Jobs and the Future of Work

These countries are the most attractive for foreign workers

Toronto skyline stands on the waterfront before Alphabet Inc, the owner of Google, announced the project "Sidewalk Toronto", that will develop an area of Toronto's waterfront using new technologies to develop high-tech urban areas in Toronto, Ontario, Canada October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Number one stays put. Image: REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Alex Gray
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Future of Work

If you had to move abroad for work, where would you most like to go?

According to the latest edition of the Boston Consulting Group’s Decoding Global Talent, workers are most likely to want to head to the United States, Germany or Canada.

Although just under half say they would prefer not to move to another country.

The most appealing destinations

Countries where workers would most like to move to Image: Boston Consulting Group

Despite recent policy changes that are less than welcoming towards immigrants, the US remains the most attractive country for foreign workers.

It is the number one choice of people living in Latin America, the Caribbean, and sub-Saharan Africa, and second among workers from the Middle East and North Africa and Europe.

Germany has replaced the UK in second position. According to the report, workers from countries like Spain, Denmark, Poland, and Romania who were previously keen on the UK, now have their eye on Germany. The country has welcomed many foreigners in recent years, and has a booming economy.

Canada, with an immigration policy that welcomes the young and well educated, providing they can speak English or French, is third. According to the 2016 census, more than one-fifth of the Canadian population was born in another country. The majority of new immigrants (60%) were admitted under an economic category.

Australia, in fourth place, has appeared in the top five for the first time. Workers living in the UK said Australia was their preferred destination, while those in India and South Africa put it second.

Have you read?

The UK has dropped three places since 2014, and now sits in fifth position. Political turmoil following the nation’s Brexit vote is largely responsible for its dip in popularity. Even people who already work there are thinking of leaving. According to a survey last year, one-third of all non-British workers in the UK are looking to leave within the next five years.

However, despite the UK’s decline in popularity, London remains the world’s number-one city for foreign workers to move to.

Spain, France, Italy, Switzerland and Japan make up the remainder of the top 10, with France and Switzerland both dropping places.

Fewer workers want to move

Compared to four years ago, overall people are less keen to move abroad for work. While over half (57%) said that they would relocate, this is a noticeably smaller proportion than in 2014, when almost two-thirds (64%) of respondents said they would be happy to move.

This is particularly the case in China, where a booming economy means that workers don’t have to look elsewhere for a job, and also in Eastern European economies that are experiencing stronger growth.

Tighter immigration controls – in the US and elsewhere – could also be partly responsible for the decline in interest in moving abroad for work.

“It could be that the world is becoming less mobile. Or it could be that work itself is becoming more global, making it unnecessary for people to uproot their lives to find satisfying, well-paying jobs,” suggest the authors of the report.

Preferred countries to move to for work by location Image: Boston Consulting Group

However, not every country saw a drop in enthusiasm among workers for a cross-border move. More than 90% of Indians and 70% of Brazilians now say they would be willing to move to another country for the right job, up significantly since 2014.

Willingness to work abroad has also increased substantially in the US and UK, perhaps as a result of the seismic political shifts seen there in recent years.

Decoding Global Talent is an international survey of labour trends and work preferences of 366,000 people in 197 countries.

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Related topics:
Jobs and the Future of WorkUrban TransformationEconomic Growth
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