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International brain drain: workers looking overseas for a better job in some key markets

Posted on June 23, 2011
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Countries still reeling from the global recession could be set to become employment ‘ghost towns’ as more than a quarter of workers say they are willing to move overseas to find a better job – according to GfK International Employee Study, a new international report from GfK Custom Research.

The question was asked in 17 of the 29 countries covered by the major international study and found that more than a quarter of the workforce questioned (27 per cent) is willing to move to another country to find better employment.

And it is the young, qualified employees who are most likely to feel this workplace wanderlust: two fifths (41 per cent) of workers aged 18-29 agreed they are willing to move countries to find a better job, while that figure is one in three for degree holders (32 per cent) and nearly one in four for PhD holders (37 per cent). This is compared to just a fifth of employees educated to secondary-school level (22 per cent).

Dr. Ingrid Feinstein at GfK Switzerland comments, “Our findings indicate a risk of ‘brain drain’ in the coming year, posing significant problems for companies and countries looking to recover from the downturn. Both blue collar and white collar workers show a quarter of their number willing to look overseas for work, and that figure rises for the higher educated workers. Crucially, a third of people in R&D roles are also willing to look overseas – the very roles that many countries identify as key to recovery.”

Latin America is hardest hit

Unsurprisingly, the findings show that Central and Southern America look set to be the hardest hit of the markets covered. Nearly six in 10 Mexican employees (57 per cent), half of Colombia’s workforce (52 per cent) and two fifths of staff in Brazil and Peru (41 and 38 per cent respectively) are ready to look across borders for better careers.

But the trend is far from limited to developing markets. Other markets coming in at the top of the 17 countries asked about willingness to move countries to find a better job include: Turkey in 3rd place with 46 per cent, Hungary in 7th place (33 per cent), followed by Russia (29 per cent) and – coming in with 9th equal – Portugal and the UK with 27 per cent each.

Even the US and Canada – countries traditionally stereotyped for their relative disinterest in living abroad – face a fifth of their workers saying that they are ready to move countries to find a better job, at 21 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.

As well as countries needing to guard against brain drain across borders, there is a warning for companies too, with more than one in four workers intending to leave their employers within 12 months.

Of those, one in three is already actively looking for a new job (35 per cent) and one in five (18 per cent) looking to move in the next six months. Just eight per cent of employees are looking to wait until the economy is more secure.

The situation looks particularly worrying for Columbia and the USA, where around half (55 per cent and 47 per cent, respectively) of their workers are actively looking to move jobs. At the other end of the scale, Brazil and Belgium face a far more stable retention environment, with only 15 per cent of workers actively looking to change employers.

Today’s globalized and fluid labor market

Explaining the figures, Dr. Ingrid Feinstein, continued:  “The findings highlight just how globalized and fluid the labor market has become in many countries.

The truth remains that, for many employees, moving country is no more daunting than moving company. Companies looking to recruit, engage and retain the best staff need to compete, not just will rivals in their own nations and markets, but from right around the world.

The research also reveals that employees in multinational organizations are those most likely to look elsewhere. This suggests that allowing employees to work overseas is not just a perk but a valuable retention tool.”

For more news and updates, assistance with your visa needs or for a Free Assessment of your profile for Immigration or Work Visa’s just visit www.y-axis.com

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