Canada is a country where your career can flourish and you can spend your weekends enjoying an unrivalled outdoor lifestyle. But Canada is not the only option for international careers, and it’s not for everyone. There’s snow, and lots of it, and you’ll be waving goodbye to a decent chunk of your income in the form of taxation.
We’re here to provide an overview of some of the most popular destinations for professionals. We’ll look at the main factors that influence most decisions, including salaries and market conditions, taxation, the ease of immigration (for you and your family, if applicable), and finally lifestyle and work-life balance. And we’ll compare Canada to a selection of popular destinations where English is the predominant workplace language, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and parts of the Middle East, focusing on the UAE and Qatar.
“Canada has a lot of momentum now if you’re a professional looking for opportunities abroad,” says Ruairi Spillane, founder of Moving2Canada and Managing Director of Outpost Recruitment, an agency that matches candidates with engineering and construction jobs in Canada.
“The economy is growing, and professionals of all kinds can find a job in Canada and a home within Canadian society. On the other hand, the United States and the United Kingdom have lost momentum for immigrant workers over recent years, in large part due to tightening of immigration regulations. This has made Canada even more attractive for a larger number of workers and families.”
This section was most recently updated in October, 2019, and will be updated regularly in response to any significant changes in market conditions.
The 2008 global financial crisis caused only a minor blip in Canada’s real estate market. Fuelled by cheap credit, foreign investment, a stable economy, and consistent positive returns, Canada has experienced an asset bubble in real estate. While large urban areas such as Vancouver and Toronto have experienced runaway increases in house prices, the Prairie and Atlantic provinces have maintained affordability of real estate due to low commodity prices and slower economic growth. Nationally, Deloitte states that ‘Economic indicators are looking up, setting the stage for continued moderate growth [just under two percent] in the remainder of 2019 and in 2020.’ Of course, there’s always the caveat that like other economies, Canada remains susceptible to external shocks, especially political and trade risks. But overall, Canada is a relatively safe bet.
If you want to roll the dice, the United States offers more of a high-risk, high-reward environment. While job growth and retail sales remain strong, Deloitte points to ‘a lot of policy uncertainty’ primarily driven by cuts to interest rates, political deadlock, and a heating up of what is now widely recognized as a trade war with China. Deloitte forecasts sub-two percent growth as a likely scenario in 2020, with a one-in-four chance of the US economy doing somewhat worse than that and entering recession.
Australia witnessed a housing downturn and severe drought over 2018-19, leading to slower than anticipated growth. Deloitte notes ‘weak performance of Australia’s economy in the past 12 months,’ but things are expected to pick up again ‘on the back of monetary and fiscal stimuli, which is likely to boost household income and consumer spending.’ The fundamentals in Australia are sound. Strong population growth, underpinned by immigration, has contributed to the economy going nearly three decades without a single technical recession.
With Expo 2020 coming to Dubai and a three-year, $13.6bn (CAD $17.9bn) stimulus package in full effect in Abu Dhabi, growth remains strong in the two largest cities in the UAE. But, given the temporary nature of these stimuli, a slowdown is likely after 2020, with the prospect of growth slipping below two percent. The UAE remains a huge pull for Foreign Direct Investment, with authorities seeking to attract even greater FDI over the coming years. Plenty of attractive new job opportunities should result.
Natural gas exports remain a key component of Qatar’s economy, but the gulf state economy is more complex than that. The 2022 FIFA World Cup is just one reason for plenty of ongoing infrastructure spending, and the economy is expected to grow by 2.5 percent in 2020, up from 1.9 percent in 2019. Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world based on GDP per capita.
As for the UK, some people — most of them in the UK itself, it may be noted — maintain that Brexit will lead to a great new era for the British economy, with attractive international trade deals leading to increasing growth for years and decades ahead, rising wages, secure employment, and great living standards. But others aren’t so sure. Many professionals around the world are adopting a wait-and-see position, waiting for the dust to settle before seriously considering a move to the UK.
For many professionals globally, particularly those with an English-language education, the highest salary opportunities are in Middle Eastern countries. While salaries in the UAE and Qatar vary depending on the employer, some workers make the move even if they will be paid a similar gross income, or even slightly less, than what they would receive in their home country, because the take-home pay is much greater as it is tax-free. Many teachers, for example, choose to work in classrooms in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, in part because the net pay gap makes a significant difference.
Then there are professional occupations that command a much higher salary in the UAE and Qatar than in most other places. IT managers, civil engineers, pilots, and accountants with some experience are among the types of professionals who can expect salaries that are double, or even more, than what they might get for the same position in Canada, where income inequality is less extreme.
Remember that Canada, the US, and Australia are gigantic countries. When researching salary expectations for a potential move, it helps to narrow your searches to specific cities or regions. For example, the median income for mechanical engineers working in Alberta, at close to $50 per hour, is significantly higher than in Manitoba. Registered nurses, however, will earn more in Manitoba than in Ontario. You get the picture. Similar variances exist between cities and regions across the US and Australia, so it’s a good idea to narrow your research to New York, Detroit, Sydney, or Melbourne, as the case may be.
As for the UK, there is London and there is not London. Average salaries in London are more than 30 percent higher than in Manchester, but it’s not all rosy – according to cost of living comparison site Numbeo, property and rent is more than twice as expensive in London, with higher consumer prices to boot. Sure, you might be able to tell yourself that you’re more successful with a bumper pay package in London, but you may actually have less disposable income living there.
Of course, any discussion of salaries should bring consideration of cost of living and where in the country you spend your hard-earned money. If two people in Sydney and Melbourne, respectively, have the same salary and similar habits, the person in Melbourne will have more disposable income because the cost of living is more affordable there. The same goes for Toronto and Edmonton – with the same salary and similar habits, the worker in Edmonton will be able to save more. So, when looking at salaries in different locations, you should also look at a wider range of financial factors, including the local cost of living, taxation, and the extent to which local services, such as daycare and education, are funded with public funds (because if they aren’t, you’ll have to dig deeper into your own pocket, especially if you have children). The website Numbeo is a great resource for researching and comparing the cost of living in different cities around the world.