India has gone up in the Ease of Doing Business 2020 ranking, but the expats think India is one of the worst places to be in. India ranks 51st out of 59 destinations in the Expat Insider 2021 survey. It ranks second to last or 58th for the quality of life, but makes it into the top 4 for personal finance. The Expat Insider seventh edition, with more than 12,000 respondents, is one of the most extensive surveys about living and working abroad, sharing insights into expat life in 59 destinations.
At 13th place, the expats seem to be happy with the cost of living, but at 34th rank India gets an average result in the Ease of Settling In Index and a low 46th place in the Working Abroad Index. Finally, India does worst in the Quality of Life Index at 58th place. Taiwan, Mexico, and Costa Rica are the best expat destinations worldwide while the bottom three countries are Kuwait, Italy, and South Africa. Kuwait is the hardest country to live in, Italy is the worst for personal finances, and expats in South Africa do not feel safe.
37% of expats in India have a gross income of US $75,000 or more per year vs. 33% globally. A US American expat said “Generally, the cost of living here is way better than at home. I felt like I could never earn enough back in the United States. Now I feel comfortable and happy.”
Expats concerned about political instability in India
The overall quality of life score is less due to the Safety & Security subcategory where India ranks 56th. Only about three in ten expats or 29%, are satisfied with the country’s political stability, compared to 64% globally. 28% rate its peacefulness negatively vs. 9% globally, and less than three-quarters or 72% feel personally safe in India’s cities vs. 84% globally. This is in sync with the Democracy Index 2021 in which India’s status as a democracy was downgraded from ‘Free’ to ‘Partly Free,’ primarily on account of alleged ‘rising violence and discriminatory policies’ and ‘a crackdown on expressions of dissent.
Bad Digital life and mobility
In a blow to Modi Government’s digital push, expats rate India in the bottom 10 or 55th in Digital Life and 57th in Travel & Transportation. A quarter of expats find it difficult to get high-speed internet access at home vs. 12% globally, and 62% rate the transportation infrastructure negatively vs. 15% globally. An Iranian expat says: “I do not like the animals in the streets and the traffic problems.” And a Japanese expat also thinks that “the road conditions are terrible”.
COVID-19 on Expat Life in India
More than three out of ten respondents in India intend to stay here for two or three years, while a 25% want to stay abroad forever. During the COVID-19 pandemic, 51% have not changed their plans for moving back home or to another country vs. 63% globally. Another 21% are now planning to leave India due to the ongoing pandemic, about twice the global average of 11%. In fact, just 41% of expats in India are satisfied with the official communication regarding COVID-19 and related regulations vs. 66% globally). Maybe this is why close to two in five (39%) rely on expat news and international media as their sources of information, compared to a worldwide average of fewer than one in three or 32%.
Indian expats moving abroad affected by COVID-19
61% of Indian respondents whose relocation plans were affected by COVID-19 is a lot higher. 18% of them were living abroad, but moved home sooner than planned. 35% were planning to move abroad, but had to change their plans and one in ten have now decided to move abroad because of the pandemic.