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Forget the US and Asia, the top 5 countries for expats are in Europe and the Middle East


If you plan to embark on a new career move this year, you should try casting your eye to Europe or the Middle East. That's according to a new report from HSBC, which found that the top five countries for expat workers were all outside North America and Asia.

Based on responses from 22,318 expats working in 163 countries, the report measured those destinations deemed best for international workers along a series of metrics — such as work/life balance, earnings prospects and career development. It found that select nations in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region scored most highly.

Strong salaries, positive work cultures, job security and personal fulfillment opportunities all enabled the region to jump forward in the bank's annual list and gain the top spots. Notable expat destinations in Asia and North America — such as the U.S., Canada and Hong Kong — also made gains this year and appeared in the top 10. But Singapore saw a drop this year, missing out on the top five to take its place among the final 10.


To determine the results, survey participants were asked to rate the experience of their new work location according to eight career-focused questions. Their responses were then converted into an overall country rating and compared to last year's study. External factors, such as the economic and political climate, were not directly taken into account but may have influenced respondents' ratings.

John Goddard, head of HSBC Expat, the offshore banking arm of HSBC Group, said the ranking could provide inspiration for those looking to boost their careers with a move overseas.

"The new year can often be a catalyst for considering where you are and where you want to be, particularly when it comes to your career," he said. "There's no 'one size fits all' but if you're looking for career inspiration, it may be worth going beyond the borders of your home country to find the place where you can thrive at work."

Here's a look at the top five countries for expats in 2019:

5. Switzerland

Panoramic photo of Chapel bridge and Reuss River in the city of Lucerne, Switzerland.
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Appearing in fifth position in this year's ranking was Switzerland.

A consistently strong destination for expat workers, the country scored especially well with regard to career progression. Almost two-thirds, or 62 percent of survey respondents, said the country offered a good environment for their professional development. Yet that did not come at the expense of their personal life, they said, with 63 percent claiming a better work/life balance there than in their home country.

Additionally, Switzerland scored highly for remuneration, with 76 percent of expats agreeing that their earnings prospects had improved since relocating, placing it just behind Bahrain in that metric.

4. United Arab Emirates

Dubai, United Arab Emirates
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Home to business hubs Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates held onto its position as the fourth most popular country for expat workers for the fourth year running.

With a well-established reputation among the expat community, the UAE is particularly renowned for its financial incentives. Ninety-five percent of expats in the UAE reported receiving benefits as part of their employment package — the highest level in the world — while almost three quarters (73 percent) said their earnings prospects were better than in their home country.

The country is also recognized for its inviting work culture, with half the respondents claiming the work culture was better there than in their home nation.

3. United Kingdom

Tower Bridge and The Shard at sunset, London
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Despite Brexit blues, the U.K. moved up six places this year to claim third place among the most desirable countries for expats.

Boasting good prospects for both professional and personal development, Britain gained points this year for offering a good work/life balance and strong salaries. The majority (58 percent) of foreign workers also said the working culture in the U.K. was better than in their home country.

Britain also scored highly with regard to education. More than two-fifths, or 43 percent, of foreign workers have a post graduate degree. Meanwhile, respondents ranked it as the best country in the world to learn new skills and the fourth best to climb the career ladder — just behind Hong Kong, the U.S. and Singapore.

2. Bahrain

View of Bahrain World Trade Center in Manama, Bahrain
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Rising 10 places up the rankings this year was Bahrain, which won favor with expats thanks to its enviable remuneration packages.

An impressive 77 percent of foreign workers reported better earnings prospects in Bahrain than in their home country, up from 62 percent last year. Even more notable, though, were the additional relocation benefits expats typically received for making the move. Accommodation allowance (69 percent), airfare stipend (68 percent), and medical packages (64 percent) were among the perks most typically received.

Aside from an attractive remuneration package, life in Bahrain also looks good on the career development front. Relationships are important in the Middle Eastern island nation and more than half the respondents, or 59 percent, said learning to navigate those has made them a better leader.

1. Germany

View of Spree River and Berliner Dom, Berlin, Germany. Image taken outdoors, daylight, in summer.
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Topping this year's list was Germany, which moved up one place from 2018.

True to its reputation for efficiency, the European powerhouse was deemed a hub for career progression, with 65 percent describing it as productive. However, that needn't come at the expense of personal life, according to respondents: 70 percent of foreign workers said that their work/life balance had improved since relocating to Germany.

Among the other benefits celebrated by expats in Germany were its working culture, which ranked second only to Sweden's, and its level of job security. Thanks to a highly regulated labor market, almost three quarters of respondents reported improved job security in Germany versus their home country.

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