The expats’ verdict matters
The Expat Insider publishes a quality of life index every year recording the views of expatriates living in 68 countries abroad on their “quality of life”: leisure options, health and well-being, safety and security, personal happiness, travel and transportation, and “digital life”.
Information for the latest edition was compiled between February and March 2017. The top three countries have remained the same, with Taiwan, Portugal and Spain enjoying the plaudits of their expat community.
Malta, on the other hand, has been labelled “the biggest loser”, toppling from 19th to 38th position. It is no consolation that Germany and Sweden fell 16 and 14 places respectively.
According to the responses, living in Malta was deemed “not as peaceful as it seems”. Many expats feel increasingly affected by the political situation. Only 56 per cent give the country’s political stability a positive rating, compared to a global average of 63 per cent. Two expats living here referred to the “endemic” and “horrendous corruption”.
About 18 per cent said they were unhappy with what they perceived as “lack of peacefulness” on the island.
Malta was ranked among the top 20 countries in only one category, leisure options, placing 13th (down from number eighth the previous year). The ranking for personal happiness slipped to 29 from seven.
Notably, however, expats’ views on the state of their health and well-being, as well as safety and security, changed significantly in a year. While, in 2017, Malta ranked at 21 in both categories, it dropped to 35 for health and well-being and to 38 in terms of safety and security, although, strangely, “personal safety” was positive at 87 per cent.
The island ranked 42nd for “digital life”. Although the sample from which these findings were compiled was extremely small 75 respondents in each country they still represent considerable cause for concern. For a country like Malta, which over the last six or more decades has made the benefits derived from attracting expats to this country a key element of its economy, the precipitous drop in ranking is a serious blow.
The repercussions are not simply economic since they could lead to fewer expats wishing to live here. There is also a negative verdict on Malta’s soft power reputation: friendliness, good governance and political stability, all of which affect other mainstays of the economy, such as, crucially, tourism and the willingness of foreign companies to invest, live and work in the country. The quality of life in Malta has been dropping steadily, not simply for the expat community, but also for Maltese.
The breakneck growth in Malta’s wealth has brought an increase in prosperity but people’s quality of life has suffered immensely.
The living environment has a significant impact on the quality of life and the morale of every person on the island, whether expat or Maltese. In one of the most densely-populated countries in the world with an ever-growing population, rampant construction development, loss of natural countryside, massive increases in road traffic, the concomitant effects of air pollution and excessive noise have all contributed to a dire “lack of peacefulness” and deteriorating quality of life for all.
Should the findings of the quality of life index for expats surprise us? The government needs to take a long, hard look at itself.
This is a Times of Malta print editorial