Top 10 Best Countries in the World to Work In

Which are the best countries to work in? Which country has the best job opportunities? How does the United States compare to the rest of the world? When you measure by average salary in US dollars, the small European country of Luxembourg earns the top spot. Switzerland is next on the list, where in addition to high earnings there is a very low unemployment rate, and 20 days of vacation. The United States ranks third based on average income.

Here’s an overview of the top 10 best countries for work based on average earnings represented in US dollars. For each country, compare income, minimum wage, vacation, public holidays, parental leave, healthcare, average hours worked per week, unemployment rate, and the top industries for jobs.

1
Luxembourg

Neumunster Abbey at Lower City Grund, former battlement, old town, UNESCO Wolrd Heritage Site, Luxembourg City, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Europe
Markus Lange / Getty Images

Luxembourg a member country of the European Union, one of the smallest countries in Europe, smaller even than the state of Delaware. The four languages most commonly spoken are Luxembourgish, German, French and English. The country is divided between a rugged, sparsely populated northern plateau and southern lowlands with major cities and extensive farmlands.

Wineries are quite common with most villages containing at least one vineyard. Citizens of Luxembourg enjoy low unemployment, high wages, and a very low crime rate, but must cope with an elevated cost of living.  

  • Average Income: $60,369
  • Minimum Wage: $11.20 per hour
  • Vacation: At least 25 days
  • Public Holidays: 10
  • Parental Leave: Paid, 6 months full time, 12 months part time
  • Healthcare: Mainly state sponsored, workers contribute 5.44 percent of gross income
  • Unemployment Rate: 6.5 percent, March 2016
  • Average Hours Worked per Week: 30

Top Industries (The CIA's World Fact Book)
Banking and financial services, construction, real estate services, iron, metals, and steel, information technology, telecommunications, cargo transportation and logistics, chemicals, engineering, tires, glass, aluminum, tourism, and biotechnology.

2
Switzerland

A cog railway to Jungfraujoch
Jorg Greuel / Getty Images

Switzerland is structurally similar to the U.S., as it is a confederation of 26 cantons or states, each with local governing organizations. The country is well known for its breathtaking mountain scenery with numerous peaks in the Alps soaring above 13,000 feet. The Alps form an east-west barrier that limits colder weather systems from affecting the southern portion of the country.

Have you heard of Rumantsch? It is one of four official languages spoken, along with German, Italian, and French. Tourism is a major industry, and English is widely spoken in the commercial sectors.

  • Average income: $58,389
  • No Minimum Wage
  • Vacation: 20 Days
  • Public Holidays: 7-15 depending on the state
  • Parental Leave: 14 weeks at 80 percent of pay
  • Healthcare: Provided by private companies and paid by individuals; Insurers must cover pre-existing conditions
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.6 percent February 2016
  • Average Hours Worked per Week: 31

Top Industries (The CIA's World Fact Book)
Machinery, chemicals, watches, textiles, precision instruments, tourism, banking, and insurance.

3
United States

Manhattan
Zsolt Hlinka / Getty Images

The U.S. is the third largest country in the world behind Russia and Canada with over 9,826,675 square km of land. Due to the size and geographic variation in the U.S., the climate ranges from polar in Alaska to temperate, semi- arid, arid, Mediterranean, subtropical and tropical in Southern Florida and Hawaii. The United States has international political, cultural, and economic influence, and accounts for 25 percent of the World GDP.

  • Average income: $58,714
  • Minimum Wage: $7.25 per hour
  • Vacation: No guaranteed minimum; average from 10 -20 days based on tenure
  • Public Holidays: Average of 8, no statutory entitlement for private sector workers
  • Parental Leave: 12 weeks, unpaid through the Family and Medical Leave Act. Employers may provide additional parental leave benefits.
  • Healthcare: The Affordable Care Act is under review but currently provides protections against lifetime maximums, exclusions for pre-existing conditions and provides subsidies for low-income citizens
  • Unemployment Rate: 4.8 percent January 2017
  • Average Hours Worked: 34.4

Top Industries (The CIA's World Fact Book)
Petroleum, steel, motor vehicles, aerospace, telecommunications, chemicals, electronics, food processing, consumer goods, lumber, and mining.

4
Australia

Sydney Opera House in Sydney Harbor with downtown skyline, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Gallo Images / Getty Images

The seasons in Australia are the opposite of those in the U.S. and the northern hemisphere. Winter lasts from June-August, spring from September-November, summer from December-February and fall from March through May. Australia is incredibly rich and diverse in animal life with more than 378 mammal species, 828 bird species, 4,000 fish species, 300 species of lizards, 140 snake species, two crocodile species and around 50 types of marine mammals.

The country also offers exceptional geographic diversity including mountains, deserts, and tropical rain forests. Australia is the world's only nation which is also designated as a continent. The country is an island bordering both the Indian and Pacific Oceans as well as numerous other seas.  

  • Average income: $50,167
  • Minimum Wage: $10.90 per hour
  • Vacation: At least 20 days
  • Public Holidays: At least 7
  • Parental Leave: Eligible employees get up to 18 weeks leave paid at the national minimum wage. Employees are also entitled to 12 months of unpaid leave.
  • Healthcare: Government sponsored, national health insurance is in place funded in part by a 2 percent tax on employees. Private insurance supplements the coverage provided by the government health system.
  • Unemployment Rate: 5.7 percent, January 2017
  • Average Hours Worked per Week: 32

Top Industries (The CIA's World Fact Book)
Mining, industrial equipment, transportation equipment, food processing, chemicals, and steel.

5
Norway

Red Cabins in Reine, Norway
Brian D. Bumby / Getty Images

Norway is a wealthy country with the 4th highest per capita income in the world. The high cost of living, due in part to importing much of their food, is an influential factor in Norwegian life. Situated on a peninsula stretching 1,581 miles long, Norway is located in both the northern and eastern hemispheres.

About half of the country or 37,000 square miles lies above the Arctic Circle leading to very short days, even perpetual darkness in the winter, and long days, including midnight sun, in the summer. There are over 400,000 lakes in Norway. It is the world's largest exporter of salmon, though much of its wealth is due to large oil reserves, as the country ranks as the 10th largest oil exporter in the world.

  • Average income: $50,908
  • No Minimum Wage
  • Vacation: 25 days
  • Public Holidays: At least 2
  • Parental Leave: Paid leave at 80 percent of salary for 54 weeks or 100 percent for 44 weeks
  • Healthcare: National healthcare financed by the government
  • Unemployment Rate: 4.4 percent Dec 2016
  • Average Hours Worked per Week: 27.4

Top Industries (The CIA's World Fact Book)
Petroleum and gas, shipping, fishing, aquaculture, food processing, shipbuilding, pulp and paper products, metals, chemicals, timber, mining, and textiles.

6
Netherlands

Netherlands Windmills
Esen Tunar Photography / Getty Images

The Netherlands is an exceptionally low-lying country with about a quarter of the land mass located below sea level, necessitating a system of dikes to hold back the sea. The Netherlands is the most densely populated country in Europe with 17,016,000 people concentrated within 13,086 square miles of land.

The Netherlands is renowned for its tulips and is the world's leading exporter of flowers capturing 40.3 percent of the market for an estimated 3.2 billion dollars in sales. The official language in the Netherlands is Dutch, but about 90 percent of its residents claim proficiency in English. It was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2000.  

  • Average income: $50,670
  • Minimum Wage: $9.60 per hour
  • Vacation: At least 20 days
  • Public Holidays: At least 10
  • Parental Leave: 16 weeks at 100 percent pay
  • Healthcare: Private insurance funded by payroll taxes shared by employees and employers. Ranked #1 by the Euro Consumer Health Index
  • Unemployment Rate: 5.3 percent, January 2017
  • Average Hours Worked per Week: 27.3

Top Industries (The CIA's World Fact Book)
Agroindustries, metal and engineering products, electrical machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum, construction, microelectronics, and fishing.

7
Iceland

Reykjavik Cityscape, Iceland, Europe
Chris Hepburn / Getty Images

Iceland has over 130 active and extinct volcanoes with an average of an eruption every five years. Lava covers over 10 percent of the country. There are no forests due to early logging, climatic factors, and volcanic ash. Iceland is sparsely populated with 335,878 people spread over 103,000 square miles.

The country is small, about the size of Kentucky. Geothermal sources of energy provide about 25 percent of the country's electricity, including about 90 percent of household heat. There are no mosquitos in Iceland perhaps due to soil composition and freeze patterns, even though neighboring countries have populations of the offending bug.

  • Average income: $46,074
  • No Minimum Wage
  • Vacation: 24 days
  • Public Holidays: 13
  • Parental Leave: 13 weeks paid leave with an average compensation of 64 percent of wages
  • Healthcare:  All citizens are covered by a National Healthcare System, mostly funded through taxes with a small percentage through service fees
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.6 percent, Jan 2017
  • Average Hours Worked per Week: 36.2

Top Industries (The CIA's World Fact Book)
Tourism, fish processing, aluminum smelting, ferrosilicon production, geothermal power, and hydropower.

8
Denmark

Nyhavn, colorful harbour of Copenhagen (Denmark)
Yoann JEZEQUEL Photography / Getty Images

Denmark is an archipelago comprised of 406 islands with 4,544 miles of coastline. The country is relatively flat with the highest point being only 557 feet above sea level. It is a windy place with an average breeze of 17 miles per hour.

Denmark generates over 25 percent of its energy through wind power and is one of the world's largest exporters of wind turbines. The UN World Happiness Report voted Danes as the happiest population in the world for two years in succession due to factors including healthy life, income, freedom of choice, social support, and trust.

  • Average income: $50,024
  • No Minimum Wage
  • Vacation: 25 days
  • Public Holidays: 9
  • Parental Leave: 52 weeks of paid leave with at least partial compensation.  
  • Healthcare: Comprehensive national health system funded by the government
  • Unemployment Rate: 4.3 percent, December 2016
  • Average Hours Worked per Week: 28

Top Industries (The CIA's World Fact Book)
Iron, steel, nonferrous metals, chemicals, food processing, machinery, and transportation equipment, textiles and clothing, electronics, construction, furniture and other wood products, shipbuilding and refurbishment, windmills, and pharmaceuticals.

9
Belgium

Low Angle View Of Brabo Fountain Against Antwerp City Hall At Grote Markt
Pinghung Chen / EyeEm / Getty Images

 Belgians love their chocolate and set high standards for cocoa content and the production process to ensure quality. Belgium is also known for its fine beers, producing over 800 varieties. Belgium was the first country to legalize euthanasia and one of the first to legitimize gay marriage and elected the first openly gay prime minister. 

The country borders the North Sea and four other European countries —​ Luxembourg, Germany, France and the Netherlands. There are three official languages in Belgium —​ Dutch, French and German.

Many Belgians also speak English. Belgium is the second most densely populated country in Europe with over 11 million residents concentrated within 11,800 square miles. The gap in Belgium between men's and women's salaries is the lowest in Europe.

  • Average income: $47,702
  • Minimum Wage: $10 per hour
  • Vacation: 20 days
  • Public Holidays: 10
  • Parental Leave: 15 weeks paid leave at 75-80 percent of wages
  • Healthcare: Combination of government funded and private insurance; Payroll deduction shared by employee and employer funds government share
  • Unemployment Rate: 7.6 percent, Dec 2016
  • Average Hours Worked per Week: 29.6

Top Industries (The CIA's World Fact Book)
Engineering and metal products, motor vehicle assembly, transportation equipment, scientific instruments, processed food and beverages, chemicals, base metals, textiles, glass, and petroleum.

10
Canada

Niagara Falls at sunset
© Allard Schager / Getty Images

Canada is the second largest country in the world occupying 9,984,670 square km and featuring the world's longest coastline of 202,080 km. Canada is rich in natural resources boasting the third largest oil reserves in the world and generates the third most hydroelectric energy. 20 percent of the world's fresh water is located in Canada, and 31 percent of the country is covered by forests.

Over 60 percent of the world's polar bears live in Canada along with over 2 million caribou. Canada has the highest percentage of residents with a college degree in the world with over 50 percent of its population possessing an advanced degree.

  • Average income: $47,843
  • Minimum Wage: $8.20 per hour
  • Vacation: 10 Days
  • Public Holidays: 8
  • Parental Leave: Up to 37 weeks of unpaid time off
  • Healthcare: Single payer, government funded national healthcare system. Canada has the highest average life span and lowest infant mortality rate of developed countries.
  • Unemployment Rate: 6.8 percent, Jan 2017
  • Average Hours Worked per Week: 32.8

Top Industries (The CIA's World Fact Book)
Transportation equipment, chemicals, processed and unprocessed minerals, food products, wood and paper products, fish products, petroleum and natural gas.

Data sources include the CIA World Fact Book (industry), No-vacation USA (vacation), Health Consumer Powerhouse (health insurance), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development* (wages, hours), and Wikipedia (vacation, unemployment).

*Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development: