Whatever an expat’s reasons for moving overseas, earning less money probably isn’t one of them.
Working in another country has more to do with advancing a career and banking some tax-free cash – although experiencing a new, vibrant culture in an idyllic setting under warm sunshine is also on the list.
So, where are the best countries to boost a career and that bank balance?
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United Arab Emirates
First, expats pay no income tax on earnings in the UAE. You can forget capital gains tax and inheritance tax, too.
The two big cities are Dubai and the capital, Abu Dhabi.
Both these gleaming new cities have risen out of the desert thanks to the UAE’s phenomenal wealth generated from drilling oil and gas. However, the government is keen to move the economy from relying on hydrocarbons.
Around 100,000 Brits live and work in both – although many are sprinkled around the remaining five emirates.
The climate is as hot as the economy, with scorching temperatures year-round.
Expats should take notice that the UAE is an Islamic state with different, often stricter, attitudes to behaving in public, drinking alcohol, and the treatment of women and the LGBTQ+ community than Western nations.
UAE Recruitment agency Michael Page has researched salary prospects for expats in 2023.
The highest salaries depend on experience and qualifications. In-demand roles include:
- Consultancy – specialists in tax, law, strategy and technology are in high demand
- Banking and financial services – firms want professionals in venture capital, start-ups and compliance
- Healthcare – ranging from nurses and doctors to digital innovation to biotechnology experts
Here are some sample salaries:
|Banking||Head of consumer banking||£21,500 – £45,000|
|Legal||Partner||£23,600 – £52,000|
|Public sector||Undersecretary||£29,500 – £41,200|
|Strategy||Chief strategy officer||£20,700 – £29,000|
|Senior finance||Group chief financial officer||£23,000 – £34,500|
|Sales and marketing||Chief marketing officer||£15,725 – £27,000|
|Manufacturing||Managing director||£22,300 – £30,600|
|Supply chain||General manager||£13,750 – £21,400|
|Investment management||Chief investment officer||£18,950 – £35,600|
|Technology||Chief digital officer||£21,500 – £28,400|
|Human resources||Chief shared services officer||£23,500 – £33,100|
|Accounting and finance||Chief financial officer||£16,900 – £38,350|
|Property and construction||General manager||£14,660 – £22,450|
|Secretarial and office support||Personal assistant||£4,500 – £7,890|
Expats can find job-hunting in Switzerland a challenge. Swiss employers are open to expat workers but prefer to give a job to a Swiss candidate, and competition for posts is hectic.
If you can land a role, you can count yourself among the best-paid workers in the world and in a country with one of the highest standards of living.
Unsurprisingly, banking and financial services are one of the most in-demand occupations. Other expanding sectors include engineering, IT and pharmaceuticals.
According to expat cost of living monitor Numbeo, the average take-home pay is £5,340 a month, but a family of four spends £5,220 without rent, which adds from £1,800 to £2,500 a month.
The Saudi government has announced a series of billion-pound infrastructure projects that will lead to a demand for expat professionals in construction and supporting roles for years to come.
Website Salary Explorer reckons the average salary is £3,680 monthly, including housing, transport and other benefits.
Male expats can expect to earn 14 per cent more than female expats.
The cost of living is about 30 per cent cheaper in Saudi Arabia than in Britain, with a family of four needing £2,800 a month to match a standard of living £5,400 buys in London.
Saudi Arabia has the largest Gulf State economy, which like the UAE, relies on exporting oil and gas. However, the government is trying to shift the focus to other sectors.
Also like the UAE, attitudes to women, the LGBTQ+ community and public behaviour are strict.
Finding a job as an expat is not easy in Singapore. Although the economy is forging ahead – thanks to civil unrest and the politics of Hong Kong forcing businesses to rethink their locations – expats need to show they have outstanding skills to gain a visa.
Experienced professionals in middle-management earn around £65,000 a year.
Singapore is not a cheap place to live for expats. Although wages are good, the cost of living and rents are 40 per cent more expensive.
The two most popular expat jobs in Singapore are cybersecurity and marketing, although technology, media and fintech start-ups are always looking for quality staff.
United States of America
The world’s powerhouse economy swallows thousands of expats every year in a broad range of jobs.
The door to the States is always open to expats – with some surprising needs.
Software developers and internet security analysts are wanted more than others, but welders, translators and trained nurses are also in-demand skills.
The average expat earns £100,000 a year, which is an excellent return in many cities, but a struggle to live on in New York, where prices are a third higher than London, and rents 50 per cent more.
Expat job challenges 2023
International remote working rather than hands-on is a bugbear for expats. The problem did not exist before the COVID pandemic but is now the major concern for multinational companies and 40 per cent of expats, says a survey by ECA International.
The other big worries for expats are the soaring cost of living and the impact of compliance.
The problem for expats is negotiating a benefits package when exchange rate movements undermine the value of the package.
Expats argue that benefits no longer protect purchasing power if a currency weakens, while employers feel they are overpaying if a currency strengthens.
The deal has three options:
- If paying in the home currency, spending power in the host country needs protecting
- If paying in the host country, spending power in the home country needs protecting
- If paying in a third currency, such as US dollars, all the exchange rates need monitoring
Many expats and companies favour split pay. Split pay takes a formula to divide pay between the home and host currencies, for instance, 60:40.
The aim is to tweak the formula, so only the money needed to spend day-to-day is transferred, while the balance stays in the home currency. This cuts costs and protects spending power, provided formula changes are minimal.
Around 3 million British expats live in another European country, but at least a third are retired. Favourite destinations include Spain, France and Ireland.
The main expat destinations for no-tax countries are the Gulf States – the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait. These countries have no taxes on income, capital gains, or inheritance.
In most cases, expats need a visa or work permit arranged before arriving overseas
Hong Kong was a top spot for British expats but has slipped down the order due to friction between the civilian population and the Chinese government, which is trying to impose stricter laws. In some cases, Hong Kong businesses are transferring to Singapore.
More than 300,000 Brits move overseas each year. Most working-age Brits go to the USA or Australia.
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