Exploring pay gaps between jobs abroad and at home – Is moving to another country really worth it?

Posted April 23, 2015 by
Dollar and euro banknotes background

Dollar and euro banknotes background. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Moving to a new country can be an exciting prospect; with the lure of benefits packages, lower living costs and potentially higher wages all conspiring to provide a potentially much higher quality of life.

Before taking the plunge it’s essential to do your research. Salaries can be higher in other countries than at home, but there are other factors to take into consideration and there is certainly no fixed rule. Variables such as the country you plan to move to, your chosen sector, your own qualifications and experience, and even – depending on the country – your gender; these are all things which will play a part in how much you can expect to earn. Qualifications given in the UK may not be recognised in another country, and this is particularly true with professions like teaching.

In addition to the wages themselves other factors will determine whether at the end of the day you actually end up with more in your pocket than you did back home. Tax will be a big part of this and it’s important to do research around this; know the UK rules on tax if and when you return to home soil, as well as those for your destination of choice.

Taking into account living costs

Living costs will also play a part and the annual cost of living survey from Mercer can be a handy indicator for this. This document ranks the most expensive and least expensive cities in the world for expats to live in. Taking into account exchange rates and cost of living, it acts as a useful benchmark for Brits wishing to move abroad.

Surprisingly many African countries feature relatively high up the rankings, with Luanda ranking at number one in 2014. This is because despite being poorer – as well as the cost of food and average accommodation being fairly low – the price for imported goods can be substantial. Consequently, there exist challenges and premiums around accommodation which meets the standards of ex patriots. Hong Kong, Geneva, and Tokyo also all featured in 2014’s top ten list.

The culture shock

Although this hardly goes without saying, the change in culture should definitely be considered. Seemingly mundane expressions and gestures in the West can have completely different meanings abroad while local practices can sometimes initially be overwhelming.

This isn’t even including services which many of us would take for granted. Visas, access to communications, healthcare costs, and quality of education are all elements which should be considered before venturing abroad.

In almost all of these cases, this is something you will get used to. Fortunately, there are many guides out there which deal with settling into a new culture, such as Randstad Mena’s comprehensive guide to working in North Africa and the Middle East.

Balancing out the benefits

Overall, with an exciting and seemingly lucrative job offer on the table, a potentially higher salary should not be the only factor you take into account when making a decision. In addition to the factors mentioned above you should of course weigh up the possibly invaluable benefits provided by an experience abroad in a new culture; will the opportunity for adventure, new experiences, and broadened horizons be too much to turn down? Will a lower salary be outweighed by the excitement of travel and living abroad?

Can the delights of job satisfaction outweigh any possible negatives posed by a culture clash? How well will you cope with the new experiences and will having more disposable income balance out the difficulties of being far from home? There is a lot to weigh up in addition to the salary and when it comes down to it, only you can really decide if moving to another country is truly worth it.

This article was written by Tom Chapman, a representative of Randstad Mena. The organisation specialises in helping individuals find work through the Middle East as well as North Africa and is also available to provide advice to jobseekers and those thinking about relocating to the region.

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