Decoding Global Talent

Decoding Global Talent

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Decoding Global Talent

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    Workers' Increasing Mobility

    A willingness to work abroad has become the new normal, at least among people looking for new job opportunities, who represent the majority of the survey’s participants. One in every five participants already has international work experience, and almost 64 percent said they would be willing to go to another country for work. (See Exhibit 3.)


    In some countries, the eagerness to work elsewhere is impossible to miss. Mihaella Ciornei, a 23-year-old account manager at a securities firm in Romania and part-time anthropology student, says a lot of her friends have left to look for overseas opportunities. “They’re all over Europe, they’re in America, Australia,” she says. “They want to see the world. They are gone.” Ciornei already has a mother living in Italy and a sister living in France, and she herself is among the 81 percent of Romanians who say they would be willing to work abroad.

    The proportion of people willing to work abroad is particularly high in countries that are still developing economically or are experiencing political instability. For instance, more than 97 percent of Pakistanis say they’d be willing to go abroad for work.

    But there is also a very high willingness to work abroad in some countries that aren’t struggling with major political upheaval. For example, about 94 percent of survey respondents in the Netherlands say they would consider moving to another country for work. In France, where the economy has been showing signs of stagnating, the same proportion (94 percent) is willing to leave home at least temporarily. “Depending on the project, I’m ready to pack a bag and go tomorrow,” says Alexis Sebaoun, a 29-year-old engineer living in Marseille who has already worked in Spain, Argentina, and the UK in his short career.

    On the other hand, people in the U.S., Germany, and the UK—three economies that have rebounded more convincingly—aren’t nearly as willing to go abroad for work. Barely a third of U.S. respondents say they’d consider the idea, and only about 44 percent of those in the UK and Germany say they would be interested in taking a job in another country. The reasons for the lower numbers differ, but many people in these countries say economic stability and the comfort of home keep them from considering a job abroad.

    Movement of Youth

    In most countries, young people are more mobile than their older compatriots. One of the biggest differentials is in the U.S. At 59 percent, Americans 21 to 30 are far more willing than Americans in general to consider opportunities abroad, possibly because of the difficulty many of them have had in getting their careers started in the wake of the financial crisis. Partly in reaction to this, many educated young Americans now consider nontraditional starts to their careers, for instance, through temporary overseas assignments with nonprofits like Teach for All.

    Young people in Germany are much more conservative about the idea of working abroad; while there is a difference in the willingness to do so between younger Germans and the country as a whole, the difference is a relatively small 8 percentage points. (See Exhibit 4.) This may be explained by Germany’s singularly strong performance in the wake of the financial crisis and its aura of economic security. The country has the lowest unemployment rate in Europe for people under 25.

    More and Less Mobile Occupations

    People who work in engineering and technical jobs—in the information technology and telecommunications fields, in particular—are the most likely to say they would be willing to go abroad (roughly 70 percent of engineers say this). The world is hungry for what these workers have to offer, and engineers may in turn sense that they have a chance to significantly increase their earnings by going to places where there is a high demand for what they do, such as Silicon Valley in the U.S. and Silicon Roundabout in the UK.

    At the lower end of the mobility spectrum are those in the medical and social work fields. Only about half of the workers in these highly regulated areas say they would be willing to go abroad for work. This may be a cause for concern in the many countries facing physician and social-worker shortages in coming years. Indeed, some countries are embarking on programs to attract qualified health-care workers from abroad. Germany, for instance, is tapping the Asian labor pool for Vietnamese workers willing to learn a new language, emigrate, and work as elder-care nurses in rural areas of Germany.