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The Best Cities for Pay & Work-Life Balance Based on Job Industry

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Are you thinking about moving to a new city for work? This guide is here to help you find the best cities for pay and work-life balance based on your job industry.

Many people are worried about their quality of life and the cost of living. We understand this concern and have gathered information about the best cities to work in 2023, considering both salary and work-life balance.

We’ve used data from reliable sources and our own studies to provide you with the most accurate information. Here’s what we will cover in this guide:

  • Why Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and New York are top cities for work-life balance and salary.
  • Best cities for different professionals, including business, sales, marketing, law, tech, and accounting.
  • Tips on how to ask for a higher salary in 2023.
  • How employers can make pay more clear and fair.
  • How to legally write off debt and how much debt is too much.

We know that moving to a new city is a big step, especially when you just moved out of your parents’ house and are wondering how much that can set you back. Some of our team members have done it, and we understand the challenges and rewards it brings. We’re here to support you and help you make the best choice for your future. Let’s dive in and explore the best cities to work in 2023.

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Copenhagen, Amsterdam and New York are the best cities for work-life balance and salary in 2023

Top 5 best global cities for pay and work-life balance

Rank Cities Average salary data Average number of jobs available (across 6 industries) Cost of living index Work-life balance rating Happiness rating Overall Score
1 Copenhagen $44,474 306 65.5 8.6 7.6 6.2
2 Amsterdam $44,367 724 59.5 8.3 7.4 6.1
3 New York $71,401 7,646 100 5.2 7.0 6.1
4 Oslo $46,196 92 62.3 8.5 7.4 6.0
5 Zurich $82,191 338 94.8 7.7 7.5 6.0

Copenhagen is officially the place to work for the best work-life balance and paycheck. With an overall average salary of $44,474 in the city, coupled with the city’s high work-life balance rating of 8.6 – it’s clear to see why the city tops the list.

Amsterdam follows in second place, with employees in this city expecting to make an average of $44,367, coupled with a low cost of living score of 59.5.

New York, Oslo and Zurich make the top 5 best cities to live in for work-life balance and pay, with salaries ranging from $71,401 to $46,196 and work-life balance scores ranging from 8.5 to 5.2.

Top 5 worst global cities for pay and work-life balance

Rank Cities Average salary data Average number of jobs available (across 6 industries) Cost of living index Work-life balance rating Happiness rating Overall Score
1 Beijing $18,366 1,530 41.6 N/A 5.6 2.1
2 Lisbon $13,887 194 43.7 6.7 6.0 2.3
3 Budapest $12,664 209 32.9 7.6 6.1 2.3
4 Dubai $50,853 415 57.2 N/A 6.6 2.9
5 Hong Kong $34,271 1,100 70.6 N/A 5.4 3.0

When analysing the data for the worst cities for work-life balance and pay, Beijing (2.1), Lisbon (2.3) and Budapest (2.3) are in the top 3.

These cities have low average annual salaries ranging between $12,664 to $18,366, as well as a low number of job opportunities ranging from 194 jobs to 1,530 jobs available per job industry on average. 
Despite this, the top 3 worst cities have some of the lowest cost of living scores, with figures ranging between 32.9 to 43.7.  

Dubai and Hong Kong also rank in the 4th and 5th worst cities for pay and work-life balance, despite better average salary ranges between $34,271 to $50,853.

These cities fall short when it comes to their happiness scores (6.6 and 5.4, respectively) and their cost of living scores relative to the city’s average salaries (ranging from 57.2 to 70.6).

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So, which are the best cities to live in for the best work-life balance and pay based on your job industry? 

Amsterdam is the best city for business professionals, followed by Copenhagen and Vienna

With a thriving start-up scene, Amsterdam is officially the best city for business professionals – with an average salary of $89,796, over 1,550 jobs available on Linkedin and a high work-life balance score (8.3), it’s easy to see why.

Following suit is Copenhagen, with an even higher work-life balance score (8.6) and happiness rating (7.6) than Amsterdam, and with a higher average salary for business professionals at $79,196.

Vienna, New York and Berlin make the top 5 list, with average business manager salaries in these cities ranging from $114,223 to $67,901.

New York also notably has the highest number of jobs available for business managers out of anywhere analysed at 15,468 jobs available.

Rank City Salary data(Business Manager) USD Number of jobs available on LinkedIn (Business Manager) Cost of living index Work-life balance rating Happiness rating Overall score
1 Amsterdam $89,796 1,550 60 8.3 7.4 6.6
2 Copenhagen $79,196 761 66 8.6 7.6 6.5
3 Vienna $114,223 518 46 6 7.2 6.4
4 New York $100,494 15,468 100 5.2 7.0 6.1
5 Berlin $67,901 2,238 55 8 7.0 6.0
6 Zurich $118,219 798 95 7.7 7.5 6.0
7 Oslo $64,857 211 62 8.5 7.4 6.0
8 Luxembourg City $77,231 418 63 7.4 7.4 5.9
9 London $62,750 11,861 72 5.6 6.9 5.8
10 Stockholm $46,501 738 54 8.1 7.4 5.8

Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo are the best cities for sales professionals

With a high average salary of $69,456 and a high work-life balance rating (8.6), Copenhagen officially ranks as the best city to live in if you work in sales. 

Stockholm, Oslo and New York follow suit, with high average salaries for sales managers spanning from $84,038 to $61,511. Zurich notably has the highest salary for sales professionals ($130,812), whilst New York, London and Berlin have the highest job prospects with over 14,000, 7,000, and 2,000 jobs available respectively. 

Rank City Salary data(Sales Manager) USD Number of jobs available on LinkedIn (Sales Manager) Cost of living index Work-life balance rating Happiness rating Overall score
1 Copenhagen $69,456 497 65.5 8.6 7.6 5.7
2 Stockholm $61,511 639 54 8.1 7.4 5.6
3 Oslo $76,910 177 62.3 8.5 7.4 5.6
4 New York $84,038 14,511 100 5.2 7.0 5.5
5 Luxembourg City $79,242 106 62.5 7.4 7.4 5.2
6 Zurich $130,812 493 94.8 7.7 7.5 5.0
7 Amsterdam $80,854 931 59.5 8.3 7.4 4.7
8 Budapest $20,822 240 32.9 7.6 6.1 4.6
9 London $61,803 7,338 72.1 5.6 6.9 4.6
10 Berlin $53,903 2,486 55 8 7.0 4.5

Amsterdam, New York and Copenhagen are the top cities for marketing professionals

Amsterdam, New York and Copenhagen are all officially the top cities for marketing professionals (all with an overall work-life balance and pay score of 6.4). With nearly 7,000 marketing jobs available in New York alone, and the second highest salaries among all of the cities ($113,173), it’s understandable why it’s the best city to work in.

Amsterdam and Copenhagen are also among the highest in the work-life balance ratings (8.3 and 8.6, respectively), making it clear that they are ideal cities for marketing professionals.

Zurich also notably has the highest salary for marketing professionals out of all the cities analysed ($113,569)

Rank City Salary data(Marketing Manager) USD Number of jobs available on LinkedIn (Marketing Manager) Cost of living index Work-life balance rating Happiness rating Overall score
1 Amsterdam $72,409 1,054 59.5 8.3 7.4 6.4
2 New York $113,173 6,929 100 5.2 7.0 6.4
3 Copenhagen $73,925 363 65.5 8.6 7.6 6.4
4 London $64,899 6,843 72.1 5.6 6.9 6.3
5 Oslo $72,573 111 62.3 8.5 7.4 6.2
6 Berlin $53,914 1,991 55 8 7.0 6.0
7 Zurich $113,569 355 94.8 7.7 7.5 6.0
8 Brussels $75,480 799 50.9 7.7 6.8 6.0
9 Stockholm $52,299 394 54 8.1 7.4 5.9
10 Luxembourg City $74,401 91 62.5 7.4 7.4 5.9

London is the best city for Lawyers, followed by Oslo, and Berlin

With an abundance of legal career prospects, London has officially earned the title of being the best city for lawyers, with over 3,000 job opportunities on LinkedIn and an average salary of $90,158.

Oslo and Berlin follow in second and third place, mainly due to their high work-life balance rating (8.5 and 8 respectively) as well as the high average salaries ($98,818 and $107,839 respectively).

New York notably has the highest salary of all the cities analysed, with Lawyers expecting to earn $141,051 there.

Rank City Salary data(Lawyer) USD Number of jobs available on LinkedIn (Lawyer) Cost of living index (city) Work-life balance rating Happiness rating Overall score
1 London $90,158 3,462 72.1 5.6 6.9 6.6
2 Oslo $98,818 11 62.3 8.5 7.4 6.4
3 Berlin $107,839 249 55 8 7.0 6.4
4 New York $141,051 3,210 100 5.2 7.0 6.3
5 Amsterdam $77,924 298 59.5 8.3 7.4 6.3
6 Zurich $134,595 99 94.8 7.7 7.5 5.9
7 Luxembourg City $77,845 195 62.5 7.4 7.4 5.9
8 Stockholm $48,957 35 54 8.1 7.4 5.8
9 Brussels $71,610 162 50.9 7.7 6.8 5.7
10 Madrid $53,920 159 43.4 8.4 6.5 5.6

Amsterdam is the best city for tech professionals, followed by Copenhagen and Berlin

With one of the lowest costs of living ratings (59.5), it’s easy to see why Amsterdam is a great place to live if you’re a tech professional, especially with salaries of over $120,000. On the other hand, with a generous salary average of $94,545, you can also see why tech professionals might choose Copenhagen, not to mention the country’s happiness rating of 7.4.

Coming in third, Berlin is also the most attractive in terms of the cost of living (55) and work-life balance (8) for tech professionals. 

Rank City Salary data(Tech Project Manager) USD Number of jobs available on LinkedIn (Tech Project Manager) Cost of living index (city) Work-life balance rating (country) Happiness rating (country) Overall score
1 Amsterdam $128,785 188 59.5 8.3 7.4 6.9
2 Copenhagen $94,545 123 65.5 8.6 7.6 6.4
3 Berlin $95,444 348 55 8 7.0 6.2
4 London $73,761 2,477 72.1 5.6 6.9 6.2
5 Oslo $79,060 29 62.3 8.5 7.4 6.0
6 Zurich $134,212 141 94.8 7.7 7.5 5.9
7 Stockholm $52,343 113 54 8.1 7.4 5.7
8 Madrid $70,824 174 43.4 8.4 6.5 5.7
9 Vienna $84,625 90 45.7 6 7.2 5.6
10 Luxembourg City $74,716 70 62.5 7.4 7.4 5.6

Copenhagen is the best city for accountants followed by Amsterdam and Zurich

Copenhagen is officially the best place to work for accountants, with an average salary of $100,811 and a high work-life balance rating of (8.6).

Amsterdam and Zurich follow in second and third place, with high average salaries ranging from $134,586 to $71,778.

New York ranks 8th on the list for accountants and offers the most job opportunities, with over 4,500 jobs available in the city.

Rank City Average salary(Senior Accountant) USD Number of jobs available on LinkedIn (Senior Accountant) Cost of living index Work-life balance rating Happiness rating Overall score
1 Copenhagen $100,811 55 65.5 8.6 7.6 6.6
2 Amsterdam $71,778 324 59.5 8.3 7.4 6.1
3 Zurich $134,586 142 94.8 7.7 7.5 6.0
4 Berlin $69,150 297 55 8 7.0 5.8
5 Oslo $60,201 10 62.3 8.5 7.4 5.7
6 Stockholm $52,302 92 54 8.1 7.4 5.7
7 Luxembourg City $70,256 275 62.5 7.4 7.4 5.7
8 New York $89,059 4,539 100 5.2 7.0 5.7
9 Vienna $81,892 63 45.7 6 7.2 5.6
10 Madrid $55,852 103 43.4 8.4 6.5 5.4

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How to negotiate a higher salary in 2023

Negotiating a higher salary is a crucial part of any career, but it can be particularly difficult in today’s rapidly changing and competitive job market. 

We spoke to a range of HR inclusion experts to reveal how employees should negotiate a higher salary.

They also shared more on how employers can create a culture of pay transparency.

1. Prepare examples that illustrate contributions to your company

Scott Nelson, Finance Expert at MoneyNerd, comments, “Prepare to prove how your contributions have had a positive impact on the company, and also how you can provide more value in the future.”

Sean Butcher, People Development & Culture Consultant from Reflect Consultancy, says, “Re-familiarise yourself with your job description and go through this responsibility by responsibility and competency by competency, grading yourself against each of these.

Keep records of manager feedback during any one-to-ones and performance reviews that you’ve had, and incorporate this within your evidence.”

Mo Kanjilal, Employee Engagement expert at inclusion consultancy Watch This Space, comments, “Do the preparation and make notes on your achievements… do some research to understand what people in comparable roles are paid.”

2. Ask your employer for transparency on pay data

Now comes the tricky part – negotiation! While this might be a nerve-wracking moment, it’s important to be confident and assertive while also remaining respectful and professional

Amy Spurling, Founder & CEO at work perks software company ComptHQ, says, “There are ways to negotiate without feeling confrontational (i.e. ‘I want more, so here’s what I want you to give me’). 

Approach this by asking a company what their compensation range is, provide justification for where you land and what would push you into a higher bracket, and then confirm that everyone at your level is paid the same.”

When it comes to your company being transparent about pay data, Spurling argues, “It is totally okay to ask your company to explain its compensation philosophy upfront.

Ask them for the data set upon which they base roles, and ask them for transparency.

If a company is unwilling to give that to you, that is a good indicator they have a pay gap internally and should be your warning flag to walk away.”

3. Leverage job offers to negotiate better compensation

Be willing to negotiate and compromise with your employer, but also be willing to walk away if your needs aren’t met.

Scott Nelson, Finance Expert at MoneyNerd, comments, “Your employer may be willing to compromise more if you present other job opportunities you’ve been presented with. If you have received offers from other companies, use those offers as leverage to negotiate better compensation from your current employer.

“In the same vein, if you’re dealing with debt, understanding how to get a default removed can be important for your wellbeing, ” he adds.

It’s important to be careful not to use this as a threat against your employer [but] instead as an opportunity to continue negotiations and come to mutually beneficial terms.”

4. Don’t forget your wider employee benefits

Paul Lewis, Chief Customer Officer at job search engine Adzuna, comments, “A large pay cheque is all well and good, but it’s only part of the package. Initiatives like childcare support, enhanced parental leave, extra paid time off, or a great pension deal have very real financial benefits.”

5. Be confident in your industry knowledge

Mo Kanjilal, an Employee Engagement expert at Watch This Space, argues, “66% of people find work conversations challenging, and one of the top subjects people struggle with is their salary.

Have an open conversation with the right person who can make a decision (on your pay) and keep your pace and tone calm. Be confident in your own worth.”

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How can employers create a culture of pay transparency?

What should be done about employees who don’t agree their compensation is fair?

We spoke to Dr. Liz Kofman-Burns, Ph.D. Sociologist and co-founder of HR consultancy Peoplism about how employers can become more transparent in order to create a more robust culture of pay transparency.

1. Examine the makeup of your workforce by pay, department and demographics

“If you have limited time and resources, your first step should be to examine the makeup of your workforce by pay band, department, and demographics. You should also look at how long people are in a role before being promoted and see if there are any disparities.

If you see major disparities in these areas, you need to address your hiring and promotion processes.”

2. Understand whether your organisation has an unadjusted or adjusted pay gap

“If high-paying roles in your company (e.g. leadership) are currently filled by majority groups, and lower-paying roles (e.g. admin assistant) are filled by minority groups, there’ll be a high unadjusted wage gap – which can drive feelings of unfairness about pay.

Your organisation could also be facing issues with an adjusted pay gap, whereby one group of employees are being paid more to do the same or similar jobs to another group of employees.

Investigate if this is happening, and if so, consider setting or reestablishing current pay bands, and make one-time adjustments so that everyone is being paid equitably for doing the same job.”

Whether you’re an employer or an employee, it’s crucial to prioritise looking at evaluating your salary against current industry standards.

This also involves understanding the legal aspects of finance, such as how to write off debt legally.

For more information on money advice, saving tips and how to find the best debt management companies, head to the MoneyNerd debt information hub.

Methodology

To calculate the best cities in the world for work-life balance and pay, we analysed 25 global cities and calculated the ranking by analysing the following data points:

Could you legally write off some debt?

Answer below to get started.

How much debt do you have?

This isn’t a full fact find. MoneyNerd doesn’t give advice. We work with The Debt Advice Service who provide information about your options.

The authors
Scott Nelson Profile Picture
Author
MoneyNerd’s founder, Scott Nelson, has a decade of financial industry experience, including 6 years in FCA regulated loan and credit card companies. Troubled by a lack of conscience in the industry, he founded MoneyNerd to give genuine advice to those in debt and struggling financially.
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Debt Expert
Janine Marsh is an award-winning presenter and a valuable member of the MoneyNerd team. With a wealth of experience as a financial expert, she's been featured on BBC Radio 4, BBC Local Radio, and BBC Five Live, and is a regular on Co-op Radio.