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World's 10 best economies for expats

NENDAZ, SWITZERLAND - JULY 28: A flag thrower looks on as alphorn players prepare to perform on July 28, 2013 in Nendaz, Switzerland. About 150 alphorn blowers performed together on the last day of the international Alphorn Festival of Nendaz. The Swiss folkloric wooden wind instrument was used in most mountainous regions of Europe by mountain dwellers as signal instruments. (Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images) Harold Cunningham

(MoneyWatch) Thinking about moving overseas for work? You're not alone. Roughly 6.3 million Americans live and work abroad. And many extol the virtues of an expatriate life, from the thrill of travel to the benefits of developing friendships around the world.


However, most expatriates choose to work abroad for a practical reason: money. Expats are typically paid more than those who live and work in their home country. In some cases, the cost of living in the host country is lower, too, which translates to a dramatically better standard of living.


But the economic benefits -- as well as the overall experience -- vary markedly from country to country, according to a recent survey of more than 7,000 expatriates commissioned by HSBC. Overall, looking at everything from health care access to the cost of sending kids to school, the financial services company concluded that China was the world's top destination for expatriates. (That might seem like a curious choice given the People's Republic authoritarian regime, and it's worth noting the enormous commercial interests that HSBC, which used to be headquartered in Hong Kong, has in China.) The worst country overall for expats? Egypt.


However, the rankings change markedly depending on what matters to you. If your main concern is economic -- pay, the economic health of your host country (and thus your ability to find a job) and disposable income -- these are the 10 best countries for expatriates, according to HSBC.

World's 10 best economies for expats

EPHESUS, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 27: A dancer dressed in traditional turkish costume poses for a photograph at the historical site of Ephesus during the visit of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall on November 26, 2007 in Konya, Turkey. The Royal couple's tour will take in many historic and cultural sites. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images) getty images

10. Turkey

Turkey is rapidly becoming a hot-spot for financial services. The country is also seeing a surge in technology startups. That's contributed to strong economic growth, which leaves 81 percent of expatriates satisfied with the state of the economy. The cost of living is lower than it is in the U.S. And for those who like a staff, domestic help is relatively inexpensive, with one-third of expat families hiring either a nanny or housekeeper.

World's 10 best economies for expats

Fireworks light up Singapore's financial district skyline as seen from the Singapore Flyer during festivities for the city state's national day celebrations on August 9, 2011. Singapore celebrated its first National Day in 1966 after gaining independence from Malaysia in 1965. AFP Photo / Simin WANG (Photo credit should read SIMIN WANG/AFP/Getty Images) SIMIN WANG

9. Singapore

One of the world's cleanest countries, this city-state has a relatively high cost of living, but makes up for it by providing great job prospects. Singapore ranks second only to China in offering the richest job opportunities. Expatriates also note that while the cost of everything from transportation to education is higher, it's worth it. Roughly three out of four surveyed said that the quality of education and child care was better in Singapore than in their home country. Crime is virtually nonexistent. Overall, the country ranks 6th out of 37 for the happiest expatriates.

World's 10 best economies for expats

TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY AWAD Al-MEDLAWI A picture taken on March 14, 2013 shows camel owners racing their camels in the Omani region of Barka, about 90 kms north of Muscat. Omani camel breeders made millions of dollars during the past seven months through sales of camel breeds which the Sultanate is famous for. AFP PHOTO/MOHAMMED MAHJOUB (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED MAHJOUB/AFP/Getty Images) MOHAMMED MAHJOUB

8. Oman

Nowhere are expats as optimistic about the state of the local economy as they are in the Middle Eastern nation of Oman. That's not surprising. According to Expatarrivals.com, the nation has become a major economic force in the region by using its oil dollars to improve infrastructure. Expats are paid well and taxed sparingly, which may be why fully one-quarter of the nation's population is made up of expatriates. The average expat salary here amounts to roughly $10,000 a month.

World's 10 best economies for expats

Schwangau, GERMANY: View taken 01 July 2007 from a plane shows the "fairy tale" castle Neuschwanstein, near Schwangau, Bavaria. The castle was rebuilt by the King of Bavaria from 1864 to 1886, and was opened to the public seven weeks after the death of King Ludwig II in 1886. Today Neuschwanstein is one of the most popular palaces in Europe. Neuschwanstein is among the contenders to make it as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World as a massive poll enters its final month with votes already cast by around 50 million people, organizers say. The seven winners will be announced 07 July 2007 in Lisbon, Portugal. AFP PHOTO DDP/JOERG KOCH GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read JOERG KOCH/AFP/Getty Images) JOERG KOCH

7. Germany

While virtually all of Europe was in the throes of economic crisis following the 2008 financial crash, Germany remained healthy thanks to a mixture of fiscal policy and vibrant markets for its exports. The cost of living in Germany is high, but pay is generous enough to have more than half of expats saying that their disposable income has improved. But getting a job in Germany isn't easy. The country tightened immigration rules to protect jobs. As a hub for science and technology, however, it actively recruits highly skilled workers. And for expatriates with families, it's ranked as the world's best destination for raising children.

World's 10 best economies for expats

JAKARTA, INDONESIA - SEPTEMBER 21: The downtown skyline of capital Jakarta, Indonesia, obscured by the pollution is seen on the day before 'No-Car Day' is held in Jakarta September 21, 2007 in Jakarta, Indonesia. 'No-Car Day' started at 0600 hours on September 22, 2007 on the streets of Jakarta and finishes at 1900 hours as part of clean air initiatives and to mark International Car Free Day. Car emission levels near the National Monument in Central Jakarta are being testing during 'No Car Day' as the city administration says vehicle emissions are causing up to 70 percent of air pollution in the capital. There are at least 2.5 million private cars and over 3 million motorcycles in Jakarta, but only 225,000 public transportation vehicles. Jakarta is among the top polluted cities in the world. (Photo by Dimas Ardian/Getty Images) Dimas Ardian

6. Indonesia

The economy is booming, expatriates earn a fortune -- 22 percent are paid more than $250,000 annually -- and the cost of everyday items, from food and housing to transportation and health care, is low. That allows expats in Indonesia to buy a wide range of luxuries. More than half of expats here hire a domestic staff. The food is good and the nation is culturally interesting, people report. The only downside is that it can be tough to manage your finances with the local currency.

World's 10 best economies for expats

A view of George Town in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. David Rogers/Getty Images

5. Cayman Islands

You probably know the nation as a tax haven, but the Cayman Islands are ranked by expatriates as the friendliest nation in the world. As a major financial center, it's easy to manage your finances here, and 70 percent of expats say they enjoy a better quality of life than in their home countries. Available jobs range from banking, accounting and finance to hospitality and teaching. Once here, about 44 percent of expats move their retirement assets into the country.

World's 10 best economies for expats

Tourists visit the Emerald buddha temple in Bangkok on January 26, 2012. Thailand recorded 19 million tourist arrivals in 2011, an increase of 19.84 percent year-on-year, said Department of Tourism Director-General Supol Sripan. AFP PHOTO/PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL (Photo credit should read PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP/Getty Images) PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL

4. Thailand

With the lowest cost of living of any of the 37 nations surveyed, your money goes a long way in Thailand. But your chance of getting a highly paid job is slight, unless you're transferred in by your multinational employer, according to Expatarrivals.com. Still, with such a low cost of living, you can get a lower salaried position as a teacher or in the travel and leisure industry and make plenty to support a decent lifestyle.

World's 10 best economies for expats

AL-KHOR, QATAR - JANUARY 23: : 3: A general view of the city of Al-Khor on January 23, 2011 in Al-Khor, Qatar. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images) Robert Cianflone

3. Qatar

This pint-sized Persian Gulf state is a natural gas powerhouse that boasts the highest per capita income in the world, according to Expatarrivals.com. Not surprisingly, the jobs most readily available for expatriates are in the petrochemical industry. But there are also opportunities in technology, construction and tourism. The cost of living is relatively low, but Expatarrivals warns that the nation adheres to Islamic law, which can cause some culture shock for Westerners. Expatriats benefit from low taxes here, but those with children say they spend considerably more on education.

World's 10 best economies for expats

Tourists visit the Great wall in Beijing on May 4, 2013. China saw tourism numbers drop year on year in the first quarter, while more Chinese went abroad, state media reported. Inbound tourists hit 31.6 million in the first quarter, down two percent from the same period last year, according to the China National Tourism Administration. AFP PHOTO/WANG ZHAO (Photo credit should read WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images) AFP

2. China

Women make up 61 percent of the expatriate community in China, according to HSBC. Well-educated expats with experience in technology, engineering, pharmacology, banking and manufacturing are in particular demand. Although relocation packages are less lucrative than they used to be, Expatarrivals.com says you can expect  your employer to subsidize part of your housing, transportation, health insurance and even tax expenses. Speaking Mandarin can land you better pay, but many international companies commonly use English so it's possible to get by without learning the language.

World's 10 best economies for expats

NENDAZ, SWITZERLAND - JULY 28: A man throws a Swiss flag as alphorn players perform on July 28, 2013 in Nendaz, Switzerland. About 150 alphorn blowers performed together on the last day of the international Alphorn Festival of Nendaz. The Swiss folkloric wooden wind instrument was used in most mountainous regions of Europe by mountain dwellers as signal instruments. (Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images) Harold Cunningham

1. Switzerland

Switzerland, which isn't part of the eurozone, escaped the worst of the mess and has continued to thrive. Almost 1 in 9 expatriates say they're bullish on the local economy, and one-third say they're better off financially since they relocated. That's despite the fact that Switzerland has a considerably higher cost of living than the U.S. 


Why? Wages are high. According to Expatfocus.com, an advertising sales executive earns between $70,000 and $90,000 Swiss francs, as does a legal secretary and bilingual customer service representative. Business analysts can earn between $110,000 and $150,000, while a capital markets banking consultant would pull down $165,000 to $195,000. Again, that's in Swiss francs, which are worth roughly $1.10 U.S. dollars.