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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Who Earns What Where?

Nigeria is home to expats with the highest annual household income. However, results vary by age, expat type, and gender.

The Different Income Groups

This year, about 76% of survey respondents chose to answer the questions regarding their gross yearly household income.

The top end of the scale, the income group of over 250,000 USD annually, is occupied by respondents in Nigeria (12%), Hong Kong (10%), Switzerland (9%), Singapore (9%), and India (7%). However, there is also a significant portion of expats in India, with 33%, and Nigeria, with 20%, who belong to the lowest income groups and make less than 25,000 USD annually.

The countries where the most expats earn less than 12,000 USD annually include Greece (41%), Bahrain (24%), Turkey (23%), Cyprus (21%), and Qatar (20%). The situation seems particularly dire in Cyprus and Greece, where only 9% and 3% have access to a yearly household income of more than 100,000 USD per year, respectively. Moreover, only 8% of survey respondents in Greece have an income of between 50,000 USD and 100,000 USD. However, it is important to note that these countries have a high number of retirees (23% in Cyprus and 22% in Greece) and expats working part-time jobs (26% and 33% of working expats, respectively).

The wealthiest expats, with 35% living off at least 100,000 USD per year, are those between 41 and 50 years of age. They also have the highest percentage of answers (10%) in the top two income brackets of 200,000 USD and more. The youngest age group (up to the age of 25) is also the one with the lowest household income. Altogether, 62% of them have an income of only 25,000 USD or less per year.

When it comes to comparing the yearly household income by expat type, Traveling Spouses and Foreign Assignees are doing quite well. In fact, 6% of both expat types can be found in the highest income group of over 250,000 USD per annum, and 36% of Traveling Spouses and 43% of Foreign Assignees are represented in the top income groups (with more than 100,000 USD annually).

(Ex-)Students, on the other hand, find themselves at the bottom of the scale, which is not surprising as this is a group which is largely still enrolled in school and is probably getting by on internships and poorly paid part-time work. Somewhat less than half of them (46%) have an annual household income of 25,000 USD or less. With 23%, they also have the highest percentage in the lowest income group, living on less than 12,000 USD per year.

Who Earns More after Their Move

When asked whether their income has improved after their move abroad, 56% of survey participants indicate that they now earn more, while 27% are financially worse off. Particularly survey respondents in Luxembourg (50%), Switzerland (44%), Saudi Arabia (42%), Kuwait (41%), Norway (39%), and Qatar (39%) say that their income is a lot higher than before their move. On the other hand, expats in Greece (37%), Costa Rica (36%), Israel (34%), Malta, Peru, and Ecuador (31% each) make a lot less since they have relocated abroad.

Expats between 26 and 30 years of age have improved their income the most. Among them, 61% say that they have a higher income than back home, although 39% of this age group lives off of an annual income of 25,000 USD or less.

The opposite is the case for expats above the age of 50. They have improved their income the least, with only 48% saying that they have a higher income abroad and 15% stating that their income is a lot lower, compared to an overall average of 11%. However, survey participants over 50 belong to the wealthiest age groups. In fact, 9% of them are part of the two groups with the highest income, with an annual household income of over 200,000 USD.

Expat women are on average financially worse off than their male counterparts. All in all, 30% of them are earning less than they would earn back home, compared to 22% of male expats. Only 50% of female respondents say they have increased their income after their move, compared to 61% of the expat men taking the survey.

Further Reading