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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.”

Market conditions

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.


Ah yes, famously one of only two things guaranteed in life. Whatever your personal take on taxation, it remains a key factor among many people weighing up an international move. Tax may have a significant knock-on effect on the neighbourhood in which you can afford to live, the luxuries you can afford to buy, and your chances of purchasing big ticket items such as property. On the flip side, where there are low income taxes, or no income taxes at all, you can expect fewer publicly-funded services in areas such as health care and education.

Some Middle Eastern countries have established income taxes of zero. Nada. Niente. The fact that neither the UAE nor Qatar levies personal income taxes on employee earnings makes both destinations popular for international professionals. If your gross earnings are $100,000, your take-home pay will also be $100,000. This is great news for those who want to build up their bank balance, but note that if you have children of school-going age and plan on working in the UAE, the Gulf state ranks as the most expensive country in the world to educate a child from preschool to degree level.

When it comes to taxation, Canada, Australia, and the United States paint a far different picture from that of the UAE and Qatar.

The tax system in Canada is complicated somewhat by the fact that taxes are levied by both the federal and provincial levels of government. This means that certain provinces are going to take more of your pay cheque for taxes. So if you work in British Columbia or Ontario, your after-tax (net) income will be greater than in Quebec or Nova Scotia for the same pre-tax (gross) income. Someone earning $75,000 in B.C. or Ontario can expect to have net earnings of nearly $60,000, whereas someone earning the same amount in Quebec will have closer to $55,000 to play with.

The United States also operates an income tax system whereby your tax bill may be larger depending on where you work; if you work in California or New York, for example, you will pay more income tax than you would in Florida or Texas, two states where there is no state income tax whatsoever (though workers in those states still pay income tax to the federal government).

As in Canada, Australia operates a progressive tax system, meaning you pay more tax per dollar earned if your gross income falls into one of the higher brackets. In Australia, it doesn’t matter so much whether you earn in NSW, Victoria, or wherever else, but your status in the country does matter. There are distinct income tax brackets for Australian residents, foreign residents, and working holiday participants. You can be an Australian resident for tax purposes without being an Australian citizen or permanent resident; with this status you won’t pay any income tax on the first $18,200 earned. However, working holidaymakers in Australia pay a rate of 15c for each $1 earned up to $37,000, at which point the two systems become much the same for amounts earned beyond that threshold. For more information, please check this page.

The UK has a tax-free threshold of £12,500, meaning not a penny of your income up to that amount is given to the tax authorities. Then for earnings between £12,500 to £50,000 (equivalent to around CAD $82,500), a basic rate of 20% is levied. This is lower than the amount you can expect pay in Canada, even in those provinces that have lower rates. Professionals earning more than £50,000 pay 40% on earnings between £50,001 and £150,000 and the additional rate of 45% over that amount.


The economy of the United Kingdom, at least for now, is open to workers from other European Economic Area (EEA) countries. So if you’re German, Spanish, Norweigian, or from any other EEA country, you can live and work in the UK without first applying for immigration status. For now, non-EEA workers may be eligible for a work visa, but this will likely require a job offer with a minimum salary threshold. All this could change as conditions and regulations shift with the reality of Brexit. Remember, Brexit is a process, not an event — we could be dealing with unpredictable changes for years because of it.

Immigration to the UAE and Qatar is largely based on a system that requires non-citizens to have an in-country sponsor, usually their employer, who is responsible for their visa and legal status. Visas are granted temporarily and must be renewed at frequent intervals. If the employment is terminated, either by the employer or the worker, the worker then has to leave. The UAE did launch a ‘Golden Card’ long-term residence scheme in 2018, but this is restricted to people of “exceptional talents” or exceptionally large bank accounts. Qatar followed suit later the same year, but this scheme only bestows permanent status on 100 people annually. For most international professionals, it’s employment or bust in the UAE or Qatar.

Canada has opened its doors to a diverse range of professionals over recent years, while at the same time other countries, including the US, Australia, and New Zealand, have made access more difficult. In the race for international talent, Canada is coming out on top.

This is more than just a numbers game — in addition to the fact that economic immigration to Canada is at an all-time high, the government has introduced new work permit pathways, such as the Global Talent Stream, that get skilled workers to Canada in a matter of weeks. This builds on the success of the Express Entry system, first introduced in 2015, which helps tens of thousands of people each year to obtain permanent resident status within six months of applying. Though Express Entry was modelled on systems in Australia and New Zealand, over recent years Canada has welcomed a diverse range of newcomers in ever-increasing numbers, while the number being granted permanent status in those southern hemisphere countries has declined.

As for the US, the much-anticipated “merit-based” immigration system touted by President Trump and his political allies has yet to make an appearance. In the meantime, Green Card waiting times remain relatively lengthy, often stretching into many years, and getting a temporary work permit has become more difficult under the current administration. More talented skilled workers in the US are looking north to Canada as a result.

Lifestyle & work-life balance

We can’t all be like Steve Jobs. If you want to work from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day, as Mr. Jobs was said to do, then go for it. But for most people, staying late at your desk or job site should be the exception, rather than the rule. There’s little point in moving somewhere to enjoy the outdoors or local culture if you always have just one more email to send. Last one, promise.

OECD data shows that workers in Canada clock up around 1,700 hours worked per year, around two full weeks less than workers in the US, but more than in the UK or Australia. Compared to the US, workers in Canada receive more annual leave and work shorter days. But compared to workers in the UK, workers in Canada average around 130 hours, or three work weeks, more time in the workplace annually. Whereas most full-time workers in the UK must receive at least 28 days’ paid annual leave a year, in Canada the minimum is just 10 days (though provinces may set a higher minimum, and over time, most workers can expect to be granted more annual leave). Full-time workers in Australia receive a minimum of 20 days annual leave, rising to 25 for shift workers.

You may be wondering why skilled professionals continue to move to Canada, even though they may have opportunities in other countries, such as Australia, that offer more annual leave. First, Canadian employers are not blind to the fact that their potential employees may have options abroad. Consequently, employers are often prepared to offer more annual leave than the statutory minimum — which is exactly that, a minimum — among other employment benefits. Depending on the location and company, a candidate with not much experience may expect 15 days off annually, while those with a decade or more of industry experience may be able to bargain for 20 days or more up front, rising as their employment is maintained over time.

For many professionals and families, however, a few extra days or hours at work each year is a small price to pay for the Canadian lifestyle. We’re talking more mountains and lakes than you can count, with each landscape more stunning than the last. Camping and hiking on weekends, maybe a kayak trip thrown in for good measure. And if the great Canadian outdoors isn’t quite your thing this week, meeting up with friends for a beer or a bite to eat is normal and relatively affordable, even in the trendier neighbourhoods (of which there are many). Whether you’re an outdoorsy type or a lover of interior design, extroverted or introverted, there’s a place for you in Canada.

South of the border, pinpointing a singular US lifestyle in a few lines is futile for a country with more than 330 million people, but know this: newcomers to the US from abroad are expected to work, and work hard. It’s no surprise that the first question people may ask after learning your name is ‘So, what do you do?,’ meaning what do you do for a living. The scale of work-life balance in the US is definitely tipped in favour of work. In addition, some of the things taken for granted in other countries, such as a decent standard of publicly-funded health care and a minimum mandated annual leave, are not part of the American model. Freedom, indeed.

Some people enjoy malls and extended brunches — both of which abound in all the locations covered in this guide — but if you truly love them, you’ll be right at home in Abu Dhabi or Dubai. After a year working in the UAE you’ll have 30 days annual leave to enjoy, plus a few public holidays throughout the year. Plenty of time to scoot off to south Asian destinations such as India, Thailand, or Indonesia, but think about it: if the main lifestyle benefit of living in a place is to leave it regularly, what does that say about the place itself? Some international professionals have managed to chart their own path in the region, eschewing the boozy brunch scene in favour of camping trips in the desert or getting out on the water.

Annual leave in Qatar is generally more limited than in the UAE, though professionals from developed countries (the self-identified “expats”) may be able to negotiate an attractive package that includes plenty of time off. Note that the climate of the gulf states is extremely hot, which may affect which activities you may enjoy locally. Many newcomers to the region, particularly those more accustomed to milder conditions, struggle to get used to the heat.

The gulf is not the only region with an extreme climate. Some places in Canada experience long, bitterly cold winters. This is true for the two largest cities, Toronto and Montreal, as well as destinations in the Prairie provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Alberta. In fact, it’s only newcomers to the Vancouver area and BC coast who are spared the harsh winter, with daytime winter temperatures in Vancouver being more like London or Dublin than the reliably sub-zero temperatures found across the rest of Canada, where each of the four seasons get a full outing.


Weather can be a make-or-break factor for people weighing up international careers abroad, and Canada can be cold. But how cold? That depends on where you end up. We’ll let the data do the talking on this.

Mean min. and max. temperature (Jan)-7 / -11 / 7-13 / -1-12 / -520 / 2716 / 262 / 814 / 2214 / 24-3 / 49 / 20
Mean min. and max. temperature (July)18 / 2714 / 2210 / 2318 / 279 / 177 / 1414 / 2430 / 4230 / 4120 / 2918 / 29
Mean annual snowfall (cm)1224512921000<1000260
Mean annual precipitation (mm)8311,4574191,0001,21660360275941,268379
Annual sunshine hours2,0661,9382,3962,0512,6362,3631,6333,4333,5702,5353,254

In conclusion

A big consideration for any professional weighing up their options for moving abroad is the timescale of the move. Do you plan on moving for just a couple of years? Five years? Longer?

Think about it. Where do you see yourself a decade from now? Do you want to be back home, surrounded by family and with a nice nest egg or sum to invest from a few years working abroad? It helps to know this from the outset.

For example, if your primary goals are financial, and staying long-term is not important, countries in the Middle East start to look mighty attractive. In addition to the high salaries and total absence of income tax, many multinational companies operating in cities such as Doha, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai also have offices in dozens of other cities around the world. If you show the right attitude and develop your skills and network, you may be able to move home or to a third location without the rigmarole of changing employers. A move to the Middle East may help your finances and your career, while also serving as a springboard to another move a couple of years down the road.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for somewhere to settle, then lifestyle and long-term immigration prospects may play a more important part in your decision. In this respect, Canada and Australia have the benefit of sound economies and a structure that allows temporary workers to transition to permanent residence, and ultimately citizenship. It’s also straightforward to bring spouses, partners, and children, and you won’t need to break the bank for your kids to get a quality education. If you move to Australia, note that it’s very far away from pretty much anywhere else and you’ll almost definitely be RSVPing in the negative to a few wedding invitations. Distance from home is a major consideration for many professionals who have the opportunity to move to Australia.

As for the US, well, let’s face it, things have become a bit trickier. Not only is it more difficult to obtain the right to work than it was in the past, but those who do obtain this right may then face being the sole earner in the family, as it has become increasingly difficult for spouses and partners to also obtain the right to work, forcing middle income foreign workers to look at other countries to bring their talents. Many of them continue to move north to Canada.

“Wherever you choose as your top destination, be willing to bet on yourself to find a job, build a life, and succeed,” says Ruairi Spillane from Outpost Recruitment. “If you’re not willing to bet on yourself, you might be missing the point of moving abroad.

“I’ve seen talented professionals reject their number one destination in favour of another, purely because of something they heard or read about market conditions. But if you back yourself, you can make a success of your number one choice.”

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