Work-life balance appealing to expats: HSBC survey

The latest HSBC Expat Explorer survey of 26,871 mobile workers worldwide shows European countries continue to dominate the top three destinations for successful expat careers.

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Switzerland retains pole position on the range of measures for best all-round destination with Germany and Sweden switching places from last year to take second and third respectively.The United Arab Emirates (UAE) rises two places up the rankings into fourth place with new top-ten entrant, Norway, sliding into fifth place, unseating Singapore, which moves into sixth.

Little sign of Brexit anxiety?

Interestingly, the United Kingdom leapfrogs nine places from 18 last year to number nine in the 2017 report. The survey, conducted by pollsters YouGov for banking and financial services company HSBC before the UK’s referendum on EU membership in June, suggests a good deal of optimism among mobile workers for opportunities in the country, especially with growth and prospects in emerging and newly emerged economies slowing.Dean Blackburn, head of HSBC Expat, comments: “According to our survey, Europe is home to some of the best destinations for a successful expat career. Six European countries have made their way into the top ten and are recognised for their strong work culture, great work-life balance and relatively good job security."

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Switzerland’s appeal

For the second year in a row, European common market member Switzerland is ranked the best all-round destination for a career abroad. The country combines the best earning prospects with a good work-life balance and an excellent work culture. The average annual expat income in Switzerland is US$188,275: almost twice the global average of US$97,419.The enthusiasm for better work-life balance continues to be a key trend, with 69 per cent of expats in Switzerland reporting that they see an improvement in their work-life balance. Six in ten (61%) also say the work culture here is better than in their home country.

Not all about the money

Analysis by HSBC for the survey suggests Norway's – outside the European Union, but part of the European Economic Area – and Austria’s debut appearance in the top ten is down to their favourable working conditions, even though across Europe as a whole expat earnings and benefits are below the survey average (with the exception of Switzerland).Expats find both work-life balance (87% in Norway and 71% in Austria) and work culture (respectively 69% and 62%) better than in their home country. Across all countries surveyed, expats in Norway are the most likely to see an improvement in their work-life balance.More broadly, expats across Asia find their work more fulfilling. The majority of expats in Thailand, Indonesia (both 54%) and Singapore (53%) say they are more fulfilled at work since they made the move.

Where expats head for the best career prospects and packages

The UK’s rapidly growing appeal too this year is down to expats in Britain among the most likely in the world to pick up new skills compared to their home country (64%) and progress their career (62%), according to the HSBC survey.Hong Kong and Singapore come out on top for career development. The majority of expats in both countries (68% in Hong Kong and 62% in Singapore) agree it is a good place for expats to progress their career, compared with the global average of 43 per cent. However, this may come at a cost, as 30 per cent of expats in Singapore and 50 per cent in Hong Kong see a decline in their work-life balance since moving.Expats looking for the best employment package should consider the Middle East, says HSBC. Nine in ten (91%) expats receive at least one benefit as part of their contract, compared with the global average of 67 per cent. In the UAE, 56 per cent of expats receive an accommodation allowance and 75 per cent receive health benefits. In Bahrain, 65 per cent of expats receive an annual allowance for trips home.

New year, new assignment?

“The start of the new year is a good time for expats and prospective expats alike to reflect on what they have achieved to date and start to plan the next steps in their international careers,” says Mr Blackburn. "What’s clear in our survey, is that working abroad offers a wealth of opportunities to suit many different career needs and personal priorities.“Some expats are looking for an accelerated route to the top of the career ladder, some want to put themselves on a firmer financial footing, while others want to improve their work-life balance. There is an ideal destination to achieve one or more of these goals; and the Expat Careers tool is there to help them find it.”

Top ten destinations for a successul expat career 

  1. Switzerland
  2. Germany
  3. Sweden
  4. United Arab Emirates
  5. Norway
  6. Singapore
  7. Austria
  8. Hong Kong
  9. United Kingdom
  10. Bahrain

For related news and features, see our talent management section.

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