Europe is top continent for professionals willing to relocate for work

21 September 2018 5 min. read

According to large survey held among 366,000 professionals in almost 200 countries, workers who choose to look for jobs overseas most often look to Europe as their ideal destination. Five of the top 10 most attractive metropolises to work in are located on the continent, with the British capital of London taking top spot, followed closely by Berlin, Barcelona and Amsterdam.

From the United States to Barbados, from Lebanon to Bosnia, and from India to Australia, in nearly every country of the world researchers at The Boston Consulting Group and recruitment firm The Network asked professionals to indicate how willing they would be to relocate to another country for their work. Across the entire population of 197 countries polled, 57% of all respondents said they would be open to move to another country for work. While that is still a sizable number, it is a decline of 7 percentage points from 2014, when 64% said they were willing to relocate for their career.

While researchers hinted that the world seems to becoming less mobile, it is impossible to divorce these results from the shifting political sentiment which has coloured the past few years. While debates surrounding anti-immigrant rhetoric relating to Brexit and the presidency of Donald Trump have impacted on their respective nations for the past two years, it now seems that similar right-wing sentiment is spreading to even the most previously hospitable countries across the globe. This is particularly evident following the Swedish general election of 2018, where the far-right gained a record share of the vote.

Willingness to work abroad

As a result, fewer individuals now feel as though leaving for a fresh start in a new country is as viable, perhaps anticipating a hostile welcome, or stringent visa conditions preventing such a move. The trend is particularly visible in larger, more populous countries. Of the 50 most populous countries in the survey, only 7 show a significantly greater interest in cross-border mobility (defined as +10%) now versus 2014, as reflected by the percentage of their population willing to emigrate, while twelve of the 50 show significant falls in the popularity of economic migration.

While protectionism and hostile border policies must take a share of the blame for this, it is also likely to relate to work itself becoming more global, with multifaceted firms opening branches in every market possible, making it less necessary for people to uproot their lives to find satisfying, well-paying jobs. Improving economic conditions could also to some extent explain the fall in willingness to relocate, as, for example, there has been a steep falloff in the desire for mobility in many central and eastern European countries, despite their membership of the EU allowing for their relocation to other member states.

Respondents in Poland, Croatia, Slovenia, and Romania are all below the mobility average after having been above it, by wide margins, in 2014. This part of the world has seen a lot of investment and most economies here are growing at rates above the global average, including the region’s consulting market, which is growing at a rate of 7%.

Two large countries which remain eager to move are India and Brazil. Despite hosting an increasingly skilled workforce, the annual median per capita income in India stands at $616, so it perhaps comes as little surprise that more than 90% of Indians would be open to relocating in search of more gainful employment. Meanwhile, as Brazil’s political crisis continues, after two years of austerity under an unelected President, it again cannot be considered especially shocking that 70% of Brazilians now say they would be willing to move to another country for the right job.Top 30 cities to work inPay was in fact relatively low ranking in terms of the major reasons for looking to relocate, according to the analysis. Among the top factors which attracted prospective migrants the most, were the relationships workers could form with colleagues, a good work life balance, and good relations with a supervisor. More conventional career-orientated pros included learning and development opportunities, the chance to develop an employee’s career, and job security, which also related to the stability of the employer, while respondents also valued interesting work.

Family life plays a role in how likely an individual is to relocate for employment. Not surprisingly, across the dataset of 366,000 professional, there is more willingness to work abroad among those who are single than among those who are married (65% versus 51%), among men than women (61% versus 53%), and among respondents in their twenties than among respondents age 60 or older (61% willingness versus 44% willingness).

Asked where they want to go to, London and New York remain the globe’s most attractive cities to go to. Berlin rises three places, so too does Barcelona. Amsterdam is the star performer, growing eleven places to take fifth spot. The top ten is completed by Dubai, Los Angeles, Paris, Sydney and Tokyo. Other European cities in the top 30 include Madrid, Vienna, Brussels, Zurich, Rome, Geneva, Munich and Stockholm.