Tom Wilkinson, former CEO, AXA - Global Healthcare

Female expats losing out to gender pay gap

PUBLISHED: 11 November 2019 | LAST UPDATED: 24 June 2024

New independent research reveals a significant disparity between the salaries of men and women across popular expat destinations

New independent research by AXA – Global Healthcare has found that nearly two-thirds (62%) of men have enjoyed a higher salary since becoming an expat, compared with just half (53%) of women. Of those surveyed, the countries where expats were most likely to say their salary had improved were Hong Kong (85%), the UK (66%) and the UAE (66%). However, within each of these countries, there was a clear gender divide.

The UAE showed the biggest difference, with 90% of men reporting an increase in salary, as opposed to 70% of women. In the UK, 71% of men saw an increase compared to 61% of women. However, there was only a slight difference in Hong Kong, with 67% of men and 66% of women receiving higher salaries.

Even before relocating, it seems that men and women have different expectations as to how their salary might benefit. More than a quarter (27%) of men moved abroad specifically for better pay and benefits, compared with just one-in-five (18%) women. In contrast, more than twice as many women (11%) relocated for their partner’s work than men (5%).

Tom Wilkinson, CEO, AXA – Global Healthcare commented: “Taking on an international assignment often comes with a wide range of perks and benefits. For many people, the prospect of a higher salary can be particularly appealing, but it’s not everyone’s main priority. Learning a new language or experiencing other cultures can be just as rewarding. Identifying what you want to gain and how you want your expat experience to benefit your career is key to starting any move on the right foot.”

After completing their assignments, half of the women (52%) surveyed said they would remain in the country they’re currently living in and continue working, in comparison with just two-in-five (43%) men. Instead, a third (32%) of men and a quarter of women (25%) would continue to work abroad by taking another international assignment elsewhere. A fifth (19%) of men would also return to their home country, compared with just 13% of women. 

Tom Wilkinson concluded: “Every expat’s priorities are different, but whatever you’re looking to get out of your time abroad, there is potential for a huge amount of both personal and professional enrichment. I would encourage anyone living abroad to embrace the opportunities available to them; work and lifestyle, alike.”

The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing.