Top Countries to Get Paid More

10 April 2017

Since the dawn of humankind when people bartered for goods with obsidian, everyone has wanted something for nothing, or at least something for as little as they can get away with. This obviously continues today, although instead of obsidian and cocoa beans we trade little bits of paper and metal or even just imaginary numbers on computers. We all want the largest salary in the world for doing as little as possible, but unfortunately, most of us aren’t born as the children of dodgy lawyers, hotel moguls or bizarre politicians; therefore, we need to get a bit creative.

You could just outsource your work and spend all day watching cat videos on the internet until you get caught and fired, or just move to a country where you can get paid more for working fewer hours. Luckily for you, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) releases all their data on wages and working hours from their member states (and a few extras) on their website. So take a look at the three images below to see which countries around the world offer the most money for the least effort – well, hours worked at least.

Time is Money

Although you could file through a list of countries’ average wages and pick the highest, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be getting the best value for your time. The United States, for example, has one of the highest average annual wages across OECD countries but is also above the OECD average regarding hours actually worked (not contracted) per year.

When comparing wages around the world, you also need to think about what your money will actually buy you; for example $100 in Greece will get you a lot more than it would in Sweden. To combat this disparity, the figures have been adjusted for purchasing parity power (PPP), meaning that the wages in our figures should be more or less directly comparable.

Looking through our figure below, in which the countries have been ranked by the average hourly wage (Average Annual Wage/Hours Worker per Annum), you can clearly see that it’s the traditionally wealthy European and Scandinavian countries which come out on top for the highest average wages and least hours year. These are the countries which are famous for their liberal attitudes to work, with many businesses in Sweden trialling a six-hour work day last year. The United States lags close behind Denmark to secure sixth place on our list, as although companies there tend to pay well, their notoriously non-existent paid holiday laws let them down massively.

The worst places for work/life/money balance are more sporadically located around the globe (as seen in the map below), with Eastern Europe, Central and South America all being represented in the bottom five. Mexico is the only country in our list to fall below a wage $10.00 (adjusted for PPP) per hour in our list, coming in at an average of just $6.62 per hour over the year. The lowest annual wages coupled with the highest number of hours worked per annum is just an awful combination for workers.

Top Destinations

1 – Luxembourg

It’s not a surprise that the Luxembourg comes at the top of our list. It’s the second richest country in the world and has the highest minimum wage in the EU at $2035 per month. It is one of the smallest and least populated countries in the world but has plenty to offer citizens including a restaurant with the world’s largest wine selection, an extremely low crime rate, and surprisingly advanced healthcare facilities for such a small place.

2 – Switzerland

Although the pay and working hours in Switzerland are excellent compared to nearly every other country on our list, you will have to put up with some laws which may be seen as overstepping the mark to some. Apart from these oddities, you’ll be safe from invasion with Switzerland’s master plan to destroy all entry points into the country in response to attack, sipping the most expensive coffee in the world in Zurich, and have access more Swiss chocolate than you can shake a stick at. You’ll also be living in the birthplace of some of the world’s most famous inventions, such as muesli, the potato peeler, absinthe and LSD; quite the place for a budding inventor.

3 – Norway

The Land of the Midnight Sun might be a challenge to those of us who like regular daylight hours to keep up the daily rhythm of life, with more than 20 hours of sunlight per day in the summer, and the opposite in winter. Norway gets between 98 and 99% of its electricity from hydroelectric power, meaning that if being green is a priority for you, this is the place to be. They also got so good at recycling that they ran out of garbage, and have to import it from the rest of the EU to help fuel their energy programs.

The Bigger Picture

When considering moving country to explore new prospects, a primary consideration should always be how easy it will be to find employment at your destination if you don’t already have a position lined up, although this will of course vary across industries and experience levels. For example, our top pick from comparing annual wages and working hours was Luxembourg with an average of $40.06 per hour over the year, although taking a look the figure below shows that at the beginning of 2016 the full-time employment rate in the country was sitting at just over 65%. Indeed, some countries we looked at in the OECD database were still recovering from the global recession, which started in 2008, at the beginning of last year, with both employment rates and average annual wages still struggling across the world.

Despite the ongoing issues with wage and employment rates, it’s good news concerning annual working hours wherever you are, with all of the countries in our top and bottom five showing a worldwide trend towards decreasing working hours over the past decade. When taking into account all of the variables here we think that Switzerland appears to come up as the best option, but don’t go booking French and German lessons just yet, as there are many more considerations to take into account when deciding where to relocate, whether it’s with a family or by yourself. Purely fiscally speaking, what are the rates of tax going to be like where you’re moving to, and what will you get for your tax contribution? European countries have notoriously high tax rates, but a lot of your needs like health insurance, will be covered by the government, meaning that you can spend more of your valuable take-home on yourself.

All data was taken from the online OECD database and can be found at