in in the Family Well-Being subcategory cancel out any gains. The 2018 results in terms of children’s general well-being are hard to beat, with 100% of parents satisfied with this factor overall. In 2019, only 88% are still generally happy in this regard. The friendly attitude towards families with children has also taken a hit, with 91% generally satisfied with this factor in 2018, compared to only 80% in 2019.
Turkey, Brazil & Chile Bring Up the Rear
Turkey comes in last in 2019. It has ranked near the bottom every year that it has featured in the Family Life Index. Brazil, in second to last place in 2019, has ranked among the bottom 5 for the past five years and even placed last in 2018. Chile — which last ranked in this index in 2014 — comes in third to last. A Danish expat is unhappy that “the school options are very expensive and complicated for children to access”. Chile didn’t perform very well way back in 2014, either, coming in 26th out of 34 countries.
- Expat Insider 2019 — Regional Report: The Nordic Countries
- Expat Insider 2019 — Country Report: Austria
- Expat Insider 2019 — Country Report: Czechia
- The Swedish Institute. Preschool — A Place to Grow. 2019.
- Expat Insider 2018 — Where Happy Expat Families Live
- Expats in Finland
- Expats in Sweden
- Expats in Belgium
- Expats in Czechia
- Expats in Austria