This feature first appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.
NOTE: Wondering where in the world to look for work? Our second article addressing this topic can be found here.
According to a report published by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a United Nations agency, as of today, 47 percent of the global population has access to the Internet. This is a four percent increase over last year. While more than half of the world's people still aren't online, Internet penetration is increasing steadily.
The number of smartphone users is also growing rapidly. As digital connectedness continues to affect more and more people and almost every aspect of our lives, the opportunities for those able to work with new technologies keep increasing.
IT skills are in demand everywhere. Suitably-skilled tech professionals are the most mobile workers in the modern global economy. They can relocate across continents in search of professional fulfilment, higher income, better work-life balance, and even adventure. To some, that mobility is essential to personal growth; for others, it may simply be the key to a needed change of scenery.
Surprisingly, the United States doesn't set the global standard in terms of offering its workers the best work-life balance. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Better Life Index, that honor belongs to Denmark. The United States is 27th in the work-life balance rankings.
Leaving one's country of origin or current place of residence to take work somewhere else comes with advantages and disadvantages. The benefits can include better job prospects, higher pay, and superior quality of life. The main drawbacks are typically leaving family and friends behind, adjusting to a different culture and environment, and, in some countries, coming up against a language barrier.
The six best countries to find work as an IT pro
Tech professionals have a wide range of countries to choose from. Since every individual's circumstances, needs, and priorities are different, what may be the best destination for one may not be so for another. That said, however, there are some countries that stand out from the rest as being highly preferable destinations in the global workplace.
The countries listed here all have dynamic IT industries and regularly hire skilled foreign IT professionals.
Switzerland is considered one of the best destinations for expat professionals as far as financial well-being is concerned. The Swiss IT industry is known for its innovative start-up firms.
- Skilled expats earn higher salaries in Switzerland than in other countries.
- The country has an impressive work culture.
- A positive work-life balance also makes it a preferred location for foreign IT professionals.
- Quality of life in Switzerland is better than in many developed countries.
- Finding suitable accommodation within your budget may not be easy. Switzerland's tight housing market keeps vacancy rates very low and rents high.
- Overall cost of living is high.
- Foreigners say they often don't feel welcomed by native Swiss.
- Switzerland isn't known for its active social scene or festive atmosphere. (Which could be viewed as an advantage by some.)
Denmark's IT industry is currently on an upswing. Over the last two years, Microsoft, IBM and other international biggies have launched or expanded tech development operations in the country.
- Denmark offers a high standard of living and a flexible work schedule. Many companies give staff the freedom to decide when they want to begin work each day.
- According to the OECD Better Life Report, workers in Denmark enjoy a better work-life balance than those in any of the other OECD countries. Employees are entitled to paid vacation of at least five weeks every year.
- Denmark offers an excellent social support system, which contributes to a good standard of living.
- Somebody has to pay for all of the nice social benefits, so taxes are high.
- Food is relatively expensive.
- Many expats also complain of a lack of a social life. (Which, again, may be attractive to some.)
Singapore is one of the world's leading technology hubs. The island city-state houses the regional headquarters of Google, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services and other IT multinationals. Its technology-driven economy is one of the most digitally connected in the world.
A sizable chunk of its workforce is employed in knowledge-based roles. As part of its Smart Nation initiative, the government is developing a Smart Nation Platform (SNP) that will leverage technology in order to enable everyone and everything anywhere in the country to be connected at all times. This will likely generate employment opportunities for application developers and infrastructure architects.
- What foreign IT pros likely value most about working in Singapore is the opportunity for career development.
- Income tax rates are low.
- Getting around is easy — Singapore is a walkable city and has an efficient public transport system as well.
- English-speaking workers needn't worry about a language barrier because English is widely spoken.
- The country has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.
- Thanks to the government's zero-tolerance policy towards littering, Singapore is squeaky clean. Strewing garbage attracts stiff fines without exception.
- The cost of living is very high due largely to steep rents, so expats often find their standard of living taking a hit. A small, relatively simple apartment can cost a lot.
- Work-life balance is poor compared to other countries. This is due to expats working closely with companies based in Europe, where the work week is longer. It is quite common for expats to log a lot of overtime. No wonder, then, that stress levels are high.
According to the recent Tech Nation report, Britain's tech industry is growing twice as fast as the economy. Prime Minister Theresa May has said her government will focus on the tech sector and "expand the scope of our digital tech industries, funding artificial intelligence, robotics, 5G, smart energy, and more."
In a move to address the growing shortage of skilled programmers, the British government has also decided to increase the number of visas granted to foreign tech professionals.
- Plenty of interesting opportunities exist for professionals interested in working in artificial intelligence, data analytics, and cybersecurity
- English-speaking workers don't need to learn another language to work in the United Kingdom.
- All foreigners on work permits have access to Britain's free National Health Service (NHS).
- Living costs are higher than in some other developed countries. Rents are extremely high in London, and fuel costs more than in the United States.
- The British weather can be depressing, particularly for people used to plenty of sunshine.
Europe's largest economy grew at 1.9 percent last year, making Germany the fastest growing G7 economy in 2016. Market research firm Marketline expects Germany's software market, which is the largest in Europe, to keep growing until 2019.
SAP, IBM, Oracle, and Microsoft have a market presence in Germany. Specialized SMEs have made the German IT industry one of the most innovative in the world.
- Job security is high.
- Germany offers better opportunities for professional growth and learning new skills than many com- parable nations.
- Rents are reasonable, as are daily necessities.
- The public healthcare system is excellent.
- Germany has a good public transportation network.
- Not knowing German can be a problem, especially if you want to socialize with locals.
- Many foreigners find Germans reserved, and difficult to befriend.
Dublin's IT industry is called Silicon Docks for a reason. Low corporate tax rates have motivated many tech majors to invest in the country, making Ireland's tech industry one of the most vibrant in the world today.
- Ireland has a low crime rate and expats generally feel safe.
- English-speaking professionals don't come up against a language barrier.
- Expats from the United States will find a more even work-life balance in Ireland.
- The Irish are friendly.
- Scarcity of accommodation is one of the primary reasons for expats wanting to work elsewhere. Though rents are high in Dublin, the short supply of apartments is what inconveniences expat professionals most of all.
- High income tax rates for those in the higher-income brackets are another disadvantage.
- The quality of healthcare is relatively poor.
Where will you end up?
There's a world out there that beckons. Where you choose to move will depend largely on what's important to you. There are plenty of opportunities, however, so if you aren't satisfied with your current situation then pack your bags, pull out a map, and explore your career possibilities.