High Opportunity Places vs. High Quality of Life: The Trade Offs
I feel very fortunate to have the life that I have. Growing up in Vancouver, Canada. Then living in San Francisco for two decades. Doing Business all across the globe in Asia, Europe, Latin America, Africa, Australasia and MENA region since 2001. Because of all my travels I’ve been able to get a good perspective on many different regions and countries and their prospective business and living situations.
I would classify the world’s countries into the following and very simple categories: High Quality of Life versus High Quality of Opportunities.
Some examples to characterize this better.
High Quality of Life aka First World (not sure how i feel about this term): European Union, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan
High Quality of Opportunities aka Emerging Markets: Africa, China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Latin America, Eastern Europe
(Note: these are not value judgements, just some general observations. I found that every place I visited had so many compelling things about them and you can live very good lives anywhere)
How I would describe the High Quality of Life places. They are stable politically, environmentally clean (good quality air and water), good rule of law, low crime. Good healthcare and education systems. Mainly middle class and arguably not super commercial places. One way to check this is to see how late stores are open on sunday. One could almost say stagnant or stable economic growth.
Contrast this to the High quality of Opportunity places. You don’t have many of the things mentioned in First World countries. General infrastructure whether it is roads, schools and general energy supply tends to be lacking or in the process of being built (China is the exception here). But there is a growing population and a fast emerging middle class. This gap is where there are a plethora of big business opportunities. If you want to confirm, just check the GDP growth rate or local stock markets of these countries over the last few years.
I saw this growing up in Canada with the mass exodus of well to do immigrant business people from Hong Kong, then Taiwan and then Mainland China. From 1991 to 2005, there were between 30,000 to 40,000 immigrants from these regions moving to Canada every year. Many of them came to Canada so their families could have a better life. But soon after, the parents got bored with the lack of excitement and business opportunities eventually moved back home. Or in many cases, they just sent the wife and kids over while the father stayed home running the business as they did not see many interesting opportunities in Vancouver or Toronto. Hard to compare a 1.3 Billion person market like China moving into the developed world status to a 30M population of mainly middle class Canada.
I would posit what makes the United States so attractive to many people (well at least until recent years) was that it is a good compromise between the high quality life and high quality of opportunities. If you compare the quality of life in the United States to Canada, New Zealand or Austria for example, I think it really comes up very short (in my humble opinion) on many fronts, the safety net, health care, basic education, level of crime/safety. But when it comes to career or business opportunities, the USA completely outweighs these places. And it’s why it attracts so many ambitious Australians, Canadians, French Kiwis etc. Yet at same time, the opportunities for young hungry individuals are nowhere close to places in the Emerging Markets.
No right answer, only answer is what’s best for you & what you are optimizing for. Lots of trade offs but if i were an ambitious 20 something i would be heading to the frontier like Southeast Asia, Latin America, Africa or Eastern Europe. That is where the future growth is going to be.
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