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Singapore most 'liveable' Asian city for ex-pat IT pros

Hong Kong needs to clean up its act.

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Ex-pat IT professionals looking for a better quality of life abroad could do worse than try Singapore, the Japanese city of Kobe or Hong Kong – the top three most liveable cities in Asia according to new research from HR information provider ECA International.

The firm’s annual Location Ratings system is designed to help firms decide what level of compensation, if any, is required to offer ex-pats who move abroad with work.

It studies a range of factors to evaluate the quality of life in hundreds of locations worldwide, and therefore the level of upheaval an ex-pat may have in relocating and living in a new land.

According to ECA, these factors include climate; housing and utilities; relative isolation; infrastructure; personal safety; political tensions; air quality and access to healthcare.

Singapore took number one spot among the 49 Asian cities studied, thanks to scoring "exceptionally well" in areas such as air quality, healthcare and infrastructure and low crime.

Kobe in Japan remained in second spot while Hong Kong jumped up two places to number three.

However, the Special Administrative Region (SAR) appears to be in the top three more as a result of Tokyo and Yokohama each dropping a place due to the effects of last year’s massive Tohoku earthquake than any improvements Hong Kong itself has made.

ECA's regional director for Asia, Lee Quane, told The Reg that despite scoring well in areas like schooling, housing and transport, it is air quality that is letting Hong Kong down.

"Hong Kong's achilles heel is its air quality. For an advanced city to have air quality on a par with heavily polluted developing cities such as Beijing, Delhi and Mexico City is the major factor causing it to lag behind Singapore," he added.

"The fall in the rankings of the Japanese cities of Tokyo and Yokohama reflect the impact of last year's disaster on these cities. Given the infrastructure projects take time to complete and the fact that Japan has shuttered many of the nuclear power plants which once provided these cities with energy means that the big question is how long will it be before infrastructure, including utilities provision, is back at pre-disaster levels."

Diesel pollution from road vehicles in the heavily built-up urban areas of Hong Kong is a key factor in the SAR’s poor air quality, but when locals are asked they usually point an accusing finger in the direction of China.

Heavy manufacturing in the Shenzhen region, across the border to the north of Hong Kong, is said by many to be the main culprit, especially when the wind is blowing from that direction as it is for much of winter.

The local government in Hong Kong is working with its counterpart in Guangdong and says steady progress is being made, but more days than not at the moment it’s difficult to see Kowloon from Hong Kong island - a distance of around two kilometres - because of smog. ®

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