Which country is your best passport to a better career?

Dreaming of distant shores? A new HSBC survey finds the top countries for boosting development, rebalancing bank accounts and harmonising work and life could be closer than you think.

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An international assignment has long been valued by employees and employers alike as a great way to fast-track a career and develop key skills in the process.A survey by international bank HSBC canvassed 22,000 expatriates from 163 countries and territories agrees, finding that career ambition is the number one reason why people relocate abroad. With more opportunities for global relocation opening up in the past decade, HSBC’s report analyses the responses to find the best places for people to fulfil their career aspirations.
Packing your bags to progress a career

Work hard, play hard ethic pays dividends

Germany moved up one place on last year’s position to be crowned number one in HSBC’s Best Places to Work Abroad index this year.Overtaking neighbours Sweden and Switzerland, and “going from strength to strength” on indicators like work-life balance and job security, Germany beat Bahrain in the battle for first place.Expats rated Europe’s largest economy and the world’s fifth biggest by GDP as the most productive workplace in the world (65%), reflecting Germany’s reputation for manufacturing excellence and operational efficiency.  

Expatriates in Germany feel secure in their jobs

An even greater proportion (70%) of expatriates stated that relocating to Germany for their career improved their work-life balance. With some well-known German brands said to be discouraging employees from reading emails outside of working hours, respondents also ranked Germany as having the second-best working culture in the world, behind Sweden.  Almost three-quarters (73%) of overseas workers in Germany surveyed by HSBC also claim their job security has improved job security as a result of their move. Germany’s highly regulated labour market is buttressed by Betriebsrat (worker councils), which means expatriates and colleagues can access work-related help, advice and support as they settle in. 

Head to Bahrain for the best expat pay package

Bahrain earns its top three position in the Best Place to Work Index on the basis expatriates rate it as a great place to develop leadership skills.Taking the time to build face-to-face relationships is key to doing business in Bahrain, says HSBC. Almost six in ten respondents (59%) in Bahrain believe working in the country has helped them to become a better leaderMoving up an impressive ten places in the rankings this year, Bahrain is also attracting the ambitious globally mobile with highly competitive pay packages. Over three-quarters (77%) of foreign workers say their earning prospects are better in Bahrain than at home, up from 62% last year. Attractive salaries are further supplemented for most foreigners working in Bahrain by allowances for accommodation (69%), airfare (68%) and medical care (64%). Close to a quarter (23%) receive a bonus to help cover living expenses. 

Rich cultural life a key attraction for expatriates in the UK

Despite Brexit in the background and worries about the UK’s ability to attract people with key skills once it leaves the EU, the UK moves up six places in the rankings this year to number three in the Best Places to Work Abroad ranking.Almost half of people moving to the UK do so for their career with the average expat working in the UK gaining across the board on work-life balance, career progression and earning prospects.The positive aspects of UK working life also results in 58% of foreign workers describing the working culture as better than in their home country. Encouragingly from the perspective of talent shortages and changing demographics, the survey also finds Britain’s foreign workforce is young, educated and ambitious, with more than two fifths (43%) holding a postgraduate degree.Global talent has long powered the international melting pot of London and that does not appear to be slowing down, concludes HSBC. According to survey respondents, the UK is the best country in the world to learn new skills and the fourth best to climb the career ladder, just behind Hong Kong, USA and Singapore.

When relocating is about more than work

For people who seek more than simply career development, resolving this year to accentuate the social and creative side of work, respondents to HSBC’s survey recommend heading to Brazil, Indonesia and the Philippines. These are the most sociable work places in the world. In Brazil, 57% of foreign workers add that working here has made them more creativeCommenting on the insights, John Goddard, head of HSBC Expat, said: “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.“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.“Whether you are taking a calculated risk to secure the job of your dreams or moving to accept a big promotion, working abroad can have serious consequences for your finances. Knowing where to keep your savings, how to transfer money and protect against currency fluctuations is vital. Once you have the logistics in order, you can focus on seeking out new experiences, gaining new skills and learning more about your new environment.”

The HSBC Best Places to Work index (change on last year's position in brackets)

  1. Germany (+1)
  2. Bahrain (+10)
  3. UK (+6)
  4. UAE (=)
  5. Switzerland (-2)
  6. Sweden (=)
  7. Singapore (-2)
  8. USA (+3)
  9. Canada (+1)
  10. Hong Kong (+3)
Head to our HR section for more news and insight. 
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