The agriculture and fisheries sector has been revealed to have one of the highest expat employment levels globally, employing over 54 million people. 

The research comes from the experts at William Russell, which ranked over 30 countries to determine where expats have the biggest impact on their local economy. 

Expatriates, or expats, play a significant role in the economic landscapes of the countries they reside in according to William Russell.

Their contributions extend across various sectors, and a large expat workforce is often the sign of a dynamic and thriving economy.

As well as direct contributions such as taxes, expats contribute indirectly, such as by attending tertiary (post-secondary) education and helping to grow a more highly educated workforce in the long run, according to the company.

Expat contingent in sectors globally

The below table show shows the employment rate for expats within each industry. 

Rank Sector Foreign-born employment
1 Manufacturing 105,719,578
2 Wholesale and retail trade 100,043,254
3 Health and social work 56,712,621
4 Agriculture and fishing 54,725,157
5 Community, social and personal service activities 50,832,310
6 Real estate, renting and business activities 50,342,894
7 Construction 49,766,409
8 Education 46,667,747
9 Public administration and defence; compulsory social security 41,117,672
10 Transport, storage and communications 33,673,211
11 Hotels and restaurants 33,448,964
12 Financial intermediation 23,888,449
13 Private households with employed persons 6,045,655
14 Electricity, gas and water supply 5,486,395
15 Mining and quarrying 3,157,955
16 Extra-territorial organisations and bodies 164,694
Source: William Russell

As evident in the table above, manufacturing tops the list with over 105 million expats employed globally.

The industry employed more than double the number of expats globally, when compared to over 10 industries featured in the ranking.

The wholesale and retail trade industry employed the second-highest amount of expats globally, with over 100 million employed around the world. 

Agriculture and fishing ranks fourth for the number of expats employed globally.

Expats working in industries including mining and quarrying may struggle to seek work abroad, given there are only three million employed worldwide.


To estimate the countries where expats are most crucial to the local economy, William Russell analysed the following four factors:

  • Expat employment rate;
  • Expat unemployment rate;
  • Tertiary education rate (the % of the expat population with education beyond school level);
  • Revenue per capita ratio (the ratio of revenue contributed by expats to that of native-born individuals).

It found that New Zealand had the largest number of expats contributing to its economy. It has an ‘Economy Contribution Score’ of 9.31.

Source: William Russell

According to the research, New Zealand tops the list with an expat employment rate of 80.8%, even higher than native-born individuals’ employment rate (77.2%).

This indicates a thriving labour market that is inclusive and welcoming to expats, according to the study.

New Zealand has historically had expat-friendly policies, which, along with its economic stability, contributes to the high employment rate among the expat population.

The country’s demand for skilled labour in sectors like healthcare, engineering, and I.T also attract expats to work there.

Generally, employment rates are slightly higher for native-born individuals than for expats in most countries. However, there are exceptions, such as New Zealand, Poland and Hungary, where the employment rate for expats is higher than that of native-born individuals.