The best cities for expats to find well-paid work

Find out which cities in the UK and the US lead the rest of the world when it comes to expat job opportunities, and which cities offer the highest disposable income…

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

The latest HSBC Expat Explorer survey looks at a range of factors expats consider when deciding on their move abroad. It found that expats in San Francisco are the most likely in the world to say their city offers fantastic job opportunities, followed by London, New York, Dublin and Birmingham (Yes, Birmingham, UK!)

1.     San Francisco

With a booming economy and leading position in the tech world, San Francisco, home to Silicon Valley, has the second highest proportion of expats working in the technology sector, according to the HSBC survey (behind Dublin). The majority (57%) of expats in San Francisco rate it as having fantastic job opportunities – well above the global average of 25% – making it the top-scoring city in the survey.

Although being an expensive city, with no respondents describing it as affordable, San Francisco offers the second highest average expat income in the world at US$207,227 which allows expats to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. Indeed, half (50%) of expats in San Francisco are now living in a better property and 42% drive a better car than they did at home, more than in any other city in the top five.

2.     London

London is a magnet for international talent

Closely following San Francisco as a city famous for being a magnet for international talent, is London. Nearly half (49%) of expats cite excellent job opportunities in the UK’s capital as one of the top three things the city offers. Despite the cost of living in London being high, with only 1% of expats citing it as affordable, expat salaries are above the global average (USD99,903) at US$107,863.
The average expat salary in London is all the more impressive given that the city has the second highest proportion (52%) of millennial expats (18 to 35-year-olds) in the survey.

3.     New York

In New York, the home of Wall Street is a big draw for talented financial services professionals. A third (32%) of the surveyed New York expats work in financial services, the third highest proportion to work in that sector worldwide.

Despite the great job opportunities and an average income of US$182,240, the fast-paced professional life has trade-offs: only 40% of expats here are more physically active than they were in their home country compared to 55% in San Francisco. Furthermore, only 30% say their physical health is better than it would be in their home country.

4.     Dublin

Dublin comes fourth for expat job opportunities in the survey, suggesting that the European home of international tech giants like Google, Facebook and Amazon is attracting some of the world’s brightest international talent. In fact, 39% of the expats surveyed here work in technology, the highest proportion worldwide.

Despite the stature of the tech companies based in Dublin, expat salaries come in slightly below the global average, with expats in Dublin earning on average US$91,419. Indeed, a sizeable proportion (27%) of expats in Dublin have less disposable income than they did at home. However, this is more than made up for by Dublin’s social scene; almost two-thirds (61%) of expats in the Irish capital say their work/life balance has improved since moving there, and the city is in the top 10 rated for a vibrant cultural scene.

5.     Birmingham

Rounding out the top five cities for expat job opportunities is Birmingham in the UK. Not only do expats say that Birmingham is good for their career, they also say that their money goes further there. Although expats in Birmingham earn on average US$61,950 (US$37,953 below the global average), more than half (51%) praise its affordable cost of living. As a result, 57% of expats in the city enjoy more disposable income than they did at home.

No city has higher disposable income than Zurich

Other cities for professional expats in the world:

For expats looking for high earnings, east is the direction to travel, with Asian cities making up four of the top 10 when it comes to the largest expat pay cheques. India’s commercial centre of Mumbai is home to the highest paid expats in the survey, earning an average annual income of US$217,165, compared with the global average of US$99,903. Shanghai comes fourth with an average expat income of US$202,211, Jakarta eighth at US$152,589 and Hong Kong ninth at US$148,410.

Cities that offer high expat wages, however, are often associated with high living costs, and just 17% of urban expats say their city is an affordable place to live. No city has higher disposable income than Zurich, however, with 77% of expats saying their disposable income has increased since moving. The extra income could explain why expats in Zurich are some of the most positive about their accommodation in the world. Indeed, over half (55%) of expats in Zurich say they are living in a better property than they did at home, despite the city’s relatively expensive and luxurious rental and property markets.

For those who just want their money to go further, Bangkok, Berlin and Prague stand out for expats, with 69%, 61% and 58% respectively saying the cities have an affordable cost of living. The money is being put to enjoyable use, with the majority of expats in all three cities taking more holidays – 63% in Berlin, 61% in Bangkok and 52% in Prague.

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