Special Report

The Best (and Worst) Countries to Find a Full-Time Job

185042661
Source: Thinkstock
According to the International Labour Organization, last year 200 million people across the world were unemployed. Yet, according to performance management consulting firm Gallup, “this number grossly misrepresents the global jobs situation,” as it excludes people that are self-employed, working part time, or who quit the workforce entirely due to hardship.

Based on its survey of residents in 136 countries, Gallup determined that, out the world’s population of 6 billion people, just 1.3 billion worked full-time for an employer last year. In some countries, that figure, called the payroll-to-population ratio, was far worse — 8% or lower — while in others more than 50% of the population had a full-time job working for an employer. Burkina Faso had the lowest payroll-to-population ratio of just 5% in 2013, while the United Arab Emirates had the world’s highest rate at 59%. These are the best (and worst) countries to find a full-time job.

Click here to see the best countries to find a full-time job

Click here to see the worst countries to find a full-time job

The countries with the highest payroll-to-population ratios were almost all highly-developed. Notably, the majority of top-scoring countries were also among the top nations in economic competitiveness, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index.

In these nations, people have access to basic needs, markets and infrastructure are well-developed, and innovation leads to new opportunities for jobseekers. Sweden and the United States, which have among the world’s highest payroll-to-population ratios, are also among the world’s 10 most competitive nations.

Conversely, many of the countries with the lowest payroll-to-population metrics also possess relatively uncompetitive economies. Three of these countries, Guinea, Haiti, and Sierra Leone are among the bottom five countries for economic competitiveness. This suggests that these nations lack the means to encourage sustained economic growth, as well as access to basic health and education needs, needed to build a sizeable and stable workforce.

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Jon Clifton, managing director of the Gallup World Poll pointed out that the conventional measure of unemployment can lead to misleading conclusions about the health of a labor force. “One of the challenges with the traditional ways the [jobs] climate is measured,” Clifton said, is the definition of the workforce, which excludes discouraged workers who stop looking for a job as well as the self-employed.

For most of the world, Clifton explained, self-employment is not motivated by opportunity, but a choice made out of of necessity. “We can actually see that the people that report self employment also report a lower well being than other people around the world.”

One factor that weighs down payroll-to-population ratios in many countries is a lack of formally employed women. In all but one of the nine nations with the world’s lowest payroll-to-population ratios, a lower percentage of women worked full-time for an employer than men. For example, in Burkina Faso 7% of males had a full-time job versus just 2% of all females.

However, Clifton stressed that disparities in gender alone do not explain the low payroll-to-population ratios in many countries. In nations with a low ratio such as Burkina Faso and Haiti, Clifton said, “the problem is not as much about integrating women into the workplace as it is about a job crisis,” which affects both genders and all age groups.” However, Clifton noted that certain nations would have a much higher ratio if women were better-integrated into the workforce.

Yet, even top-rated countries do not always excel at providing jobs for women. In fact, while five nations had a payroll-to-population rate above 50%, and nine had a rate of at least 50% for men, there was no country where half of all females were employed full-time. Russia and Israel, two of the countries with the highest payroll-to-population ratios, came closest, at 46% and 45% of all females, respectively.

Many of the nations with the highest proportion of their population employed are also among the world’s richest. Four countries — Iceland, Sweden, Kuwait, and the United States — all have among the world’s 20 highest GDP per capita figures. The opposite relationship also exists for the countries with lowest proportion of their population employed. All nine countries are also among the poorest in the world.

Clifton noted that many economies where “the government employs a lot of people, whether it is directly with the government or some kind of entity run by the government,” tend to have higher payroll-to-population ratios. Some of these countries have governments that fill the place that the private sector occupies in other countries in creating jobs. Most notably, this includes Belarus, which is often called a dictatorship and enforces policies that border on forced labor.

To determine the best and worst countries to find a full-time job, 24/7 Wall St. examined aggregate payroll-to-population data released by Gallup, a private polling organization. The polling data consisted of surveys of 140 countries from 2013. Additionally, we also reviewed Gallup figures on payroll-to-population ratios by gender as well as the percentage of people living on less than a dollar a day. Data on GDP per capita, GDP growth rates, unemployment, and inflation are from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for 2013. A number of these figures are the fund’s estimates. GDP per capita figures are based on purchasing-power-parity to reflect real differences in the spending ability of residents of each nation. Information on global competitiveness is from the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index. Figures on adult literacy rates are from the World Bank and represent the most recent data available since 2000. Further information on the economic conditions within these countries comes from the World Factbook, Human Development Index, and African Development Bank.

These are the best (and worst) countries to find a full-time job.

The Best Countries to Find a Full-Time Job

10. United States of America
> Payroll-to-population rate: 43%
> GDP per capita: $53,101 (6th highest)
> Gross domestic product, 2013: $16.8 trillion (the highest)
> Literacy rate, adults: N/A

The United States remains among the countries with the highest payroll-to-population ratio. This is despite the fact that America’s labor force participation has declined in recent years. At the same time, however, unemployment in other highly developed countries — most notably the eurozone — remained relatively high. Despite the long-lingering effects of the Great Recession, the American economy remains among the world’s strongest, with a GDP per capita of more than $53,000 last year, among the highest in the world. And, despite a contraction in the first quarter of 2014, GDP grew at an annualized rate of 4% in the second quarter of this year.

9. Latvia
> Payroll-to-population rate: 44%
> GDP per capita: $19,120 (53rd highest)
> Gross domestic product, 2013: $31.0 billion (94th highest)
> Literacy rate, adults: 99.9% (2nd highest)

Compared to other countries with the highest payroll-to-population ratio, Latvia is actually quite poor, with a GDP per capita of just $19,120. Latvia has undergone considerable changes in the recent decades. The country gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, entered the European Union in 2004, and adopted the euro as its currency this year. Still, the slow growth in the European Union and eurozone countries has not been as significant in Latvia, which reported a 3.5% GDP expansion in the second quarter of 2014 compared to the year before. However, Latvia still lags many other countries with high payroll-to-population ratios in overall economic competitiveness, ranking just 55th on the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index.

ALSO READ: Companies that Control the World’s Food

8. Israel
> Payroll-to-population rate: 47% (tied-7th highest)
> GDP per capita: $34,770 (25th highest)
> Gross domestic product, 2013: $291.5 billion (37th highest)
> Literacy rate, adults: 97.8% (42nd highest)

Israel is one of the best countries for women looking for full-time work, with a female payroll-to-population ratio of 45%, versus 49% for men. Although the country is quite small, Israel’s economy is extremely competitive, ranking just ahead of China and just behind France and Australia on the Global Competitiveness Index, in large part due to its sophisticated and innovative business climate. Compared to other developed nations, Israel’s GDP growth has been quite rapid in recent years. All of these factors likely contribute to the high levels of jobholders within the country. However, Israel’s future is tied to that of Palestine, as an agreement between both parties over their borders has not been reached and a viable solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict remains elusive.

7. Belarus
> Payroll-to-population rate: 47% (tied-7th highest)
> GDP per capita: $15,753 (64th highest)
> Gross domestic product, 2013: $71.7 billion (67th highest)
> Literacy rate, adults: 99.6 % (15th highest)

Once part of the Soviet Union, Belarus has maintained extremely close ties to Russia since its independence in 1991. The government remains a major employer in Belarus, and governmental institutions account for the bulk of the country’s economy, which is also heavily dependent on Russia. The IMF estimates that Belarus’s unemployment rate will be less than 1% in 2014. However, this figure may not adequately reflect troubling developments, such as policies that prevent workers from quitting their jobs and which Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko openly referred to as serfdom, a form of forced labor.

ALSO READ: 10 States Struggling with Delinquent Debt

6. Kuwait
> Payroll-to-population rate: 49%
> GDP per capita: $39,706 (17th highest)
> Gross domestic product, 2013: $185.3 billion (55th highest)
> Literacy rate, adults: 95.5% (54th highest)

Kuwaitis benefit from an abundant supply of oil. Petroleum accounts for roughly 95% of export revenues as well as 95% of government income. Overall, petroleum accounts for nearly half of a GDP per capita just shy of $40,000 last year. Helping Kuwait’s workers find jobs, the government is a major employer in the country. Additionally, like several other Middle Eastern nations, Kuwait also has a large population of expatriates, which may boost its payroll-to-population figure. According to a 2009 paper from the University of Western Sydney, Kuwaiti citizens make up only 40% of the population and an even-smaller 20% of the work force.

5. Russia
> Payroll-to-population rate: 51%
> GDP per capita: $17,884 (58th highest)
> Gross domestic product, 2013: $2.1 trillion (8th highest)
> Literacy rate, adults: 99.7% (14th highest)

Although Russia benefited from surging oil prices in the past, GDP growth has tapered off in recent years, falling from 4.5% in 2010 to 1.3% in 2013. The IMF currently projects that Russia’s economy will grow by just 1.3% this year, and the nation’s involvement in the ongoing crisis in Ukraine has resulted in sanctions from the U.S. and European Union. Still, few countries can match Russia in terms of job availability. More than half of all Russians worked full-time for an employer in 2013, making Russia one of only five countries that can make such a claim. Additionally, the nation leads the world with a female payroll-to-population ratio of 46%. Likely helping to boost these figures is that government and public sector-controlled corporations accounted for a larger percentage of jobs than in almost any developed country.

ALSO READ: 11 Countries Near Bankruptcy

4. Sweden
> Payroll-to-population rate: 53% (tied-3rd highest)
> GDP per capita: $41,188 (13th highest)
> Gross domestic product, 2013: $557.9 billion (21st highest)
> Literacy rate, adults: N/A

Sweden is among the most developed nations in the world, according to the Global Competitiveness Index. Sweden also has a large government sector, accounting for nearly 53% of GDP in 2013. The combination of a globally competitive economy and a large public sector likely boost job prospects for residents. Unemployment is fairly high, and projected by the IMF to end the year at 8%. Still, Sweden’s unemployment rate is lower than that of many other highly developed countries in Europe, especially within the eurozone. Sweden also has one of Europe’s highest labor force participation rates among working age adults.

3. Bahrain
> Payroll-to-population rate: 53% (tied-3rd highest)
> GDP per capita: $34,584 (26th highest)
> Gross domestic product, 2013: $32.2 billion (93rd highest)
> Literacy rate, adults: 94.6% (61st highest)

Bahrain is a constitutional Monarchy located in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Saudi Arabia. Bahrain’s economy relies mainly on oil, despite additional efforts to diversify the local economy. Petroleum and oil-related activities account for the vast majority of government revenues and exports. And despite a population of just over 1 million, Bahrain has one of the world’s more competitive economies. These strengths help more than half of the population to find full-time jobs. However, there are large gaps in payroll-to-population rates between men and women. While more than two-thirds of males in the country work full-time for an employer, just 27% of women do. The country also struggles with ongoing political protests, who have been calling for a change in the political status quo.

ALSO READ: America’s Best Companies to Work For

2. Iceland
> Payroll-to-population rate: 54%
> GDP per capita: $41,000 (14th highest)
> Gross domestic product, 2013: $14.7 billion (70th lowest)
> Literacy rate, adults: N/A

Iceland had the highest payroll-to-population rate in Europe at 54%. Not only were working-age adults more likely to work in Iceland than in any other European country, but also Iceland’s unemployment rate is among the continent’s lowest. The country’s people are relatively well off, with a GDP per capita of $41,000 in 2013, among the highest in the world. Uniquely, Iceland’s economy is still heavily rooted in fishing, which accounts for a large share of export activity, GDP, and jobs in the small nation. After the country’s financial system collapsed in 2008 and the country experienced severe economic contractions, Iceland has returned to growth in recent years.

1. United Arab Emirates
> Payroll-to-population rate: 59%
> GDP per capita: $30,112 (32rd highest)
> Gross domestic product, 2013: $396.2 billion (28th highest)
> Literacy rate, adults: 90.0% (73rd lowest)

The United Arab Emirates had the world’s highest payroll-to-population ratio of 59% for 2013. Men in the country were especially likely to work with 72% of all men employed full-time as of 2013, the highest rate in the world. The presence of foreign workers may help account for much of the area’s high payroll-to-population ratio. According to the International Labour Organization, “despite a concerted push towards ‘emiratisation’ in the private sector, over 90[%] of the labour force is manned by expatriates.” In turn, the ILO notes that UAE nationals tend to take jobs in the UAE’s public sector, which provide both stability and good pay.

Click here to see the worst countries to find a full-time job

The Worst Countries to Find a Full-Time Job

9. Mali
> Payroll-to-population rate: 8% (tied-7th lowest)
> GDP per capita: $1,103 (12th lowest)
> Gross domestic product, 2013: $11.1 billion (57th lowest)
> Literacy rate, adults: 33.6% (6th lowest)

Just 8% of Mali’s citizens worked full-time in 2013, among the lowest rates in the world. Possibly contributing to this is the fact Mali’s economy is heavily concentrated in agriculture, meaning people often work just to provide for their most basic food needs. Also contributing to this is Mali’s large nomadic population. By some measures, the people of Mali are among the poorest in the world. More than 77% of the population lived on less than $1 per day. Political unrest in the region allowed Islamic militants to build out a presence in Northern Mali, which led to an international effort to expel extremists from the region in 2013.

8. Liberia
> Payroll-to-population rate: 8% (tied-7th lowest)
> GDP per capita: $703 (4th lowest)
> Gross domestic product, 2013: $1.9 billion (26th lowest)
> Literacy rate, adults: 42.9% (11th lowest)

Only an estimated 8% of Liberians worked full- time for an employer last year. Located on the west coast of Sub-Saharan Africa, Liberia benefits from a number of resources, including water, minerals, and agricultural commodities. Liberia’s economic success is largely driven by current macroeconomic conditions, as well as commodity prices. Yet, poor health standards and low education levels may limit the nation’s ability to fully utilize its resources and labor force. According to the World Economic Forum, Liberia ranks as one of the worst countries for health and education.

ALSO READ: America’s Fastest-Growing Retailers

7. Guinea
> Payroll-to-population rate: 8% (tied-7th lowest)
> GDP per capita: $1,125 (13th lowest)
> Gross domestic product, 2013: $6.3 billion (43rd lowest)
> Literacy rate, adults: 25.3% (2nd lowest)

In addition to having just 8% of its population on a payroll full-time, Guinea is among the least competitive countries, providing poor basic economic needs, such as infrastructure, health care, and education. As of 2013, Guinea had one of the lowest GDP per capita figures in the world at $1,125 per person. High corruption is another challenge to do doing business in the country. Until recently, Guinea was under authoritarian rule. The transition led to political uncertainty and economic challenges. Still, according to the African Development Bank, “the end of the political transition and a new quest for social cohesion” are promising developments in the government’s ongoing plans to reduce poverty in Guinea.

6. Sierra Leone
> Payroll-to-population rate: 7% (tied-5th lowest)
> GDP per capita: $1,542 (23rd lowest)
> Gross domestic product, 2013: $4.8 billion (40th lowest)
> Literacy rate, adults: 44.5% (12th lowest)

Just 7% of Sierra Leone’s population was employed full-time last year. The IMF does not provide an unemployment rate for the country. Such a figure may not be a useful measure in an economy so deeply dependent on subsistence farming. Nearly 73% of the population lived on less than $1 a day, and Sierra Leone’s GDP per capita is among the lowest in the world. The African Development Bank notes that “the socio-political situation continues to remain peaceful and social indicators are steadily improving,” yet continued improvement in Sierra Leone also depend on further economic development and job creation.

5. Ethiopia
> Payroll-to-population rate: 7% (tied-5th lowest)
> GDP per capita: $1,366 (19th lowest)
> Gross domestic product, 2013: $48.1 billion (80th highest)
> Literacy rate, adults: 39% (9th lowest)

Ethiopia lacks the infrastructure, as well as the higher education and training programs, necessary for global competitiveness. Ethiopians have reasons to be hopeful, however. The country is relatively stable and has an 87% net enrollment rate in primary education, according to the World Economic Forum. Ethiopia’s economy has been rapidly growing for years, and in 2013 Ethiopia’s GDP rose by nearly 10%, among the fastest growth rates in the world. Still, Ethiopia’s economy is heavily concentrated in agriculture, with top exports including coffee and khat, a mild narcotic leaf.

ALSO READ: 10 States Where Manufacturing Still Matters

4. Niger
> Payroll-to-population rate: 6% (tied-2nd lowest)
> GDP per capita: $829 (7th lowest)
> Gross domestic product, 2013: $7.4 billion (46th lowest)
> Literacy rate, adults: 15.5% (the lowest)

Niger has the lowest score of any country on the Human Development Index, an index that rates a country’s ability to provide people with a healthy life, knowledge and a decent quality of living. The vast majority of the population relies on subsistence farming rather than a formal job for their personal needs. The country has substantial deposits of uranium and other commodities, such as gold and oil. However, the African Development Bank notes that Niger’s private sector “has eroded over the past two decades in favour of the informal sector.” This means that fewer workers are likely to hold a full-time job for an employer. Niger’s estimated GDP per capita was among the lowest in the world in 2013, at just $829 per person.

3. Malawi
> Payroll-to-population rate: 6% (tied-2nd lowest)
> GDP per capita: $879 (8th lowest)
> Gross domestic product, 2013: $3.8 billion (34th lowest)
> Literacy rate, adults: 61.3% (27th lowest)

With a GDP per capita of just $879, Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries. According to the Human Development Index, Malawi is one of the least developed countries in the world. The nation also has one of the world’s least competitive economies. The agriculture sector makes up nearly one-third of GDP and accounts for most of the nation’s export revenues. The country relies on fertilizer subsidies and international aid. Despite these challenges, Malawians are exceptionally optimistic, with 98% telling Gallup they believe it is possible to get ahead through hard work, the highest percentage of any country.

ALSO READ: 10 Countries Spending the Most on the Military

2. Haiti
> Payroll-to-population rate: 6% (tied-2nd lowest)
> GDP per capita: $1,315 (17th lowest)
> Gross domestic product, 2013: $8.5 billion (51st lowest)
> Literacy rate, adults: 47.7% (14th lowest)

With a payroll-to-population of just 6%, Haiti is the sole country located in the Western Hemisphere among the nine nations where it is hardest to find full-time work. Haiti’s GDP per capita of just $1,315 in 2013 also makes it the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Additionally, more than 50% of the population lived on less than one dollar a day. A series of natural disasters may also contribute to Haiti’s poor economic condition. Most notably, in January 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake caused extreme damages across much of Haiti. One 2010 estimate in the journal “Medicine, Conflict and Survival” pegged the number of fatalities from the earthquake at over 158,000 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital.

1. Burkina Faso
> Payroll-to-population rate: 5%
> GDP per capita: $1,585 (24th lowest)
> Gross domestic product, 2013: $12.2 billion (62nd lowest)
> Literacy rate, adults: 28.7% (4th lowest)

Burkina Faso, a former French colony, struggles with a number of socioeconomic issues. The country has few natural resources and very little industrial development. Only an estimated 5% of Burkina Faso residents are employed full-time, the lowest proportion measured by Gallup. Additionally, just 2% of women work full-time hours for an employer, also the lowest rate. Contributing to these figures is the fact that 90% of the population relies on subsistence agriculture. While cotton and gold are key exports for the country, dependability is low because of price fluctuations in the global commodities market. Recently, a falling gold price and fighting in neighboring Mali have further hurt the country’s economy.

Click here to see the best countries to find a full-time job

ALERT: Take This Retirement Quiz Now  (Sponsored)

Take the quiz below to get matched with a financial advisor today.

Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests.

Here’s how it works:
1. Answer SmartAsset advisor match quiz
2. Review your pre-screened matches at your leisure. Check out the advisors’ profiles.
3. Speak with advisors at no cost to you. Have an introductory call on the phone or introduction in person and choose whom to work with in the future

Take the retirement quiz right here.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us?
Contact the 24/7 Wall St. editorial team.