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ECCT survey: Taiwan's air pollution and traffic safety are the top concerns for expats

Taipei, 26 March - Air quality and traffic safety are problems of greatest concern for members of Taiwan's international community, according to a study commissioned by the Better Living committee of the European Chamber of Commerce Taiwan (ECCT). The 2014 Quality of Living Survey, conducted by market research firm TNS, also found Taiwan's general level of English to be somewhat lacking. Expatriates, however, do find safety, medical care and internet quality quite satisfactory.

Closely paralleling results from last year's HSBC Expat Explorer survey, in which Taiwan was ranked the eighth best place to live, the ECCT study found Taiwan to compare quite favourably with other locations. Of the 67% who have lived in other countries, 38% rank Taiwan as their favourite place to live.

The ECCT survey, however, revealed that the proportion of those who find the air excellent, very good, or good has declined dramatically, from 63% in 2011 to 38% in 2014. And traffic safety is also a concern, with a majority of respondents feeling that the roads are unsafe for all users.

Mike Jewell, Senior Research Director with TNS Taiwan, said the roads are decidedly a cause for angst amongst expats. Presenting the study to the chamber on 18 March, he quoted a respondent as saying "Every traffic law is violated constantly on every road, and there are rarely consequences for law-breakers. The government really needs to put in some more effort to enforce the laws and educate drivers about them."

Overall, communicating in Taiwan doesn't seem to be a problem for most foreigners in most situations, especially in the crucial area of hospitals and medicals clinics, where 74% of respondents say they find it easy or at least adequate. It's a different story when it comes to managing personal finances, as 40% of expats experienced problems getting their meanings across to staff in their bank.

Compounding the challenges related to communication, 44% also said it isn't easy to get a local credit card. Respondents overall cited excessive requirements, inconsistent application criteria and the language barrier as the chief obstacles to banking.

Comparing services on language skills, upscale international restaurants (77%), hotels (66%), and Taiwan railway and metro rail ticketing facilities (54%) were the most highly rated for the quality of their English.

Purchasing online from local websites hasn't been such a great experience, however, as over half the respondents reported difficulties. "Running a website in the local language is understandable, but local websites often claim they offer services in English, but when you click on English you find they don't provide them at all", Jewell said.

While there were things to complain about, several strong attributes contributed to the overall positive perception of Taiwan as a place to live. For example, 96% are satisfied with public safety. As for the medical system, 79% consider the quality to be good or excellent, and over 70% say medical costs are affordable, particularly considering the quality. And over half of Taiwan expats rate internet quality, electricity, and water supply and facilities positively.

The fact that Taiwan ranks so favourably as a place to live would suggest that positive factors such as public safety and affordable health care trump the negative ones such as air quality, traffic safety and language barrier in local services.

One respondent summed up the study saying "Great place to live, but like everywhere else…not perfect."

The ECCT's 2014 Quality of Living Survey covers 51 aspects of living. Around 200 participants from all walks of life living in Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung were surveyed.

About the ECCT
With over US$33 billion in direct foreign investments, European business remains the largest group of foreign investors in Taiwan. The European Chamber of Commerce Taiwan is the only foreign nationwide business chamber in Taiwan and the principal organisation promoting European business interests in Taiwan. The chamber represents over 800 members from over 400 companies and organisations. Through a network of 28 industry and support committees, the ECCT has been successful in addressing specific concerns and providing concrete recommendations to all levels of government to facilitate improving the business environment. The ECCT annually publishes a series of position papers that comprise issues identified by its committees as hindering the further development of their respective industries and provide recommendations to the government of Taiwan for improvement of the business environment on general issues as well as industry-specific problems. They also serve to keep the European Commission and parliament as well as the governments of individual European Union member states informed about Taiwan's business environment.