World's highest paid expats are heading to Mumbai

The Indian city is the most lucrative for expat workers, while Dubai takes 11th position

IndiancChildren wait for the start of a skating rally at the promenade outside the Taj Mahal Palace and hotel in Mumbai on November 26, 2014, in memory of those who lost their lives on the sixth anniversary of the November 2008 terror attacks. A total of 166 people were killed and more than 300 others were injured when 10 heavily-armed Islamist militants stormed the city on November 26, 2008, attacking a number of sites, including the city's main railway station, two luxury hotels, a popular tourist restaurant and a Jewish centre. AFP PHOTO/ INDRANIL MUKHERJEE / AFP PHOTO / INDRANIL MUKHERJEE
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For expatriates looking to make the big bucks, the latest tip is to head east.

Mumbai, India’s financial, commercial and entertainment capital, tops global rankings for expat salaries, according to a survey conducted by HSBC Bank International.

Foreigners moving to the subcontinent’s most populous city reported average annual earnings of $217,165. That’s more than double the global expat average of $99,903, according to HSBC's Expat Explorer survey, which polled almost 28,000 expats from 159 locations in March and April last year.

Mumbai was also ahead of San Francisco, which emerged as the second most lucrative city for expats. Foreigners working in the Golden City can expect an average salary of $207,227.

“The financial and technology hubs of the US and UK are the most attractive for ambitious expats eager to push their career to the next level,” said Dean Blackburn, who heads HSBC Expat.

While expats in Asia were generally well compensated financially, all - including Mumbai, which is home to more than 18 million people - ranked lower in expat job opportunities than UK and US destinations such as London, San Francisco, New York, or even Birmingham, HSBC said.

Other Asian cities joining Mumbai in the top 10 expat salary rankings were Shanghai, Jakarta and Hong Kong.


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In the Middle East, Dubai came in 11th position on the expat salary ranking, with those based in the emirate enjoying average salaries of $138,177. However, almost two thirds of Dubai respondents said they have more disposable income than they did in their home countries. Abu Dhabi, meanwhile, took 16th position on the salary ranking with an average salary of $127,456, while Kuwait City took 17th position with $123,041.

Graphic by Ramon Penas
Graphic by Ramon Penas

Dubai also fared well when it came to job prospects, as the city with the second highest expat employment levels globally.

“It is not at all surprising to see that Dubai, and the UAE, continue to be the destination of choice for job prospects," said Marwan Hadi, head of retail banking and wealth management in the UAE for HSBC.

“Dubai has the second highest expat employment levels in the world, with 92 per cent of expats in employment. Of those, 83 per cent are currently in full-time employment. This is a clear testament of the great progress the Government has made in creating a diversified economic model, which has resulted in the formation of an internationally recognised and sought-after working environment with world-class infrastructure and services.”

Another area that Dubai fared well on was the social prospects it offers expat workers. The study also ranked Dubai as the fifth best city in the world for leisure facilities, behind key global destinations such as Sydney, Vancouver, San Francisco and Auckland. A third of respondents praised the city’s leisure facilities with 44 per cent lauding its restaurants and food.

Over a third of those polled also said they enjoy a busier and better social life since their move to Dubai. And expats in the city rank their social life higher than those in London, Los Angeles, San Francisco,  New York and Paris.

“Expats have also said that other key reasons for selecting Dubai as their home away from home, is because they enjoy the city’s social life, its fantastic food scene, the cleanliness, safety, and the excellent leisure facilities it offers,” Mr Hadi added.

Dublin, a tech centre in Europe, also ranked in the top five for expat job opportunities, but was below the global average in expat salaries. Nonetheless, 61 per cent of expats in the capital of Ireland reported an improved work-life balance.

Switzerland, the nation that has previously topped country rankings for expat salaries, had two cities in the top five of highest paid expat salaries. Zurich, home to banks including Credit Suisse Group and UBS Group and a tech hub for firms including Google's parent Alphabet, reported the third highest expat salaries, while Geneva, the base for some of the world’s biggest commodities traders including Trafigura Group and Mercuria Energy Group, was fifth.

Despite Switzerland’s notorious living costs, the country’s high salaries and low personal tax rates saw 77 per cent of expats in Zurich report that their disposable income had increased since moving. In fact, over half of Zurich expats reported that they are living in a better dwelling than they did at home even with the Swiss city’s expensive rental and property markets.

And while Berlin and Prague rank toward the bottom of HSBC’s list of 52, the majority of expats in those cities said the cost of living is affordable.