Special Report

You Don't Want to Work Abroad in These Wealthy Countries

Source: KavalenkavaVolha / Getty Images

11. Czech Republic
> Foreign-born unemployment rate: 2.5%
> Foreign-born participation rate: 81.4%
> GNI per capita: $37,580
> Population: 10.6 million

In a report measuring quality of opportunities, inclusiveness, and other immigration factors, the Czech Republic ranks as one of the least attractive countries for foreign workers in the OECD. One of the largest factors deterring immigrants may be the poor job market for foreign-born workers. Some 9.8% of them are employed in low-skilled occupations, nearly twice the 5.2% share of native-born workers who are employed in low-skilled occupations.

The Czech Republic is one of several Eastern European countries where anti-immigrant rhetoric associated with a newly elected nationalist government may be scaring off talented foreign workers. In a recent survey by the Czech Public Opinion Research Centre, roughly 70% of Czechs stated that the Czech Republic should not accept refugees from war-torn countries in 2017, an increase from 50% in 2015.

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10. Iceland
> Foreign-born unemployment rate: 5.1%
> Foreign-born participation rate: 87.0%
> GNI per capita: $55,190
> Population: 353,574

One factor deterring immigrants from finding work in Iceland may be the lack of opportunities for foreign workers there . While 51.4% of native Icelanders work in high-skilled jobs, for example, only 37.0% of foreign-born residents do — one of the largest disparities of any OECD country.

A recent investigation by the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service found that foreign workers in Iceland are more likely to be exploited than locals, particularly in the tourism industry. In one instance cited in the report, foreign workers were regularly working 220 hours per month for less than minimum wage, while paying 50,000 ISK ($400) to share a room with up to nine other workers.

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9. Hungary
> Foreign-born unemployment rate: 4.6%
> Foreign-born participation rate: 75.2%
> GNI per capita: $29,500
> Population: 9.8 million

Hungary ranks as one of the least attractive countries for foreign workers in the OECD. One factor deterring foreign nationals from seeking work in Hungary may be the strict immigration policies imposed by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Orbán’s government has erected barriers to immigration, both legal and physical, including limits on work permits and a razor-wire fences along its border with Serbia and Croatia. According to local observers, restrictions on immigration have stoked anti-immigrant sentiment in the country. Foreign-born residents currently constitute just 2.2% of the working-age population in Hungary, one of the smallest shares of any country in the OECD.

Source: KavalenkavaVolha / Getty Images

8. Latvia
> Foreign-born unemployment rate: 7.7%
> Foreign-born participation rate: 74.8%
> GNI per capita: $30,270
> Population: 1.9 million

While some 13.1% of the native-born working-age population in Latvia has a bachelor’s degree or equivalent level of education, just 8.1% of the foreign-born working-age population do — one of the largest disparities of any country with available data. Similarly, while 41.4% of native workers are employed in high-skilled jobs, such as managers, professionals, and technicians, just 33.7% of foreign-born workers are.

Foreign workers in Latvia are also likely to encounter discrimination and unfair treatment. According to a May 2019 report published in the open access volume The Emigrant Communities of Latvia, one in three Latvian migrant workers have experienced discrimination at work, and one in five report being paid less than their native-born coworkers for similar work.

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7. Poland
> Foreign-born unemployment rate: 4.7%
> Foreign-born participation rate: 76.6%
> GNI per capita: $30,140
> Population: 38.0 million

In a report measuring quality of life, inclusiveness, and other pull factors for immigrants, Poland ranks as one of the least attractive countries in the OECD. One factor deterring potential migrants may be the poor job market for foreign workers. Some 4.7% of Poland’s foreign labor force is unemployed, far more than the 3.9% unemployment rate for the native labor force.

Similar to what’s happening in nearby Hungary, anti-immigrant rhetoric stemming from the nationalist Law and Justice party, which came to power in Poland in 2015, may also discourage foreigners from moving there. Party leader Jarosław Kaczyński, for example, has made frequent outspoken pronouncements against Muslim migrants. Foreign-born residents now constitute just 0.9% of the working-age population in Poland, the second smallest share of any OECD country.

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