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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

The Best Places for Expats to Build Their Career

Luxembourg and Germany remain reliable destinations to boost your career, and newcomer Taiwan also proves a promising place to do so.
  • #1 Luxembourg offers a stable economy, safe jobs, and a healthy work-life balance
  • #2 Taiwan impresses with high job satisfaction and good career prospects
  • #3 Germany offers expats high job security and reasonable working hours
  • Biggest winners in 2016: Hungary, Romania, India
  • Biggest losers: Mozambique, Ecuador, Qatar


In 2016, 67 countries feature in the Working Abroad Index. Respondents were asked about their satisfaction with different aspects concerning job and career, work-life balance, and job security. Their responses were rated on a scale of one to seven. The minimum sample size for a country to be included in this index is 50 respondents, although 47 countries had a sample size of more than 100 respondents.

Working Abroad Index

Working Abroad Index 2016

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Luxembourg: A Stable Job Market

After featuring consistently in the top three of the Working Abroad Index (ranking second in 2014 and third in 2015), Luxembourg finally claims the top spot in 2016. Its finance industry appears to be the most popular sector, with more than three in ten expats (31%) choosing this option, as opposed to 8% worldwide. It is followed by the public sector — presumably due to Luxembourg’s status as a European capital and seat of EU institutions.

In Luxembourg, expats are more likely to choose a traditional role as employee or manager as their main employment status than the global average (66% vs. 41%). Senior employees or experts also make up a large percentage of that group, with 32% in Luxembourg vs. 23% worldwide.

In terms of overall job satisfaction, 76% of expats in Luxembourg are generally satisfied, compared to a global average of 64%. With regard to career prospects, 67% are overall pleased with their opportunities (global average: 55%).

The work-life balance is rated highly by 79% of expats in Luxembourg (globally: 60%), with the country ranking fourth in the Work-Life Balance subcategory. As far as working hours are concerned, all working respondents spend on average 40.6 hours a week at their job (global: 41.4 hours). Only 7% work in part-time jobs, and the average work week for full-time employees thus isn’t that much longer at 41.8 hours.

Expats also feel their jobs are secure, according to 81% of the respondents, which might be explained by the country’s strong economy. Luxembourg ranks first in terms of the state of the local economy, with not one respondent considering it very bad.

Generally, a large proportion of expats decided to move to Luxembourg for job-specific reasons. More than seven in ten respondents (71%) saw the economy or the job market as a potential benefit when they considered relocating there. This is backed up by the results for the participant’s main motivation for their move: 34% of expats came to Luxembourg because they found a job on their own, making this the most important reason for relocating to this destination — at more than double the global average of 15%.

Taiwan: High Job Satisfaction

This year’s newcomer Taiwan enters straight at second place in the Working Abroad Index. It even ranks first in the Job and Career subcategory, with 82% of expats in Taiwan citing overall satisfaction in their jobs (global average: 64%). Additionally, only 9% would rate their career prospects negatively, compared to 24% worldwide.

Taiwan fares pretty well in terms of work-life balance, too: 30% of respondents are completely satisfied with this factor, almost double the global average of 17%. Another 30% are also very happy with their 40.7 average working hours per week, with not one respondent giving the worst rating for this aspect. More than eight in ten expats (81%) are also happy with their job security, and 79% view the Taiwanese economy positively, compared to a global average of 56% for both factors.

Teachers, academic staff and researchers (30%) are strongly represented in Taiwan, at more than three times the global average of 8%. On the other hand, there are only 23% regular employees and managers among the respondents, as opposed to 41% globally. Apart from education and academia, the sectors that stand out in Taiwan are the manufacturing and IT industries, with 25% and 22% of respondents working there, respectively (globally: 8% and 13%). Moreover, one in ten expats in Taiwan has their own business or is an entrepreneur.

Germany: A High-Performing Economy

After dropping to fourth place last year, Germany now returns to the top three of the Working Abroad Index. Out of the three subcategories in the index, Germany does best when it comes to job security, ranking second in the respective subcategory.

More than seven in ten respondents (71%) are generally satisfied with the level of job security, with 23% going so far as to express complete satisfaction. The state of the German economy is also very good, according to 44% of the respondents, more than double the worldwide average of 17%.

Indeed, 68% of those moving to Germany saw its economy or labor market as potential benefits during their relocation plans.

Expats also seem to be happy with their work-life balance (69%) and their working hours (72%): in fact, they work an average 42.4 hours per week in a full-time position, a couple of hours less than the worldwide average of 44.6 hours. In terms of overall job satisfaction, seven in ten expats in Germany are generally happy (64% worldwide), while two-thirds (66%) are overall satisfied with their career prospects, compared to a global average of 55%.

Most expats in Germany have opted for the role of employee or manager (47%). At 22%, the IT industry employs the highest percentage of expats, followed by the manufacturing industry with 10% (globally: 13% and 8%, respectively). Still, the state of the economy notwithstanding, one in nine respondents in Germany is currently looking for work (vs. 9% worldwide).

Some Win, Some Lose

Malta, last year’s leader and “breakout star”, drops a few places, though it is still listed among the global top five. Its ranking in the Work-Life Balance subcategory has fallen drastically, from ranking 3rd in 2015 to 20th in 2016. Last year’s runner-up, Norway, is now in eighth place. It has plummeted from 15th to 49th place in the Job and Career subcategory, while also suffering with regard to job security. The latter might be due to the falling oil prices and their potential effects on the petrochemical industry — one in five respondents works in the primary sector (agriculture, mining, or oil and gas).

The biggest climbers in 2016 are Hungary, Romania, and India. All three destinations have made a big leap forward in the Working Abroad Index, gaining between 20 and 27 positions in the ranking. The most obvious improvements can be seen in the Job & Career subcategory for each country: for instance, Hungary, which has climbed from 52nd place to the 27th rank overall, rises from 48th place in this subcategory to rank 9th in 2016. Overall, the percentage of expats in these countries who are happy with their career prospects and satisfied with their job has increased.

On the other hand, Mozambique, Ecuador, and Qatar have suffered a big drop in their respective rankings: Mozambique plummets from 31st to 59th place, while Ecuador — still featuring in last year’s top ten — is relegated to 30th place. Qatar also loses 23 places altogether, now ranking 52nd out of 67. In Mozambique, the percentage of expats satisfied with their career prospects has massively decreased (42% vs. 62% in 2015), while respondents in Ecuador and Qatar are no longer confident about the state of the economy. In Qatar, for instance, only 66% of expats express satisfaction with the local economy, as opposed to more than 90% in 2015: like Norway, it might have become a victim of the falling oil prices in this respect.

Further Reading