Benefits around the world

Broadly speaking, in Asia help during sickness and old age falls to the family, in the US you save for yourself and in Europe the state is more active, Vicki Taylor provides some country specifics

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UK-based employees may gripe about income tax rates, the benefits provided by their employer and a lack of public holidays, but how do their employment conditions really shape up against other countries?

Yvonne Sonsino, a principal at Mercer HR Consulting, believes most UK-based employees have little to grumble about, especially if they work for a large employer. She would like to see more flexible working to suit family needs.

"[However] comparing employee benefit provisions across the world is not something you can really do in isolation. You must factor in state benefits and other reward elements [that] play a balancing role in the overall package," she adds.

Nevertheless, looking at what benefits employees get around the world makes interesting reading.

United States

Like the UK, the US offers defined benefit (DB) and defined contribution (DC) pension schemes. The most popular DC-style scheme is the 401(k) plan, where staff pay in their money, decide how to allocate it and bear all of the investment risks.

DB pensions have been steadily declining for the last 20 years.

A generous company-sponsored healthcare plan is valued by employees in the US. Employees often place healthcare benefits ahead of retirement perks in assessing the value of their overall benefits package.


A popular benefit in Argentina has always been luncheon tickets that provide staff with a free midday meal.

According to data from Mercer HR Consulting, 92% of executives in Argentina have a company car compared with 40% in Chile and 91% in Brazil. Free fuel is received by 90% of Argentinian executives.

Most employers offer staff and their families some sort of health plan, funded through a combination of employer and employee contributions.


All employees in Mexico receive a mandatory Christmas bonus of 15 days base pay. It is not unusual for many employers to pay another 15 days on top.

All companies are expected to distribute 10% of their profits between their employees.

After a year of service, employees are entitled to six days annual leave plus public holidays. This increases by two days for every year worked until the employee has four years’ service, when it reduces to an additional two days for every further five years worked.


Employers in Nigeria are required to maintain a life insurance policy for employees at a rate of three times salary.

Private sector employers with more than five employees are obliged to provide a pension for staff, to which the employer and employee must each contribute 7.5% of salary.

Loans are another common benefit offered by employers to help supplement typically meagre earnings.


State-run healthcare is fairly basic so the typical Russian benefits package offers private medical insurance as well as life cover.

Pensions are still uncommon, but state reforms and recruitment issues mean it is the benefit to watch in the future.

Channel Islands

Set at a flat rate of 20%, income tax can be half that of mainland United Kingdom.

Supplementary employee-sponsored pensions are not compulsory by law.

Tax on some flexible benefits is relatively high – many are taxed at 20%.

New Zealand

Salary is the core method of remuneration in New Zealand.

Generally speaking, there are no special tax incentives for retirement plans.

Employees are entitled to a minimum of three weeks holiday after the first year of employment. This will be increased to a minimum of four weeks from 1 April 2007.


A mandatory benefit known as Tramonto di Fine Rapporto (TFR) is paid when an employee leaves an organisation, regardless of whether this is due to resignation, termination or retirement.

On 1 January 2008, new regulations will be introduced to redirect the TFR to an externally-funded retirement pot. Employees can opt out of the redirection if they wish.

Perks such as meal vouchers, mobile phones and company cars are also popular.


Income tax is high in Belgium – the top rate is set at 50%.

Employers offering a defined contribution pension scheme must provide a guaranteed investment return of 3.25%.

Since 1 January 2005, employers pay tax on a company car based on its CO2 emissions, regardless of the distance travelled.

From 1 January 2010, employees in a pension scheme will no longer be able to surrender their pension and take a lump sum before the age of 60.


The most significant employee benefit is the absence of income tax – there is none to pay whatsoever.

The rest of the employee benefits package is fairly standard. Besides salary and paid holiday leave, many employees receive a car or transport allowance and critical illness cover. Some employers also help with schooling and housing costs, though this tends to be mainly for expatriates.

Instead of a pension, staff receive an end-of-service gratuity linked to service and salary, handed over as a lump sum. Local workers also receive a state pension.