Australian expats are the wealthiest in the world, with 20% earning more than $200,000 USD, according to new research.

They are in an exclusive club, as only 11% of expats earn this kind of money, the annual expat report from the Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation has found.

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Another 10% of Australian expats earn more than $300,000 USD compared to the 5% average, and many of them are bankers, which may explain their high earnings. Indeed, some 20% of Australian expats work in the finance industry compared to 17% globally.

The research shows that the UK remains the most popular destination for Australians, with 30% of expats opting to live there, followed by China, Hong Kong and the United States of America all at 6%.

Overall, Asia is drawing more expats. Globally, the survey found 14% of expats in Asia earned more than $250,000 USD, compared to 5% in Europe.

China is also proving to be a big draw. The survey found that 24% of expats in China were earning more than $300,000 USD, which is the highest proportion of any country.

An HSBC executive, Graham Heunis, said with economic conditions remaining subdued in traditional expat locations such as the UK and Europe, Australians in particular are being tempted to work closer to home, with more seeing potential large earning possibilities in Asia.

‘This year Asia is the place to be for high salaries, lifestyle and affordability, and Australians have been quick to capitalise on the opportunity,’ he said, adding that swapping London and New York for higher incomes in Shanghai and Singapore is proving a popular move for Australians.

‘With Australia’s future economic prosperity linked to Asia, it’s no surprise that Australian workers are prioritising countries in Asia, particularly China where Australians are one of the most dominant expat communities. China’s importance to Australia cannot be overstated, so it makes sense for Australians to increase their exposure and connectivity with the Chinese market,’ Heunis pointed out.

But not all Australians are happy working abroad. The survey found that 33% of Australian expats were considering moving back home, with 37% unhappy with the current state of their host country’s economy.

One example is marketing manager Vanessa Ballauff, who returned to Sydney in December after six years in London. She said upon her return she noticed Australians had a very strong work ethic which was an attribute international employers were looking for.

She said she wouldn’t rule out moving overseas again for another stint, but for at least the next two years she was happy to be back in Australia.