Countries With the Best (and Worst) Jobs

October 19, 2015 by Evan Comen

Not only do people the world over rely on their jobs for their livelihood, but economic growth is the result of people working in one occupation or another. Professional lives vary considerably around the world, however, and the difference between gainful employment and true job satisfaction is often vast.

Based on “Where the Great Jobs Are,” a report released this October through a partnership of survey company Gallup and nonprofit advocacy group Meridian International, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the countries most likely to provide “great” jobs. Survey participants were asked 12 questions, which Gallup used to determine the level of engagement among workers in each country. Great jobs are full-time, engaging occupations. Panama and the United States lead the world with 13% of adults in each country who have great jobs.

Click here to see the countries with the best jobs.

Click here to see the countries with the worst jobs.

In more than 20 countries at the bottom of Gallup’s survey, job satisfaction is very poor with less than 1% of adults employed in a great job. For this reason, 24/7 Wall St. ranked the 10 bottom countries based on the percentage of adults who have “good” jobs — defined as full-time, steady employment, excluding self-employed. Just 5% of adults in Burkina Faso have a good job, the lowest in the world.

According to former U.S. Ambassador for Special Political Affairs at the United Nations Stuart Holliday, president and CEO of Meridian International, traditional measures of economic health such as unemployment rate and GDP per capita are inadequate. “We have been measuring progress using indicators that really don’t represent what’s happening on the ground in these countries,” Holliday said.

GDP and unemployment do not correlate with one another and often fail to reflect what is actually going on in a country. For Holliday, the most remarkable finding of Gallup’s survey is also the considerable difference between a good and a great job.

A majority of adults in only five countries surveyed had good jobs, quite low compared with traditional employment rates. Looking at the prevalence of great jobs, even the world’s economic leaders had only around 10% of adults reporting such job satisfaction.

The official unemployment rate in most countries includes people looking or struggling to find work, as well as self-employed subsistence farmers and part-time workers — and many of the employed are living in poverty. Not only does the unemployment rate fail to capture the plight of underemployed individuals, but also full-time, steady employment does not necessarily mean satisfying and rewarding work. “A great job goes beyond that,” Holliday said.

High volumes of great jobs are typically found in countries with highly developed economies. “That would be a sort of a traditional economic indicator of an environment where there’s good education, rule of law, less corruption,” Holliday explained.

Advanced economies tend to be relatively large, and the countries with the most great jobs have relatively high GDP per capita. However, only three national economies — the United States, United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait — are in the top 10 among countries surveyed.

All of the countries with the worst jobs, on the other hand, have GDP per capita of less than $3,000. By contrast, the U.S. GDP per capita is nearly $50,000.

The countries with the best jobs also tend to have relatively well-educated populations, while the opposite tends to be true among the bottom 10 countries. The literacy rate among adults in all of the countries with the best jobs, for example, exceeds 94%.

To identify the countries with the best jobs, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the share of adults in each of 139 countries reporting “great” jobs. To identify the countries with the worst jobs, we reviewed the share of adults in each of 139 countries reporting “good” jobs. The data came from “Where the Great Jobs Are”, a report released jointly by Gallup and Meridian International this October. The report is based on a Gallup survey containing 12 questions. GDP per capita came from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and is shown in international dollars, which adjust for currency price disparities and cost of living. Unemployment rates also came from the IMF. Education attainment rates, poverty rates, life expectancy, and literacy rates came from the World Bank. All figures are for the most recent available year. Labor market indices came from the World Economic Forum’s 2015 Global Competitiveness Report.

These are the countries with the best and worst jobs.

The Countries With the Best Jobs

9. Uruguay
> Pct. of adults with “great” jobs:
9%
> Pct. of adults with “good” jobs: 33%
> 2014 GDP per capita: $17,723
> Unemployment rate: 6.3%

Roughly one-third of adults in Uruguay have steady employment and a steady paycheck. Also 9.% of adult residents are also engaged at work and believe their job matters. While the slightly less than one in 10 adults who have great jobs may seem like a small share, only six countries have a higher share of adults employed in engaging and rewarding jobs. Chile is the only country on the continent with a larger share of the adult population with great jobs.

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8. Mongolia
> Pct. of adults with “great” jobs:
9%
> Pct. of adults with “good” jobs: 28%
> 2014 GDP per capita: $8,802
> Unemployment rate: 7.7%

The total value of goods and services produced annually in Mongolia — the world’s most sparsely populated country — is $10.4 billion. While the country’s economy is small compared to other nations reviewed, GDP grew by more than 17% last year, the fastest economic growth rate in the world. Mongolia’s Gobi desert contains some of the world’s largest coal and copper deposits, and the massive strip mining operations of multinational energy companies in the area have been increasing dramatically over the past several years. As a result of the economic growth, circumstances have improved for many Mongolians, although perhaps not by as much as the booming growth would suggest. A relatively low percentage of adults, some 28%, have steady, full-time employment — or what is considered a good job. Still, of that group, a relatively large share find their work to be rewarding.

7. Kuwait
> Pct. of adults with “great” jobs:
9%
> Pct. of adults with “good” jobs: 50%
> 2014 GDP per capita: $67,131
> Unemployment rate: 2.1%

Many Americans know Kuwait as the small Middle Eastern nation that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein attacked, leading to the start of first Gulf War. Kuwait also ranks as one of the best countries in the world for job quality. Approximately half of Kuwaiti adults have a full-time, steady job with a paycheck, and 9% have an engaging and enjoyable work experience. One likely reason so many adults have a healthy level of employment is the nation’s robust economy. Kuwait’s unemployment rate of roughly 2% is one of the lowest in the world. Kuwaiti GDP grew by nearly 10% last year, one of the fastest growth rates in the world.

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6. United Arab Emirates
> Pct. of adults with “great” jobs:
10%
> Pct. of adults with “good” jobs: 58%
> 2014 GDP per capita: $58,917
> Unemployment rate: N/A

No country in the world has a larger share of adults who work at least 30 hours a week for a steady paycheck than the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Over half of the adult population, 58%, has a good job. While the share of adults with a good job captures a measure of economic security and quality of life to a degree, it does not reflect levels of job satisfaction. One in 10 adults in the UAE have a job where they utilize their strengths and feel as though they are accomplishing something meaningful. As in many countries with relatively large shares of adults with great jobs, UAE has a relatively large economy. After adjusting for regional price differences, per capita GDP in the Gulf nation is equal to nearly $59,000 per person, a larger GDP per capita than that of all but five other countries. Kuwait is the only other Middle Eastern countries with a similarly large share of adults with great jobs.

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5. Russia
> Pct. of adults with “great” jobs:
10%
> Pct. of adults with “good” jobs: 47%
> 2014 GDP per capita: $22,564
> Unemployment rate: 6.5%

Home to roughly 143 million people, Russia is one of the largest countries in the world, both by population and landmass. Literacy is is an essential component to a functional economy, and effectively the entire population of Russia’s adults can read and write. One in 10 Russian adults have jobs where they are engaged, use their strengths, and feel their work is meaningful. Only four countries have a higher share of adults that are equally satisfied with their jobs.

4. Costa Rica
> Pct. of adults with “great” jobs:
11%
> Pct. of adults with “good” jobs: 32%
> 2014 GDP per capita: $13,096
> Unemployment rate: 7.7%

For some time, Costa Rica has been one of the more politically and economically stable countries among Central American nations. While Costa Rica’s economy has historically been based on the export of crops such as bananas and coffee, the country’s greatest commodity is tourism. This industry appear to be creating a good deal of steady, full-time work, and more than one in 10 Costa Rican adults work in engaging jobs that provide meaning.

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3. Chile
> Pct. of adults with “great” jobs:
11%
> Pct. of adults with “good” jobs: 37%
> 2014 GDP per capita: $20,188
> Unemployment rate: 7.1%

One of the strongest economies in South America, Chile also has a relatively high share of residents with great jobs. Roughly 11% of Chile’s adults have steady, engaging jobs that they feel are meaningful. The United States and Panama are the only countries in the world where a larger share of adults has a great job. The South American nation has experienced these positive economic and quality of life outcomes despite relatively low educational attainment. Only 51.1% of Chileans over the age of 24 have completed secondary schooling, or the equivalent of high school. In the United States, slightly more than 88% of adults have completed high school.

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2. United States
> Pct. of adults with “great” jobs:
13%
> Pct. of adults with “good” jobs: 44%
> 2014 GDP per capita: $49,725
> Unemployment rate: 8.9%

The United States is tied with Panama for the distinction of having highest concentration of quality employment opportunities in the world. Based on the 12 questions in Gallup’s survey, which determined whether employees had opportunities to grow and received adequate feedback on their work, among a range of other indicators, 13% of U.S. adults have a great job. Like several other countries where individuals report healthy professional lives, the United States is one of the wealthiest in the world. The nation’s GDP of $15.5 trillion is the highest economic output worldwide. In addition, the country’s relatively strong education system helps improve occupational satisfaction.

1. Panama
> Pct. of adults with “great” jobs:
13%
> Pct. of adults with “good” jobs: 31%
> 2014 GDP per capita: $15,369
> Unemployment rate: 4.5%

Although Panama’s unemployment rate is a relatively low 4.5%, only 31.0% of adults in the Central American country are working at least 30 hours a week and receive a steady paycheck, according to a multi year survey conducted by Gallup. Panama ties the United States, however, as the country with the highest share of adults who report having great jobs. Panama is also doing well by more traditional economic measures. The Panamanian economy expanded by roughly 10.8% in 2014, the sixth highest growth rate in the world that year.

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The Countries With the Worst Jobs

10. Bangladesh
> Pct. of adults with “good” jobs:
9%
> Pct. of adults with “great” jobs: 2%
> GDP per capita: $2,785
> Life expectancy: 70.7 years

Fewer than one in 10 adult Bangladeshi residents have steady, full-time employment — what Gallup defines as a good job — tied for the 10th lowest such share among countries reviewed. Like many other countries with few quality employment opportunities, Bangladesh is relatively poor. Bangladesh has a GDP per capita of $2,785, compared to the U.S. GDP per capita of $49,725. Countries with relatively small shares of adults with steady or rewarding employment often have very low educational attainment as well. Only 17.1% of adults have the equivalent of a high school diploma, low compared to the rest of the world but relatively high compared with other countries on this list.

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9. Ethiopia
> Pct. of adults with “good” jobs:
9%
> Pct. of adults with “great” jobs: 1%
> GDP per capita: $1,236
> Life expectancy: 63.6 years

Few low-GDP per capita economies are able to provide full-time, stable positions to a large share of residents, let alone jobs that are rewarding and engaging — and Ethiopia is among them. Less than one in 10 adults are employed in good jobs, and only approximately one out of every 100 adults has a great job. However, the quality of the job market may improve in the East African nation. Ethiopia’s GDP grew by 11.4% last year. According to the WEF, the country also rates as one of the more attractive nations to new employees of the current countries with the worst job opportunities.

8. Tanzania
> Pct. of adults with “good” jobs:
8%
> Pct. of adults with “great” jobs: 1%
> GDP per capita: $2,285
> Life expectancy: 61.5 years

Only eight out of every 100 Tanzanian adults have a 30 or more hour per week job with a steady paycheck, and only one out of every 100 Tanzanians has such a job that is also fulfilling. About 28.2% of Tanzanians were living in poverty in 2011. The high poverty rate is likely linked to the scarcity of steady employment in the East African nation, and has also likely contributed to poor health outcomes. The life expectancy among Tanzanians of just 61.5 years is one of the lower such figures in the world. Despite low incomes and poor health outcomes, the Tanzanian economy expanded by nearly 8% in 2014, the 15th highest growth rate in the world. And the country may be on track to improve its workforce. The WEF rated Tanzania better than any other country on the bottom end of this list for its capacity to attract talent.

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7. Nepal
> Pct. of adults with “good” jobs:
8%
> Pct. of adults with “great” jobs: 1%
> GDP per capita: $2,044
> Life expectancy: 68.4 years

This spring, Nepal sustained a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, which killed thousands and dealt serious structural damage to the Himalayan nation’s agrarian economy. One Wall Street Journal report estimated the damage from the earthquake could exceed the nation’s $20 billion annual GDP. This is bad news for an already struggling economy with limited job opportunities. Just 8% of Nepalese adults have stable, full-time jobs. Well-educated populations tend to have higher employment rates as well as a higher share of adults in good jobs. In Nepal, just 2.3% of the adult population has the equivalent of a college degree, versus more than 30% of the U.S. adult population.

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6. Malawi
> Pct. of adults with “good” jobs:
7%
> Pct. of adults with “great” jobs: 2%
> GDP per capita: $715
> Life expectancy: 55.2 years

Developing countries are often unable to provide full-time jobs for citizens, and Malawi is no exception. Malawi’s economy is driven primarily by agriculture, and depends heavily on foreign aid. Good jobs provide stable, full-time employment, but agricultural workers are often self-employed subsistence farmers. Just 7% of Malawi adults have a job that provides at least 30 hours of work a week and a steady paycheck, tied as the fifth worst country for gainful employment. Further, only 2% of adults in Malawi feel engaged and enthusiastic about their work. Malawians have a life expectancy of just 55.2 years, and more than half of the population lives in poverty.

5. Guinea
> Pct. of adults with “good” jobs:
7%
> Pct. of adults with “great” jobs: 2%
> GDP per capita: $1,265
> Life expectancy: 56.1 years

Just 7% of Guinea adults have a job with at least 30 hours of work a week and a steady paycheck, making it one of the worst countries in the world for gainful employment. Guinea has the largest deposit of the mineral bauxite of any country and accounts for more than one-third of the world’s known reserves. Mining accounts for about 26% of Guinea’s GDP, which each year amounts to $1,265 per capita. Together with agriculture, mining makes up about half of Guinea’s economy. Agricultural workers are frequently self-employed subsistence farmers, and due to corruption and political unrest, the country’s mining industry is anything but stable. This could partly explain the lack of great jobs, which not only provide full-time, stable employment, but are also engaging and meaningful. In Guinea’s mining- and agriculture-oriented economy, just 2% of adults find meaning in their work. Despite its rich natural resources, most of Guinea’s residents live below the poverty line.

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4. Niger
> Pct. of adults with “good” jobs:
7%
> Pct. of adults with “great” jobs: 1%
> GDP per capita: $876
> Life expectancy: 58.4 years

Niger is adjacent to Chad and Mali, two other nations with relatively few steady employment opportunities. While just 7% of Niger’s adult population has a job with at least 30 hours a week of work and a steady paycheck, only one out of every 100 adults in the country has a job that is both steady and engaging. Nearly half of Niger’s population lives below the poverty line, and the average resident lives to be only 58 years old, some of the worst such measures in the world. The UN rates Niger as one of the least developed nations in the world.

3. Chad
> Pct. of adults with “good” jobs:
7%
> Pct. of adults with “great” jobs: 1%
> GDP per capita: $2,186
> Life expectancy: 51.2 years

Landlocked in Central Africa, Chad has long suffered from poor infrastructure, high poverty, and political unrest. Like many other African nations, quality employment is also scarce. Only 7% of the adult population is working in a job that provides at least 30 hours of work a week and a steady paycheck, the third smallest share of all surveyed countries. Only 1% of the nation’s adults have a job that is both stable and fulfilling. The lower rates of steady employment in Chad accompany high poverty rates. Roughly 47% of the country lived below the nation’s poverty line as of 2011.

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2. Mali
> Pct. of adults with “good” jobs:
6%
> Pct. of adults with “great” jobs: 1%
> GDP per capita: $1,662
> Life expectancy: 55.0 years

Only 6% of the adult population in Mali has a job that provides at least 30 hours of work a week and a steady paycheck. Just 1% of the landlocked West African nation’s adult population has a great job. Other, more traditional measures also point to poor quality of life and economic weakness in Mali. Only 33.6% of adults in the country are literate, a lower literacy rate than in all but a handful of other countries. Mali’s GDP per capita is also among the lowest in the world. Adjusting for global price differences, the nation’s GDP is $1,662 per resident. By contrast, in the United States, GDP per capita is nearly $50,000.

1. Burkina Faso
> Pct. of adults with “good” jobs:
5%
> Pct. of adults with “great” jobs: 1%
> GDP per capita: $1,481
> Life expectancy: 56.3 years

Burkina Faso residents have some of the worst job prospects in the world. Just 5% of adults in the country are gainfully employed, the lowest among countries reviewed. According to Gallup, the especially low percentage is at least partly due to the high numbers of self-employed individuals in the country. Less than 1% of adults living in Burkina Faso have completed the equivalent of high school, one of the lowest attainment rates worldwide. Poor education levels likely contributed to the relatively low numbers of full-time, well-paying occupations. While a large and growing economy by no means guarantees higher levels of full-time employment, let alone job satisfaction, economic growth in Burkina Faso may create more good, and even great, jobs. The country’s economy grew by 6.6% in 2014, one of the largest growth rates worldwide.

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