You’ve probably got many reasons for wanting to work abroad, a change of scene, a desire for adventure or a better climate to name a few. One reason that won’t be on your list is wanting to be poorer!
For many of us, a move abroad is often motivated by potential financial advantages. We want to make more money working abroad than we can back home.
Sure, nice weather and living in a fantastic location are great incentives, but money is often the real driving factor. With hard work and effort, expats are often able to change their own financial status dramatically as well as the wealth of their families and loved ones.
If you invest 5 years of wealth-motivated hard work as an expat knowing it can change the lives of your family for the next 20 years, why wouldn’t you want to do that?
Moving to a new country for financial gain can work for both you and the country that gets your skills.
Many countries are very aware that expats arrive for financial reasons and are happy for expats to exchange their valuable skills for financial reward. In fact, they go out of their way to make sure they are regarded as the best countries to work in, tempting people like you with in-demand skills to choose their country.
It’s no secret that many expats earn a lot more money than their peers in their home countries. Plus you’ll often fewer taxes than the local population which gives you an incredible long term wealth building advantage.
Which countries make it easier for professionals to advance their career while building up personal wealth?
The latest ECA’s My Expatriate Market Pay Survey has revealed the list of countries where professionals are currently earning much more than the global average – and so if you’d like to know which are the 10 best countries to work in abroad if you just want more money, read on!
The ECA’s My Expatriate Market Pay Survey has looked at pay levels for expatriates around the world, including information on benefits, allowances, salary calculation methods and tax treatment.
More than 320 international companies participated in the survey covering 170 countries and over 10 000 international workers.
The survey ranked the countries by total expatriate package costs that companies offer to an average expat middle manager. An expatriate benefits package includes a salary, benefits that a company provides to its expat workers (housing, education, relocation costs, medical insurance, etc.) and taxes that expats have to pay in their chosen country.
Best Countries to work in and make a good income
1. United Kingdom
It’s unclear where the country will stand after Brexit, but currently, the UK is in the top 10 highest-paying countries and is one of the best to work in. So if material gains are your primary reason to look for a career abroad, the UK should definitely be high on your priority list.
The UK is one of the most powerful world centres in terms of finance, IT, digital and science innovations, and AI. That’s why it’s a global magnet for those who have knowledge in these spheres and ambitions to use their knowledge to the best advantage.
The unemployment in the UK is incredibly low, while skill shortage is pretty drastic. Industries in need of highly skilled professionals are seeking them from all over the world offering good financial incentives to come and work in the UK.
On average expat professionals in the UK get paid over $390,000 per year including all benefits if they are relocated by their company. Those who find work independently still get a great deal: service professionals earn an average of $45,691 (£33,957). Management earn an average $230,721 (£171,469).
If you are interested in working in the United Kingdom, this is How to get a well-paid job and a work visa in the UK.
It might come as a surprise for some expats that Japan is on the list of the best countries to work in. Japan isn’t usually in the top favourite places for expats to relocate to for work – the general perception is that it’s quite an insulate country.
However, things are changing. The number of foreigners coming to work in Japan has been rising recently. Japan is desperate to lure in more foreign professionals to make up for its ageing population. The country wants more skilled immigration — engineers, entrepreneurs, researchers, managers and professionals.
Working in Japan is an adventure by itself. Add to it a cutting edge infrastructure, stunning nature of Japanese islands, high quality of life and a brilliant expat benefits package, new immigration rules that make it comparatively easy for skilled people to come to the country – and the country becomes quite appealing.
Experienced expats still feel lukewarm about Japan. Although the country has changed its approach to foreigners, the perceptions take much longer to change. So while Japan lags behind other Asian countries in terms of attractiveness for foreigners, for ambitious budding expats with a great set of professional skills it’s a great chance to start an international career and wealth building.
Financial gains are also significant – the cost of an average expatriate pay package for middle managers in Japan is about $375,289 per year.
If you hunt for a job independently, you might expect an average income of $48,177 (£35,629) as a service professional which will grow to an average $238,248 (£176,196) at the management-level.
China as many other countries all over the world is desperate for skilled workforce especially in IT, AI and science. People with expertise in these areas are in huge demand.
The domestic job market is unable to fill the huge amount of advertised positions. Specialists with five years of experience available for employment are a rare commodity, so Chinese companies are looking for such people all over the world.
To help Chinese businesses hire professionals from abroad, the government recently updated China’s green card policy thus easing the way in for professional immigrants.
The demand has reflected on expat salaries. China has overtaken Hong Kong in terms of expat benefit packages. An average value of a package for an expatriate middle manager in mainland China is around $276,400 now. The change happened mainly due to the increase in benefit costs such as medical insurance, for example.
In secondary cities, expatriate packages are not as high as in main destinations, but if you are ambitious enough, second-tier cities can give you a perfect start from where to grow your career and experience.
4. Hong Kong
Hong Kong is always ranking well in terms of expat packages and expat earnings. An average value of a typical package there is about $271,400.
If there is no company involved in your relocation then the numbers will differ. Working as a service professional you can expect an average gross annual income of $45,050 (£33,316). Management earn an average $265,336 (£196,229).
What’s more, most expats benefit from the lower tax regime and enjoy a higher disposable income as a result.
One of the largest employment sectors for expats in Hong Kong is finance – and most expats feel the economic situation locally is strong.
If you are prepared to work hard, Hong Kong is the place to go. Hong Kong expats mention that they work longer hours, however, the financial reward is worth it. They also say that Hong Kong is the best place to advance your professional career.
Turkey might not be one of those countries that actively seeking and attracting foreign workforce from abroad. However, it’s possible to get an assignment to Turkey working for international companies who are always on the lookout for skilled employees.
Those heading to work in Turkey may be pleasantly surprised by the size of an average expat salary for middle managers offered in this country. The pleasure of the Mediterranean lifestyle is considerably enhanced by a hefty $266,298 a year.
Our Work and Live in Turkey guide can help you understand more about possible career opportunities in Turkey and how to get a work permit there.
If you are moving down under for work through your company, you can potentially earn as much as $264,963 a year. It’s the second-largest expat package in the Asia Pacific. Benefit costs in Australia are not among the highest, the taxes, however, will eat a lot of your package.
If you are not employed by an international company that have an office in Australia, and yet really want to work there, there are ways to immigrate as a professional person.
Australia is constantly looking for skilled people of certain professions, and the immigration procedures are quite clear. This is How to Find a Great Job in Australia and Get an Employer-Sponsored Visa. Just follow the plan, and you will succeed.
It might take some time and a lot of determination, however, the reward will be worth it. Service professionals in Australia have an average gross annual income of $51,497 (£38,272). Management earn an average of $165,581 (£51,497). Add high living standards and a wonderful lifestyle – and you’ll get one of the best countries to work and live in the world.
Canada has always been one of the best countries to work in as an expat. Today Canada still proves to be a cherished destination for professionals seeking both lifestyle and career advancement.
If you are a highly skilled professional considering moving to Canada in search of employment you can count on C$90,000 – 150,000 a year. As an example, an average salary for a project manager is C$72,470, and a software developer can count on C$63,905 on average.
Senior managers of Goods Production, Utilities, Transportation, and Construction– $75,159 – $141,569. Senior managers in Finance and Communications – $77,805 – $129,62. Engineering managers – $68,100-$172,000
Depending on your experience and field of expertise you can earn much more than the average. And although Canada is not really a big destination for a work assignment, we have put it on the list because it’s desperate for skilled immigrants.
Thus immigrating to Canada can be easier if you are a skilled professional. If you are interested, check out our guide on How to Get a Canada Work Visa.
France is not an exception when it comes to the skills shortage in IT, AI, science and innovations. Just like many other European nations, France’s technology industry dreams of being able to freely employ digitally skilled and qualified workforce from India, China and the Middle East.
To help the situation, last year President Macron declared a launch of a technology visa, which aims to attract international talent and make France the best country to work in for skilled workforce.
The visa makes it easier for skilled professionals to come to the country and for French employers to hire from outside the EEA. It also gives brilliant opportunities for international startups.
Interested in working in France? Read our detailed article on How to find a job in France with the French Tech Visa programme.
If you are being relocated to France by your company, you can expect an average value of an expat package for middle managers about $255,288 per year.
If it proves difficult to negotiate a full expat package, don’t despair. Even without additional benefits, you won’t be disappointed: service professionals in France have an average gross annual income of $38,787 (£28,826). Management-level workers earn an average $247,183 (£183,703).
9. United States of America
The USA has always been a magnet for entrepreneurs, innovators and talented people. The States are rightly proud of being one of the best countries in the world for ambitious and talented professionals to work in.
However, even the State couldn’t avoid the skill shortage problem. The USA companies have recently redoubled their efforts at poaching talent from all over the world. The opportunities and financial rewards will be well worth all your efforts to get hired by a US company.
For professional expats working in the USA can result in a benefits package of about $252,903 a year. So if you can get a high-ranking professional posting in the USA, you will be paid well.
No expat package available? No worries: as a service professional in the US you will be taking home an average $60,717 (£44,903). Management-level staff are on an average of over six times this at $382,189 (£282,647).
The financial services industry is a big employer in Switzerland and it’s well known as a high wealth centre.
Switzerland is one of the highest paying countries in the world. Yes, the cost of living in Switzerland is also high, however solid career opportunities and high living standards are worth it.
An average expat benefits package in the country is about $246,971 a year.
Service professionals in Switzerland earn an average of $92,625 (£68,500) a year. Meanwhile, its management workers take home a huge $431,603 (£319,192) a year.
Benefits and taxes
The above list is a good starting point for those expat professionals who want to find the best-paying country to work in. However, there is a hitch.
Actual Expat Salary = Expat Benefit Package Minus Benefits and Taxes
The above rating of the 10 best countries to work in abroad with seemingly best money opportunities for expats has a catch – as it’s been mentioned earlier, an expat benefits package consists of salary, benefits and taxes. Often higher salary packages for expats are related to higher costs of living.
To understand which country offers the best pay, you have to take into account how much of the package is taken by a taxman, how much goes to pay your benefits and how much you are actually going to take home.
Look at the list from this perspective – and expat income in the UK falls to the second place after-tax, and to the tenth after benefits are considered. So how is the ranking rearranged for income after tax?
Ten best countries to work in after-tax income
1. Hong Kong
Both residents and expats are taxed at either a progressive 2% to 17%, depending on their income level, or a standard rate of 15%. So an average expat salary after tax is about $235,000
2. The UK
We all know the impact of UK taxation on our income. Expats working here get the same tax treatment as us locals. So, when it comes to after-tax salaries, the UK loses its leadership and takes second place with an average after-tax salary of about $225,000.
Most expats in Singapore are likely to have to pay the progressive resident tax rates, just as in the UK, though there are more bands. The income tax rate varies up to a maximum of 22%. The first $20,000 earned is tax-free. So, an average after-tax expat salary is about $210,000
Japan uses a progressive income tax system made up of national, prefectural and municipal taxes, and as tax residents, expats are taxed the same way as locals, so their average after-tax salary is $195,000
5. The UAE
There is no income tax in the UAE; an expat salary on average is about $191.205 with no income tax deductions.
6. Switzerland and the USA
Both countries tax expatriates on the same basis as their citizens with various taxes applied. The result is an average expat after-tax salary of just over $190,000.
7. China and the Korea Republic
In China income from employment is taxed monthly at a progressive tax rate that caps at 45%. There is a monthly standard deduction for foreign nationals of RMB 4,800. Korea uses what is known as a ‘unitary concept’ which means that all income is added together and taxed at progressive rates. An average expat after-tax salary in both countries is just below $190,000.
8. Saudi Arabia
Just like in the UAE, there is no income tax in this country. However, an average expat salary is lower, reaching about $172,000 a year.
National income tax rates in Turkey start at 15% and go up to 35%. As a result, expats get on average about $170,000 after tax.
Canadian provinces and territories have their own tax brackets and there are no tax exemptions for expats.
As an example, if you reside in the region of Ontario, and make $52,000 a year you will be taxed $11,724. That means that your net pay will be $40,276 per year or $3,356 per month.
As you can see, when considering income after-tax, the list of the best countries to work in abroad is different from the total benefits package ranking.
Tax-free countries like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia with no personal income tax are now in the top ten, with their expat salary packages being high by international standards.
Dubai is one of the most interesting places to work abroad with multiple financial opportunities. Read how to get work and sort out your visa in Dubai.
Yet, there is one more adjustment to take into account – benefits that a company pays to expat professionals – accommodation, education, utilities, a car, etc.
In some countries accommodation, health insurance and educating children in international schools can cost a fortune. The UK is a typical example: take the benefits out of the after-tax salary – and the average middle manager expat cash salary will be around $75,000 a year.
So when considering which country will be more beneficial for you in financial terms, it is worth looking into taxation and the cost of living in different countries. It is also important to try and negotiate with your employer the best benefits package you can get.
We hope that the above list of the 10 best countries to work in abroad where you can earn more on average than at home, shows you that there are opportunities out there if you want to advance your economic and career prospects.
You don’t have to sit idly by and watch your work life going nowhere whilst your savings earn less than inflation-proofing interest rates – there are strong, exciting, well-paid and positive opportunities for you, your wealth and your future out there…
In this article, we used the findings of The Institute for Management Development (IMD) World Talent Rating for 2017 and ECA’s My Expatriate Market Pay Survey 2016.