Global Job-Seekers Look Abroad While Older Americans Stay Put

A massive study suggests that 64 percent of job seekers worldwide are willing to leave their countries to work. The results challenge the stereotype that young people are more willing to move than their elders. In countries such as Russia, China, and Greece, workers under 30 say they’re less willing to move than are their older compatriots.

The study—a joint effort of the Boston Consulting Group and Network, an online recruiter—surveyed more than 200,000 people from 189 countries on a variety of subjects, including what would prompt them to move and where they would want to go. What emerges is a fascinating portrait of global mobility that offers insight into a variety of cultures and the lingering impact of the financial crisis. In Europe, for example, 94 percent of French job seekers are willing to work abroad, while only 44 percent of Germans say they would move. Germany’s strong economy and low unemployment rate may be factors keeping people at home, not to mention the dearth of opportunities in neighboring countries. France, in contrast, has seen unemployment figures rise and its economy stagnate.

Political strife continues to motivate job seekers, with such countries as Pakistan, Jamaica, and Saudi Arabia reporting high numbers willing to leave. Americans, on the other side, remain some the least mobile people on the planet, with only 35 percent saying they’d be willing to move abroad for work. Given the breadth and size of the economy, simply moving across the country may seem disruptive enough.

What’s surprising is the stark generation gap: Some 59 percent of U.S. millennials say they would be willing to work abroad. One reason may be the higher youth unemployment rate. Another may be the fact that so many young Americans now start their careers in nontraditional ways, from “Teach for America”-style apprenticeships to startups.

The study also highlights the vast differences in what motivates a worker to take a job. The most important draw for American respondents is a company’s financial stability, which also ranks at the top for job seekers in Russia, the Ukraine, and Zaire. Canadians and the French most want a good relationship with the boss. Having a good relationship with colleagues, on the other hand, ranks first among the British, Dutch, Germans, and Nigerians. For Americans, that consideration doesn’t even rate among the top five. Meanwhile, career development matters most to respondents from China, Mexico, and Algeria. For Russians, the top consideration is salary.

While the survey points to an increasingly fluid and mobile workforce, the places they want to go to remain surprisingly traditional. The most attractive destinations for job seekers are Canada, the U.S., France, Germany, and Italy. Such faster-growing economies as China, India, and Brazil don’t even show up, suggesting a disconnect between where the jobs are and where job-seekers wish they could be. (London, the most popular city for job seekers, continues to struggle with a high youth unemployment rate, even as the overall economy has recovered.)

And what doesn’t woo workers these days? A company car. On the BCG survey, it ranked at the bottom of 26 factors in what motivates people to pick a job.

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