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Are you an expat living and working abroad? If so, congratulations on taking the plunge and exploring the world!

Working abroad is an exciting opportunity to gain new experiences and increase your earning potential.

I bet your wondering if expats earn more than locals? Well in this blog we explore how salary & life may differ between locals & expats…

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Do expats really earn more than locals?

Everyone’s opinion differs.

Expats’ earnings can vary depending on a number of factors. So it’s hard to say whether they earn more than locals. Generally, these factors include the country of origin, the country of destination, the industry, experience & qualifications.

It is possible for expats to earn more than locals if they have specialised skills. Or on the other hand, work in an industry that is in high demand. 

High-skilled expats working in industries such as finance, technology or engineering in countries like the United States you can earn considerably more than local counterparts.

Language barriers, inexperience with local culture and customs, and the lack of a strong professional network can cause expats to earn less than locals in some cases.

Due to the relatively low salaries for English teachers in countries like China, South Korea, and Japan, expats may earn less than locals in other occupations.

Let’s compare…

The United Arab Emirates 

Due to the high demand for skilled workers in industries such as finance, oil and gas, and healthcare, expats in the UAE often earn more than locals. Global Media Insight reports that the UAE has over 8.9 million expats.

A recent Nafis initiative in the UAE has led to the equalisation of salaries between Emiratis and foreigners in private companies. It was created in 2021 as part of a wider reform program in the UAE to assist Emirati nationals in gaining employment in the private sector. A total of 75,000 private-sector jobs are expected to be created by 2025 through the initiative.

Wanting to move to the UAE? Contact us!


In Portugal, the average wage stands at €760 per month, yet expats often take home €1,500 – 2,500 per month and much more.

An attractive part of moving to Portugal is the lower cost of living combined with being able to keep earning at a rate similar to that of one’s home country.

Additionally, Portuguese emigrants who opt to settle in Portugal are eligible to apply for a Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) status. To be eligible, an individual must have lived abroad for the past five years, update their tax address to the country, and meet all the other qualifications. With the NHR status, high-value professions are subject to a flat Personal Income Tax rate of 20%.

Learn more about the NHR


Jobs and salaries in Cyprus, as with other EU nations, range in terms of skill level, experience and size of employer. Gross wages may be lower than the EU average, but taxation is comparatively low, allowing salaries to remain competitive.
In Cyprus, the average monthly salary range starts from as low as €550 up to €9,660 as the highest. It should be noted that these are just average figures and the maximum salary may even be higher.
The median salary, or the salary which half the population earns more than and the other half earns less than, is €1,573 per month.
Surprisingly, Cyprus is one of only six countries in the European Union without a minimum hourly wage. Consequently, workers are obligated to come to a consensus with their employers on their salary, whether through negotiation or bargaining.
Certain occupations such as nursing assistants, shop assistants, hairdressers, clerks, and nursery assistants have a minimum salary of €870 per month, increasing to €924 per month after six months of work.
The Cypriot government is preparing to implement a minimum wage which is projected to be between 45-60% of the 2022 median salary of €1,573 per month, estimated at €707 per month.
Overall, the cost of living in Cyprus is cheaper than the UK, with prices 8.3% lower and rental costs about 6.2% lower. An individual would need around €768 (£679) per month to sustain a comfortable lifestyle, excluding rent, and a four-person household should allocate €2,668 (£2,359).
Eating out and renting a place will be fairly priced, though locations such as the city centre, popular tourist areas, and beachfronts can have higher rates.
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For some expats, it can be disheartening to know that salaries in Malta are lower than those of other European countries. Sources indicate that the average Maltese employee earns between €15,000 & €21,000 a year.
At its peak, the average gross wage hit €16,300 in the first quarter of 2015. However, highly specialised roles, management positions, and foreign assignments can expect to be paid higher wages.
The cost of living in Malta is no longer as cheap as it once was, but it remains reasonably affordable. Compared to the EU average, the cost of living was considerably lower in 2010, though this has risen steadily since then.
In conclusion, one should not expect to move to Malta solely for a high-paying job and a career boost. While some jobs may have the aforementioned advantages, this should not be the main reason for relocating to the island.
Find the best visa to become an expat in Malta

United States of America

The salaries of expats in the USA can differ from those of locals depending on the industry, occupation, location, and level of experience and qualifications of the individual.

The median annual wage for all occupations in the United States in 2021 was $58,260, but salaries can vary widely by industry and occupation. A software developer’s median annual wage is $110,140, while a food service worker’s median annual wage is $26,500.

A person’s salary can vary significantly based on their experience and qualifications as well as the industry and location where they work in the United States. Due to their specialised skills and experience, expats in high-paying industries like finance, technology, and healthcare may earn higher salaries than locals.

As a result of language barriers, limited American work experience, or a lack of familiarity with local job markets, expats may earn less than locals.

Expat spending

Salary is often a prime consideration when moving abroad, but there are other considerations to take into account. These include:

  • Cost of living: the cost of living in a country can be significantly more expensive than it is in your home country, which might cut into an expat’s discretionary income and make it difficult for them to be competitive with local cost-of-living.
  • Exchange rates: Exchange rates can have a significant impact on an expat’s spending power, particularly if they are paid in a foreign currency. Fluctuations in exchange rates can affect the amount of money an expat can buy with their salary.
  • Taxes: Tax rates can vary widely from country to country and can impact an expat’s take-home pay and overall spending power.
  • Healthcare: The cost and quality of healthcare can also impact an expat’s spending power. In some countries, expats may need to purchase private health insurance, which can be expensive.
  • Housing: Housing costs can be a significant expense for expats. In some countries, the cost of housing can be high, particularly in major cities.
  • Other expenses: Other expenses such as transportation, food, and entertainment can also impact an expat’s spending power. These expenses can vary widely from country to country.

The overall cost of living in a country should be considered when comparing expat salaries to spending power. As well as exchange rates, taxes, healthcare, and housing costs. Furthermore, expats need to consider the lifestyle they want to lead and the additional expenses they may have to incur.

Learn more about our expat visas

Thinking of moving abroad?

If you’re looking to get a visa and experience life in the Mediterranean or the United Arab Emirates – look no further. Not only can we help you to get there, we can help you in opening your bank account, setting up your business or another branch and so much more.

To enable you to learn more about the different visa options available to you, please explore more about the countries we operate in.

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