This is the first edition in an eight-week series, made possible by MYOB, discussing the future of the New Zealand workplace.

It's human nature to leer over the fence and marvel at how much better our neighbours have it.

This also plays out on a much bigger level, with Kiwis often considering whether it might be worthwhile to pack their bags and head abroad in search of an improved lifestyle.

But would it be worth it?

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As the world has become more globalised, it has become easier to compare nations and gauge which offer the best opportunities for workers.

Some differences can be stark. Take, for instance, the fact that the highest income earners among OECD countries, those in the United States, earn eight times that of their Brazilian counterparts.

While not quite as stark as this, there are also big differences between New Zealand and the rest of the developed world - and these often serve as the impetus for leaving the country.

Behind Ireland, Kiwis boast the second-largest expatriate diaspora in the developed world, with more than 14 per cent of us living abroad. For a bit of context, that's twice as much as Britain.

Meanwhile, the United States offers a meagre 0.5 per cent of its population to the globalisation effort.

Here's a first-hand rundown of Kiwis living in countries around the world:

Australia

Overall OECD rank: #3
Wages: #10
Job availability: #21
Housing affordability: #25

Victoria Constantine works in a Vintage Clothing Store in Melbourne's hip Collingwood district six days a week, as well as performing DJ sets on two evenings.

She likens the surroundings to "old Grey Lynn", beaming about Melbourne's evolution into a 24-hour city offering through the night public transport, and the government-funded "Medicare" system that makes GP visits completely free, alongside free mental health counselling sessions and a myriad of other healthcare benefits for locals.

Victoria Constantine works in a Vintage Clothing Store in Melbourne. Photo / Supplied
Victoria Constantine works in a Vintage Clothing Store in Melbourne. Photo / Supplied

Australia remains the biggest drawcard for Kiwis moving abroad, with 20,440 making the permanent move to "the lucky country" last year alone.

Despite successive government's efforts, economically speaking Australia outstrips its younger cousin to the south-east on virtually all economic metrics that benefit the workforce.

According to the OECD, Australians earn on average 32 per cent more than Kiwis, a gap that has progressively widened since 2001.

The story is similar when it comes to leave, with low-wage Australian employees receiving an additional week of leave over the customary Kiwi four weeks.

The Labour-led Government's maternity leave reforms have seen Aotearoa step ahead of Australia in the maternity leave stakes, but only by around $200 per child.

Kiwis work on average an extra 100 hours per year, while Sydneysiders enjoy an extra 584 hours in the sun, over their Auckland-based contemporaries.

Kiwis like Brisbane-based musician Reuben Bradley, originally from Wellington, also say where Australia really shines is the land of opportunity. "I'm busier than I have ever been, I'm making probably more money than I ever have, and there's some great people. I'm working with a lot of great musicians," he says.

"I miss Wellington, and New Zealand is a great scene for getting things up and running, but as far as reaching a bigger market, Australia is much better."

United Kingdom

OECD rank: #16
Wages: #11
Job availability: #12
Housing affordability: #20

The default destination for young Kiwis embarking on their European overseas experience, the UK is just a stone's throw from continental Europe with discount flights to the likes of France, Italy, Spain and Germany start as low as £1.

Our common grasp of the English language means Kiwis are in demand in the UK and Aotearoa's colonial roots grant Kiwis under the age of 30 a two-year working visa, convertible into permanent residency, through sponsorship by a local employer.

London boasts more Foreign Exchange transfers every day than any other financial hub, meaning it is often branded "The Financial Capital of the World" and its foundation of the common-law standard means its a favourite for Kiwi Law and Finance graduates.

Travelling virtually halfway round the world also pays dividends with the country rating 11 in the OECD's Wages index, nine spots ahead of New Zealand at 20.

But it's no wonder so many Kiwis spend their time in the country trying to get out of it.

The UK's nickname of "Old Blighty" isn't without reason. Not only does the UK winter regularly welcome snow to street level which can wreak havoc with everything from public transport to commerce, it also features 1 hour and 50 minutes less daylight on average each day in the thick of winter.

The overcast weather combined with everything from housing affordability sees the UK trail the land of the long white cloud on the OECD's Better life index by five points at 16.

But advertising executive Ben Ovington who has held jobs at everywhere from Harvard University to Apple Computer, says it can be a rat race that's hard to quit.

"Living in London is a very fast-paced environment, it's a global city, it's a lot more hours than I was used to in New Zealand or Australia and even if you earn a decent wage here, London can take a lot in terms of living costs," he says.

"I haven't been home in the last five years. Once you get into it, the career progression, the opportunities, it's hard to leave and I don't plan on leaving anytime soon."

Canada

overall OECD rank: #5
Wages: #7
Job availability: #10
Housing affordability: #4

Maple syrup and ice hockey aren't the only things the second largest country in the world has on offer for Kiwi migrants. More than 1,200 New Zealanders made the permanent move to Canada in 2017 - a number that increased from around 900 when musician Matt Paul shifted four and a half years ago.

"I came here for the opportunity, it's sort of an economy of scale thing, what with it being a similar culture, it's definitely an improvement in the possibilities within music, the festivals and the travel round, it really does make things a lot easier," says Paul.

The similarities between New Zealand and Canada go beyond culture. While wages sit just $10,000 a year higher than the average Kiwi wage, Canadians pay for the boost to their bank balance with just two weeks of government-mandated annual leave per year.

As with New Zealand, healthcare is also taken care of by the state.

Canadians boast the highest percentage of university graduates in the world, with more than half the population receiving tertiary qualifications.

Connie Boston, a film production assistant from New Zealand says that can make things competitive for new migrants.

"I make $259.33 (CAD) a day, which is pretty great but that is for 15 hours, and I do not get paid overtime until I work 15 hours, so that can equal a 70-hour work week most weeks," she says.

"I've worked days where I have shot for 22 hours which is brutal."

Paul agrees: "It lacks the home feel and the supportiveness that we have in New Zealand."

And while brutal, it's not insurmountable.

Kiwis work on average 58 hours a year more than Canadians and when you do eventually get that well-earned time off, just like at home, there's plenty of places to explore.

Canada tops NZ in population density with just 3.4 people per square kilometre, in contrast to New Zealand's 16.6 per square km. It also boasts the largest coastline in the world.

United States

Overall OECD rank: #8
#1 for wages
#4 for job availability
#1 for housing affordability

With no public healthcare or unemployment benefits for the 1,179 Kiwis who migrated permanently to the US in 2017, it's perhaps no surprise that almost 111 more Kiwis moved back to the homeland than left for the US.

While America can be hard work, there are notable Kiwi success stories, like Donald Trump's deputy chief of staff and Kiwi Chris Liddell.

Before putting roots down in DC, he made his home in the upper echelons of General Motors in Detroit and as the chief financial officer of Microsoft in Seattle.

In the entertainment space, consider Flight of The Concords. After failing to woo either of the main broadcast TV channels in New Zealand with their unique brand of off-beat comedy Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie took their act to the states. The pair met a TV production contract that has seen them become the most internationally renowned comedy act in New Zealand's history.

The benefits of a New York state of mind could also reap financial gains for Kiwis willing to bet on the American dream. Its high average annual salary of $70,000 means the United States sits at number one for wages on the OECD's better life index.

And while migrating to the US might not be easy, a new immigration law coined "KIWI" "Knowledge Innovators and Worthy Investors Act" largely attributed to Liddell's influence in the White House, means the door is more open than before, for New Zealand's best and brightest.

Off the beaten track

The fifth most popular country for Kiwis to migrate to according to Statistics New Zealand has been listed as "Not Stated".

These are Kiwis that have departed New Zealand and to a certain extent, dropped off the map.

However, there are plenty of other regions Kiwis are increasingly flocking to in big numbers.

Continental Europe accepted some 1762 Kiwis with 338 making their way to Germany, 281 to France, 248 to the Netherlands and 207 to Ireland.

Norway, with its paid maternity leave in excess of a year and annual work hours at 150 less than the average Kiwi, netted 188 New Zealanders.

And while it is more the exception than the rule, there are plenty of other regions where Kiwis have returned in their droves. Africa and the Middle East accepted more than 441 of our Kiwis in 2017, with 149 made heading to the UAE, and another 74 to South Africa. But 908 Kiwis also returned home.

More than 2159 Kiwis permanently relocated to Asia, but that was offset by the more than 3100 that returning to our shores.

Back to New Zealand

NZ's OECD rank: #11
#15 for job availability
#20 for wages
#21 for housing affordability

Successive governments have attempted to attract New Zealand talent back home.

However, of the more than 10 Kiwis living overseas that contributed to this project, the overwhelming inspiration for their migration was not wages, superior annual or maternity leave, healthcare, or even weather.

It was the opportunity provided by large-scale, mature economies. Market maturity, combined with our geographic isolation is something hard for any government to tackle with immediate action.

That said, Kiwis living abroad are still proud of where they're from.

While none of the Kiwis interviewed were considering a move home just yet, only one would consider trading their silver fern embossed Kiwi passport, for one from their assumed home.

Meaning while "God's Own" may not be "God's Only", there still is No Place Like Home.

Or as Matt Hall put it, from his garden in Vancouver: 'It's definitely not a grass is greener situation, it's more that it's just a different type of grass."

Midday Wednesday, the Herald will run a live panel in which experts debate how New Zealand rates in comparison with the rest of the world. Tune in to participate in the live chat.