International contractor travel: the best countries to work in

19th November 2021

As restrictions continue to be lifted across the world and with a reduction in quarantine periods – even though travellers still need to be vaccinated, confirm negative test results and complete passenger locator forms – borders are most definitely opening up. And so are the opportunities for international contractors, whether working remotely in their home country or looking to take on long term assignments abroad if required to travel. So, what are the top destinations that can offer the best overall quality of life, work-life happiness and plenty of optimism about future work prospects?

The best countries to work

One of the most detailed and in-depth surveys of its kind, HSBC’s latest Expat Explorer Survey 2021, – now in its 14th edition – looks at those who have taken the plunge to move abroad across 46 countries and how their lives have been impacted as a result. The headline findings reveal that there is a general sense of optimism – four out of five expats say that they will stay on in their countries for at least a year while three quarters of respondents felt that normality would return soon post Covid.

In terms of finances, almost two thirds (63%) reported an increase in their disposable income with six in 10 saying that saving for retirement is a top priority. Interestingly, the majority (52%) are struggling to manage their financial situation, which they put down to their tax management – fewer than one in 10 (9%) stated that they sought the help of a financial adviser when making a move overseas. Asia topped the regions with its 71% score for optimism for the next 12 months, while MENAT (Middle East, North Africa and Turkey) had the best quality of life, as recommended by 71% of expats.

The 2021 league table also makes for interesting reading. Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand occupy the top three overall spots, followed by the UAE and Guernsey. Jersey, the Isle of Man, Bahrain, Singapore and Qatar round off the top 10. Of the three main indicators, Switzerland ranks first for two – ‘living’ and ‘aspiring’ – while the ‘future outlook’ crown goes to New Zealand. Although 14th overall, Spain ranks third as a great place to live with Taiwan, one place further down, also at three but this time for the economy’s future outlook.

Of the other major European economies, the Netherlands comes in at 11 while Spain and Portugal secure 14th and 16th places respectively. Ireland, Norway and Denmark are also in the top 20 and France, although just one place outside, does rank in the top 10 for quality of life. As for North America, Canada fares much better in 13th than its neighbour, down in 36th place. Canadians are feeling positive about the future with a top 10 ranking for future outlook (9th). Germany and China, two of the world’s economic powerhouses, are surprisingly in 22nd and 27th places. The Philippines, Russia, the UK, Italy make up the bottom five with Turkey taking the wooden spoon.

The top global destinations for international contractors  

As reported in The National, the Abu Dhabi based English language daily newspaper, the UAE jumped 10 places in the best places to work list, the combined result of the effectiveness of its accelerated Covid vaccination programme, the measures taken by its central bank (CBUAE) and rising oil prices. An increase in tourism and economic activity can also be attributed to Expo 2020 Dubai and its ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ theme. It is the first world Expo ever to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region – 192 nations are participating during the six-month duration, from 1 October 31 to March 2022.

Commenting on the results, Abdulfattah Sharaf, chief executive of HSBC UAE and head of international said, “The UAE being billed among the top five best places to live and work globally is inspiring and a clear indication of the huge potential that drives this country’s economy. The connectivity of the economy combined with the scale of its vision has transformed it from a small fishing and pearling port in the 1940s into a global trade, logistics, shipping, aviation, business and finance hub today. The country’s focus on innovation, infrastructure, quality of life, diversity and inclusion have made it the destination of choice for businesses and professionals looking to grow and prosper.”
One of the big challenges of our time is to equip our kids with the business and interpersonal skills that will benefit them when they come to enter the world of work – and families of international contractors appear to be better equipped for this. The findings revealed that almost half of children (43%) are perceived as having more confidence and a bigger skill set, owing to their move to another country. The benefits also stretch to greater cultural awareness and making new friends – South Africa, India and The Philippines were the best countries for enabling this. These far-reaching advantages will shape their lives and careers for years to come.

Unsurprisingly, Australia, Switzerland and New Zealand – the top three ranked countries – also achieved the best results for wellbeing, while expats felt most fulfilled in Indonesia and the UAE. Taiwan was first in the optimism stakes. They said that they were keen to travel more, get to know the local area and immerse themselves in the local culture over the next 12 months. More said that they had been able to settle faster compared to 2020.

Workers abroad are feeling confident about the future and their quality of life has gone up since moving away from their home country. And with the Covid situation improving for some locations, whether working remotely or travelling abroad, international contractors with specialist skills will continue to be in high demand. But as the findings from the survey also reveal, the complexities of their finances are a cause for concern. If you’re worried about any aspect of your international contract opportunities, including income tax and social security requirements, our 6CATS International experts can help to give you peace of mind and ensure that you remain tax compliant in line with local and international regulations.

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