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Appetite for international work opportunities soars across Europe – top countries revealed

European employees have a strong appetite for international work, as almost three quarters (74%) would consider other countries for career opportunities, according to research by ADP.

  • 74% of employees in Europe would consider career opportunities abroad
  • Germany, the UK and France top the list of countries where European employees would most like to work
  • Western and Northern Europe dominate the list, making up 14 of the top 20 choices
  • UK employees least interested in working abroad

European employees have a strong appetite for international work, as almost three quarters (74%) would consider other countries for career opportunities, according to research by ADP®. The new study of nearly 10,000 working adults across Europe considers how employees feel about the future of work, international competitiveness and talent management. The survey was conducted in July 2016, after the UK referendum vote to leave the EU.

Germany (21%), United Kingdom (15%) and France (12%) top the list of the most desirable destinations to work in, whilst North America surprisingly comes much further down the list in 12th place.

  • Germany
  • United Kingdom
  • France
  • Switzerland
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Spain
  • Norway
  • Netherlands
  • Italy
  • Sweden
  • North America
  • Ireland
  • Denmark
  • Luxembourg
  • Finland
  • Portugal
  • Russia
  • Asia Pacific
  • Iceland

What makes the top countries so appealing?

Despite their popularity, Germany, the UK and France aren’t particularly strong in any of the areas measured in the survey, such as skills and development, flexible working options and stress in the workplace. In fact, according to the research, employees could have a more balanced life and interesting opportunities in countries that don’t currently rank at the top. Instead, pre-existing perceptions of the country, economic stability, distance from home country, and language skills seem to be more likely to affect preferences.

It is also likely that the UK referendum vote impacted the area considered most attractive to work. The UK was pushed into second place by Germany despite the arguably comparable, if not better, opportunities in the UK, and English being the more widely spoken language compared with German.

UK employees least interested in working abroad

Despite the overwhelming interest in international opportunities, a quarter of employees (26%) would never consider working abroad. This increases to a staggering 42% for UK employees, second only to French employees (46%). Significantly, there is also a clear difference of opinion between genders in the UK, with 33% of men and half of all women (50%) saying they would not consider working abroad. The results also demonstrate an expected trend, with younger workers being more likely to work abroad. As many as 87% of 16-24 year olds are interested in pursuing career opportunities abroad, as opposed to 56% of over 55s.

We see major differences in the desire to work abroad across UK regions. Workers from Northern Ireland are the most likely to seek international work (91%), followed by Londoners (77%), whilst over half (55%) of those from the North East aren’t interested in it at all.

Jeff Phipps, Managing Director at ADP UK, says “It is evident that Europeans have an appetite for international work. With the war for talent and broadening skills gaps being key challenges across the continent, it is essential businesses and governments work to ensure a more international workforce can be accommodated and its benefits understood and appreciated by the endemic population. Encouraging cross-border movement of talent, whilst employing people from diverse backgrounds, is crucial for ensuring global competitiveness by accessing critical skills. Integrating that diversity into the workforce is important and can, if done well, form an additional means of stimulating engagement.”


Chart 1: UK employees interested in working abroad by region

Chart 2: Most attractive countries for UK employees

About the research

‘The Workforce View in Europe 2017’ report explores the attitudes of employees toward the future of work. The research for ADP was carried out by independent market research agency Opinion Matters in July 2016. The sample consisted of 9,920 working adults in eight key economies across Europe, including France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and the UK.

The full report, The Workforce View in Europe 2017, is available on http://bit.ly/2kQFRMV or on request to your media contact.