Across the United States, out of work employees are struggling to find new jobs while workers unhappy with their current positions are hesitant to leave, fearing that they will be unable to find something better. Worst of all, most economists forecast the U.S. unemployment rate to remain high for at least the next several years. One possible solution for job seekers: consider relocating overseas to countries with low unemployment rates and a need for skilled workers. (Understanding the business cycle and your own investment style can help you cope with an economic decline. Find out more in Recession: What Does It Mean To Investors?)
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Countries with Low Unemployment Rates
The recent recession has been global in nature, meaning that many countries worldwide have experienced elevated unemployment rates. Nevertheless, there are still countries with reasonably robust employment. These countries generally fall into three broad categories.
- The first group includes European nations with relatively strict laws against firing employees. These countries also have relatively stringent hiring laws, so finding a job here may be somewhat difficult. However, most of these countries are pleasant places to live, are safe and offer unmatched recreational and cultural opportunities, which means that the effort required to relocate to these places may be well worth it in the end.
According to the International Monetary Fund and the CIA World Factbook, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark and Austria currently have unemployment rates significantly lower than the United States. In fact Norway, with its oil wealth, had an unemployment rate last year of only 3.3%, roughly 1/3 of the United States' current 9.7% reading. (The misery index measures a combination of unemployment and inflation, but what does it mean for your finances? Fin out, in The Misery Index: Measuring Your Misfortune.)
- Rapidly growing Asian countries - such as Thailand, Singapore, Macau, South Korea, Malaysia and Hong Kong - comprise the second group of countries job seekers might consider. Relocating to these countries may represent somewhat more of a "culture shock" to workers used to living in America; however, the exotic nature of these places may also turn a stint overseas into a true adventure. Additionally, Asian economies are among the fastest growing and most dynamic in the world; time spent there can be exciting and carry the feel of working and living where the action is. Even Japan has an unemployment rate of only approximately 50% that of the U.S.
Although Japan has not grown rapidly in the last ten years and is considered to be one of the most expensive places in the world to live, it is still one of the world's largest economies, and a very safe place to call home. (If you think an exotic locale may be just the place for you, read Get A Finance Job Overseas to find out how to make it happen.)
- The third group of countries to consider is small, relatively sheltered economies that may be wealthy due to natural resources or tourism. Many of these countries do not report economic data on a timely basis, so unemployment reports are relatively dated. Nevertheless, the most recent reports available, combined with anecdotal evidence, suggest that countries such as Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Lichtenstein, and a host of off-shore tax shelters such as the British Virgin Islands may still be places where it is possible to find a job.
Although many of these countries' economies are less well-diversified than those in larger nations, if any of these destinations sound appealing to you, they might be worth a further look, particularly if you work in tourism, financial services, or natural resources. (This widely watched indicator of economic well-being also directly influences the market. Find out more in What You Need To Know About The Employment Report.)
Factors to Consider
The first and most important thing to consider is whether or not the country in question would be an enjoyable place for you and your family to live, for a period of time. Factors such as the stability of the country's government, the underlying strength of the country's economy, and the safety of the country (crime, terrorism, etc.) are all important considerations.
Additionally, many countries give preference to domestic workers by requiring foreigners to obtain a work visa. As work visas can often be difficult to obtain, examine closely the visa requirements of the countries you're considering. Also, remember that if you have a visa obtained from your employer, your residency in the country may be contingent upon your working at that company. If you quit (or are fired) you may lose your visa, and may have to move home in relatively short order. (Before you jump on the plane, understand the rules and regulations in place. Find out more in You CAN Afford To Study Abroad.)
The Bottom Line
With the U.S. economy struggling, now may be an attractive time to consider relocating overseas. This article has briefly examined several countries with relatively robust labor markets. Use this article as a starting point, and then draw up a short list of countries you and your family might consider moving to. Research your choices thoroughly, and if you eventually wind up taking a job overseas, you could be in for the adventure of a lifetime. (Don't let a shoestring budget trip-up your vacation plans. Find out more in Globetrotting On A Budget.)