With more than 1.2 million UK expats already living in Australia, it is clearly a popular destination.
This isn’t a recent trend or passing fad. Australia has been a popular location for British expats for more than twenty years.
But what makes it so tempting?
Obviously, the year-round warmth and sunshine may be very appealing to Brits who are accustomed to much wetter, colder and greyer climes. Surely though, there is much more to it than the weather? The short answer is yes, there is, and the reasons are not hard to find.
Australia ranks very highly in the world across a number of categories. The 2016 HSBC Expat Explorer Survey, which questioned expats across 45 nations, puts Australia ahead of the UK in no less than five categories: work/life balance (10th compared to 31st), healthcare (4th compared to 12th), finance (2nd compared to 24th), integration (1st compared to 7th) and quality of life (8th compared to 30th).
Australia isn’t pipping the UK to the post, it’s beating it by wide margins on many fronts. Let’s take a closer look at some of these categories and get a better understanding of why the Antipodean nation is attracting so many expats.
- Excellent work / life balance
A 2016 InterNations survey saw Australia rank 9th out of 67 surveyed nations for satisfaction with work-life balance. In comparison, the UK ranked 33rd. In recent years, Australia’s economic growth has been in part put down to the skills of foreign migrants, especially in the fields of IT, finance and construction.
To maintain this success, the Australian government offers plenty of support and guidance to potential expats who have skills or qualifications that Australia needs, including a wide range of visas.
- World-class healthcare
Ranked fourth out of 45 nations by expats in the HSBC Expat Explorer Survey – eight places above the UK – Australia’s healthcare system offers a roughly even split between public and private hospitals. This is reflected by the population, half of which have private health cover. While the standards are high in both, private hospitals focus on elective surgery and public hospitals deliver emergency care.
The public healthcare system, Medicare is paid for through a 2% levy on taxable income and is available to permanent visa holders, but expats on temporary visas may require international health insurance to cover treatments such as dentistry, eye care and physiotherapy.
- Lower cost of living
The 2015 Mercer Cost of Living Survey saw Australian cites that are popular with expats drop in the cost of living rankings. Sydney fell five places to 31st, Melbourne slipped eleven places to 47th and Perth ranked 48th, after a drop of 11 positions.
As a result, the cost of living in Australia’s most expensive city for expats, Sydney, is likely to be significantly lower compared to London. Although the cost of rent is comparable, dining out and the supermarket are likely to cost less, which will help keep the family food and social entertainment bill under control.
While public transport could be up to 50% more expensive, the warmer climate also offers a health advantage over the UK as warmer weather offers an incentive to walk, run or cycle to work more often, minimizing the expense of a commute in favor of exercise.
- Outstanding education
Australia’s school system is regarded internationally to be of a high standard. The 2015 International Student Assessment (PISA) assessed children across three areas: Science, Maths and Reading. Australia ranked 14th, one place above the UK.
While Australia is the OECD’s 10th highest spender per school student, it still spends less than the UK (ranked 5th) and delivers better results. With the UK’s education spending in real terms fell from £99 billion in 2010-11 to £85.2 billion in 2014-15, the prospect of a better quality of state education could certainly tempt expats with families to move down under.
Another benefit for expat families is that two-thirds of children go to government-funded public schools that do not charge for tuition fees. With a minimal language barrier for English-speaking children, an international or bilingual school is not required in the same way that it might be in Japan or Thailand, increasing the chances of a swift and easy integration for expat children.
- Higher and happier quality of life
With beautiful scenery, warmer weather and a growing economy, Australia has a lot to offer British expat families. With a landmass comparable to the United States, but with a population of just 24.4 million, the less-populated outdoor lifestyle could be a very attractive proposition for health and fitness conscious families.
While outdoor activities in Britain might be limited by the UK’s infamous weather, Australia’s warm climate makes an outdoor lifestyle a reality. Indeed, outdoor pursuits are very much a typical part of Australian life. Melbourne alone demonstrates the nation’s passion for sports with a National Sports Museum and an entire sports precinct, as well as being home to the 2017 Australian Grand Prix.
Immigration has seen a rich cultural diversity develop too, which Britons from cosmopolitan and ethnically diverse cities might find familiar. However, while the British still tend to fixate on class, Australia strives to create and promote the values of a classless society, removing social pressures and barriers which can lead to a greater sense of opportunity.
Along with a more laid-back attitude, this might initially come as a culture shock to UK expats, but in the long run, it could prove to be a key factor in the difference between the UK’s ranking for quality of life (30th) and Australia’s (8th).
As if that weren’t enough, Australia has retained 9th place in the 2017 World Happiness Report after holding the same position in the report’s 2013-15 average rankings. In comparison, the United Kingdom has improved on its 2013-2015 rank of 23rd, but remains 19th.
Who wouldn’t relocate to Australia?
With a government keen to attract talented expats, a diverse and liberal culture, high quality healthcare, an excellent state-funded education system, a favorable cost of living and work / life balance, it’s not hard to see why British families are tempted to relocate to Australia.
While the UK is not far behind on many of these aspects, the more informal, classless attitude – not to mention the warmer weather – make Australia a very attractive place to live indeed.