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Which country does it better? A comparison of living and working conditions around the world

September 20, 2018 Financial No Comments Email Email

An Australian resident moves overseas every minute and 51 seconds. Seeking new opportunities abroad can be exciting, but living and working conditions vary around the world, with differing visa requirements, paid maternity leave and cost of living.

WorldFirst (, a global leader in international money transfers, analysed seven countries to see how they compare with Australia against the jobs in demand, accessibility of visas, the cost of living, and working conditions.

Patrick Liddy, Head of Foreign Exchange at WorldFirst, says: “Australia’s generous paid annual leave and superannuation makes our working conditions some of the best in the world. Workers from a range of industries, including IT, education, health, engineering, building and construction, may find a job easier here, but they’ll need to demonstrate a proficient level of English for some working visas. At $1661 a month, rent for a one-bedroom city apartment doesn’t come cheap. Australia’s public transport costs – at $141 a month – are also the highest of all countries analysed. However, expats can enjoy our pristine beaches, laidback lifestyle and a stable economy.” 

WorldFirst’s analysis of living and working conditions in seven popular countries 

  1. Germany: Cheap rent and generous sick leave entitlements

Not only does it have one of the strongest economies in Europe but rent for a one-bedroom city apartment is the lowest of any country analysed. However, transport costs are the second highest, just behind Australia’s monthly transport cost of $141. Health specialists and engineers may secure a visa more easily, as these jobs are in demand, but other workers will have to prove their job could not be filled by an EU worker. If Australians do get the opportunity to work in Germany, they enjoy generous maternity and sick leave benefits. 

Common monthly expenses: $1,077 (rent), $111 (transport)

Cup of coffee: $4.20

Jobs in demand: Technology specialists, health professionals, and engineers.

Visa requirements: Working Holiday visas are available for 18-30s for up to 12 months. Australians with a firm job offer and a vocational qualification can apply for a residence permit for general employment.

Working conditions: Employees are entitled to 14 weeks maternity leave on full pay, and full salary for up to six weeks in case of illness.

  1. Singapore: tax haven, but expensive rent

Singapore is popular with finance industry professionals, and its low income tax rates – up to 22 per cent for high earners – make it attractive for businesses and executives. Even better, expats are subject to just a 15 per cent income tax in their first 183 days of employment in Singapore. Visa are easy to acquire and are valid for up to two years, but Singapore’s popularity among professionals also makes it one of the most expensive countries for rent.

Common monthly expenses: $2,673 (rent), $99 (transport)

Cup of coffee: $5

Jobs in demand: Business and financial professionals, infrastructure constructionists and marketing consultants.

Visa requirements: Employment Pass or S Card are valid for up to three years.

Working conditions: Employees on visas or work permits are not entitled to superannuation in Singapore.

  1. Hong Kong: less favourable annual leave entitlements and high rental fees

Hong Kong has less favourable working conditions than Australia’s, with limited annual, maternity and paternity leave. Sales, information technology, marketing and finance roles are sought after in Hong Kong, but Working Holiday visas are limited.

Common monthly expenses: $3,210 (rent), $81 (transport)

Cup of coffee: $6

Jobs in demand: Finance and accounting, engineering and marketing and sales.

Visa requirements: General Employment Policy visas are available for Australians with a job offer, a good academic and professional background, and where the job cannot be filled locally. Working Holiday visas are available for 5000 Australians between 18 and 30 years.

Working conditions: Employees are only entitled to seven-to-14 days’ annual leave, 10 weeks’ paid maternity leave if they have been with their employer for at least 40 weeks, and just three days’ paternity leave.

  1. United States of Americaunique visa for Australians, but low comparable health and social benefits

Aussies with scientific and mathematical skills are in luck if they are looking to move to the US, as mathematics, engineers and information technology jobs are in high demand. Workers are also eligible to apply for a unique visa available to Australians, which can be extended to a spouse. As Australians will not get the same health and social benefits in the US, a private health plan can be a perk to seek out from a US employer.

Common monthly expenses: $1,671 (rent), $94 (transport)

Cup of coffee: $5.40

Jobs in demand: Mathematics, information technology, health professionals, teachers and writers.

Visa requirements: The E-3 visa is available exclusively for Australians with a job offer and at least a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent). It can be renewed indefinitely and also allows the applicant’s spouse to live and work in the USA.

Working conditions: Many private employers in the USA offer a 401(k) plan, through which employees can make tax-free savings towards their retirement.

  1. Canada: affordable, but minimum wages vary by province 

Canada is one of the most affordable countries to live and work for Australians, with comparably low rental and transport costs. Better still, unlike the USA, healthcare in Canada is mostly free. Workers should be cautious about wages, however, as Canada has no national minimum wage for private employers. 

Common monthly expenses: $1,261 (rent), $97 (transport)

Cup of coffee: $4.10

Jobs in demand: Accounting and financial professionals, architects, design experts and human resources professionals.

Visa requirements: Two-year Working Holiday visas as well as Temporary Work visas are available for Australians aged 18 to 30. Canada’s individual provinces can also nominate foreign workers for visas, to help fill skills gaps in their workforces.

Working conditions: Upon arrival, employers are responsible for health cover, which allows a maximum of 15 weeks in benefits. 

  1. United Arab Emirates: Australians can negotiate benefits with employers

With the second-largest economy in the Arab world, Australians will bask in luxury in the UAE, as employers take a more generous approach to working conditions. For instance, an employer will handle the visa application and all related fees, and a housing allowance or accommodation can be negotiated on top of a salary. Despite this, working conditions for women are worse off than in Australia, with maternity leave for private-sector employees one of the lowest in the world.

Common monthly expenses: $1,969 (rent), $63 (transport)

Cup of coffee: $5.60

Jobs in demand: Finance analysts and auditors, architects, civil engineers, human resources professionals, corporate communications and product marketing managers, as well information technology professionals, such as software developers and cyber security experts.

Visa requirements: A residency visa is required before a work visa is permitted.

Working conditions: Women working in the public sector are entitled to 90 days of fully paid maternity leave, while men are only entitled to three days’ leave. Private sector employees are only entitled to 45 days of full maternity leave, and if they have been employed for a year.

  1. United Kingdomeasier to move to than mainland Europe

Due to ancestral ties for many Australians, the UK is a popular landing spot for our expats. Working Holiday visas are easy to acquire for 18-30-year-old Aussies, which makes it easier to move to than mainland Europe. While the pound is a stronger currency than the Australian dollar, making the UK more expensive for Aussies, the average month’s rent for a one-bedroom city apartment is more affordable than at home. 

Common monthly expenses: $1,331 (rent), $107 (transport)

Cup of coffee: $4.60

Jobs in demand: Engineers, information technology managers and analysts, medical practitioners and nurses, paramedics, secondary teachers, chefs, artists, musicians, choreographers and social workers.

Visa requirements: Australians that have been offered a skilled job in the UK can apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa, which allows them to stay for up to five years. Working Holiday visas are also available for two years for 18-30-year-old Australians.

Working conditions: Statutory Maternity Pay is paid for 39 weeks – usually 90 per cent of the average weekly earnings for the first six weeks and AU$253.18[1] for the following 33 weeks.

“Whether it be for family, work or to experience new cultures, Aussies that leave home every year to seek opportunities abroad need to take into consideration foreign exchange rates and transaction fees. Without the best advice, transferring Aussie dollars into the destination currency, or making regular payments back to Australia could cost hundreds more. International money transfer services, such as WorldFirst, help Aussies make the best decisions when moving money abroad, and with rates up to seven times cheaper than the big four banks,” says Patrick Liddy.

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