The Best Cities for Working Less and Earning More in 2021

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By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Updated: 11 January 2021

We power the world’s most productive economy, but are US workers some of the weariest? A fifth of private employers still don’t offer their employees paid vacation time, and we’re the only developed nation with no legal entitlement to it.

And, while wage growth is flat, we’re apparently busier than ever. 62% of American office workers now say they usually eat their lunch in the same spot they work all day. If that sounds like you, do yourself a favor and don’t read the next part (especially if you’re eating) – scoffing down lunch at your desk can expose you to more bad bacteria than a toilet seat.

There has to be a better way for millennial workers to make a living. Aren’t the French known for taking long lunch breaks and lots of time off? Could moving abroad be the key to earning more while working less?

Inspired by this hunch (and a generous helping of population and wage data, courtesy of Deutsche Bank and UBS), we researched the cities that offer young workers great pay, amazing hours and ample annual leave.

You might be surprised by who came out on top!


Luxembourg to London: The Top Ten

Nestled snugly between Belgium, Germany, and France, land-locked Luxembourg's workers are in jobs as cushy as its country's location. With big salaries and and almost five weeks of paid vacation, Luxembourgers have it good.

Capital cities are known for being for hubs of industry, and our data suggests there's little to buck that trend. With the capitals of Germany, France, Finland, Denmark, Italy, Ireland, Norway, and the UK all well-represented in our list, it's no surprise that it's where our best talent is always headed.

It's also worth pointing out that Europe overall did well in our list – not a single city from outside the continent got a sniff.

Over-worked Americans – time to relocate?

RANK

City 2017 Monthly Net Salary (USD) Working Hours Per Year

Paid Vacation Days Per Year

1

Luxembourg 4292 1,703

32

2

Munich 3180 1,721

29

3

Paris 2583 1,604

29

4

Helsinki 2620 1,659

29

5

Lyon 2269 1,631

29

6

Copenhagen 2958 1,697

25

7

Rome 1791 1,736

32

8

Dublin 2603 1,770

31

9

Oslo 3154 1,744

25

10

London 2776 1,740

25


Beijing to Bangkok: The Bottom Ten

Actually, our data suggests that the worst country for working less and earning more is Indonesia – specifically its capital, Jakarta.

Indonesia's core hub of industry ranks bottom overall, and fourth from bottom for salary, with an average monthly wage of just $548. 12 days paid vacation isn’t the worst by any stretch – that distinction goes to the three days paid leave in Sao Paolo – but it’s not outstanding.

Young adults across Asia have little to be happy about in general, with five of the bottom ten cities ranking poorly for pay, holiday time and hours worked.

Oh, and we hate to break it to you heliophiles, but the culture-rich, sun-soaked cities of Latin America aren't exactly places to go if you want lots of money… or long vacations. Cities from Colombia, Chile, Mexico, and Argentina are all to be found in the lower echelons of our list – although the mid-table statuses of Brazil's Rio de Janeiro and Peru's Lima do something to buck the trend.

But hey, at least the empanadas are amazing!

RANK City 2017 Monthly Net Salary (USD) Working Hours Per Year

Paid Vacation Days Per Year

60

Beijing 1322 1,963

10

61

Santiago de Chile 833 2,082

17

62

Mumbai 788 2,277

21

63

Istanbul 683 2,043

18

64 Shanghai 1336 2,051

7

65

Nairobi 340 2,184

22

66

Mexico City 685 2,261

17

67

Bogotá 430 2,096

15

68

Bangkok 812 2,191

9

69

Jakarta 548 2,102

12


An American Perspective

We don't feature in the top ten or the bottom ten… so just how did US cities fare when it comes to that holy grail of work-life balance?

Unsurprisingly, the Big Apple is the country's top contender, ranking at 13th overall with a whopping average salary of $4,304 – the third largest on the list, after Swiss powerhouses Zurich and Geneva.

Miami and Los Angeles jostle for similar mid-table rankings, while Chicago is the lowest ranking American city, at place 41.

Canadian cities probably deserve some credit here, too – Montreal (33) and Toronto (44) both hold their own with modest working hour quotas, and decent pay.


Work-Life Balance: Our Complete Rankings

Check out the full list of cities below to see if yours made the cut. And the next time you find yourself in the office at 9pm with a lap full of spreadsheets and sandwich crumbs, remember that you can always ditch the rat race…

…and buy a one way ticket to Luxembourg!

RANK City 2017 Monthly Net Salary (USD) Working Hours Per Year

Paid Vacation Days Per Year

1

Luxembourg 4292 1,703

32

2

Munich 3180 1,721

29

3

Paris 2583 1,604

29

4

Helsinki 2620 1,659

29

5

Lyon 2269 1,631

29

6

Copenhagen 2958 1,697

25

7

Rome 1791 1,736

32

8

Dublin 2603 1,770

31

9

Oslo 3154 1,744

25

10

London 2776 1,740

25

11

Vienna 2045 1,678

27

12

Frankfurt 2626 1,757

28

13

New York City 4304 1,847

27

14

Moscow 999 1,647

31

15

Geneva 5817 1,859

27

16

Milan 1737 1,691

26

17

Barcelona 1709 1,731

28

18

Berlin 2216 1,769

29

19

Stockholm 2622 1,770

25

20

Tallinn 1224 1,738

30

21

Sydney 3451 1,829

24

22

Vilnius 877 1,716

30

23

Zurich 5876 1,912

24

24

Madrid 1588 1,731

26

25

Dubai 3526 2,186

30

26

Prague 1033 1,753

28

27

Brussels 2140 1,717

18

28

Warsaw 975 1,757

26

29

Lima 1599 1,957

31

30

Rio de Janeiro 639 1,745

30

31

Doha 3518 2,082

24

32

Sao Paulo 722 1,818

31

33

Montreal 2240 1,783

18

34

Lisbon 964 1,748

23

35

Ljubljana 1348 1,853

25

35

Bratislava 1164 1,845

26

36

Miami 2571 1,854

19

37

Manama 1203 2,076

34

38

Los Angeles 3237 1,928

14

39

Nicosia 1486 1,855

22

40

Johannesburg 1650 1,847

19

41

Chicago 3622 2,030

14

42

Athens 776 1,800

23

43

Seoul 2698 1,934

15

44

Toronto 2560 1,985

19

45

Auckland 2762 1,992

16

46

Bucharest 721 1,807

23

47

Tokyo 2897 2,055

17

48

Budapest 812 1,910

26

49

Kiev 359 1,817

26

50

Riga 816 1,823

20

51

Sofia 718 1,821

22

52

Tel Aviv 2545 2,038

17

53

Hong Kong 2715 2,606

17

54

Buenos Aires 838 1,899

16

55

Kuala Lumpur 987 1,935

15

56

Manila 555 1,951

21

57

Taipei 2050 2,141

13

58

New Delhi 654 2,214

26

59

Cairo 178 2,082

25

60

Beijing 1322 1,963

10

61

Santiago de Chile 833 2,082

17

62

Mumbai 788 2,277

21

63

Istanbul 683 2,043

18

64 Shanghai 1336 2,051

7

65

Nairobi 340 2,184

22

66

Mexico City 685 2,261

17

67

Bogotá 430 2,096

15

68

Bangkok 812 2,191

9

69

Jakarta 548 2,102

12

As always, thanks for reading!

And, now you've fallen into our intricate rabbit hole of fun, city-related content, why not dive even deeper? You can explore the best and worst cities for commuting (the US is certainly well-represented in the latter – we're looking at you, Miami!), as well as the world's top tech cities.

Rob Binns
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.