US Falls Behind Canada as a Work Destination, and Pandemic Lowers Mobility, in Global Workforce Study

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The FINANCIAL — Asia-Pacific Countries Rise in the Rankings, According to a Survey of 209,000 People in 190 Countries by Boston Consulting Group and The Network; Changes in Popularity Reflect Countries’ Success in Managing Coronavirus. The US has lost its status as the place foreigners would most like to work, with Canada now regarded as the top destination, according to a new study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and The Network. The study shows that the pandemic has had a major impact on people’s attitudes toward work abroad, reducing their interest generally and inclining them toward countries that have done the best job of containing the coronavirus.

A report based on the study is being released today. Decoding Global Talent, Onsite and Virtual is the third core publication based on BCG and The Network’s ongoing research into worker mobility and worker preferences.

Only about 50% of people are willing to move to another country for work, according to this year’s survey, which included almost 209,000 participants in 190 countries. That’s down from a 64% willingness level in 2014 and 57% in 2018. The lower willingness to relocate was expressed by respondents in nearly every country in the world.

“Restrictive immigration policies have already weakened the mobility trend,” said Rainer Strack, one of the authors of the study and a senior partner at BCG. “COVID is a new variable that is making people cautious about considering international relocation. And with the rise of remote working, many may feel that they can further their careers virtually, without needing to move at all.”

Almost all of the countries that moved up in the top ten rankings have a relatively low incidence of COVID-19 cases. That includes Canada, Australia (now number three among global work destinations), and Japan (now number six). In addition, two Asia-Pacific countries that have won praise for their public health response—Singapore and New Zealand—appear on the list for the first time.

Concerns over the coronavirus response in Europe contributed to a decline for many previously popular destinations. Germany and France each fell two places in the rankings. Italy and Spain fell off the top ten list altogether.

Attitudes toward the world’s most famous cities likewise reflect their countries’ coronavirus responses. New York, Barcelona, Rome, and Madrid are now considered much less attractive as work destinations than they were in 2018. Tokyo and Singapore have increased in attractiveness, as have Dubai and Abu Dhabi, in the likewise less-hard-hit United Arab Emirates.

A New Kind of Mobility

While there is less willingness now to pull up stakes and move to a foreign country, the survey shows a high level of enthusiasm for the model of staying in one’s home country while working for a foreign employer. Fifty-seven percent of people say they are willing to do this, and when remote international work is the question, the US switches places with Canada and is again number one.

The overall openness to virtual work is especially high among people in the information technology and digital fields. Seventy-one percent of people with digital or analytics backgrounds said they would be willing to work for a company with no physical presence in their own country. So did 67% of people with IT and technology backgrounds. Among people with master’s degrees or above, the willingness quotient was likewise high: about 62%.

“Hiring people from other countries is not a new practice for employers,” said Pierre Antebi, a co–managing director of The Network and one of the report’s authors. “But the trend of remote working makes it possible to do it on a broader scale and expand the available talent pool. There’s also an upside for workers, who can advance their careers without uprooting their lives.”

The report describes the challenges companies face in offering remote international employment—including cultural integration and the securing of visas—and highlights some early solutions.

The data gathered for Decoding Global Talent, Onsite and Virtual provides insights into worker attitudes by gender, age, education level, level of digital skills, and position in the job hierarchy. This data will be at the core of two more reports that BCG and The Network will publish in the coming months as part of this year’s research. The second report will focus on new work models in the wake of COVID-19, and the third will explore changes in people’s career prospects and expectations.

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