Amsterdam remains - after London - the most beloved destination for international talent

In the battle for international talent, the Netherlands still seems to have one golden card in hand: Amsterdam. Migration for work remains a dream for many young people in rapidly growing countries. But… are we still open to them?


Sammen Qureshi-kafa on May 07, 2024 Average reading time: 4 min
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Amsterdam remains - after London - the most beloved destination for international talent

While various ways to curb immigration are being discussed at the formation table (but not right now), and the labor market is crying out for more people, including from abroad, BCG, The Network, and The Stepstone Group come with new research showing that many people from around the world are still willing to take the leap. Especially young people from countries with rapidly growing populations appear to be mobile. And they prefer to go to English-speaking countries, but – after London – Amsterdam is also a top favorite for international talent, ahead of cities like Dubai, New York, Berlin, and Barcelona.

The research, conducted among over 150,000 people from 188 countries, has a message for employers looking beyond borders for talent. Those willing to come here not only expect a good salary but also anticipate assistance with housing and a thorough onboarding process. And most important for them, as it turns out, is the feeling of being embraced by a diverse, inclusive culture. According to them, this goes beyond just speaking English together, but also involves embracing and learning from various cultural differences.

Such an inclusive international culture, which also takes into account their own personal desires, is even more important to the available talent than salary and other financial conditions, according to the research. And it extends beyond just the workplace: more than half expect the new employer to provide language training, and over a third want the employer to also assist with family integration, such as childcare, schools, and support in finding a job for the partner.

Staff shortages are expensive

The new study, conducted by, among others, BCG, follows previous research that showed, among other things, that labor migration is currently boosting the global economy by around 9 trillion (!) dollars, while the persistent staff shortages in the 30 countries examined already cost more than 1 trillion (!) dollars per year. Therefore, the International Labor Organization and the World Bank have identified migration as a priority to address these shortages. According to the Center for Global Development, it even leads to a “brain gain” for the emigration countries, and the World Bank showed that emigrants invested 669 billion in their country of origin.

2 out of 3 senior leaders see migration as a possible solution to shortages in their own labor market.

According to researchers from BCG and Stepstone, 92% of companies worldwide consider attracting and retaining talent as one of their top three priorities. Moreover, two out of three senior leaders see migration as a potential solution to address demographic-driven shortages in their own labor markets. Additionally, it’s not just about filling capacity: companies with greater diversity also appear to be more innovative and successful. According to a recent BCG analysis, they have a 75% greater chance of being among the world’s best innovators.

Many virtual mobiles

However, employers must know and understand the needs and preferences of international talent, the researchers argue. To do so, they interviewed about 150,000 people, 51% male, 49% female, the majority between the ages of 20 and 40, three-quarters with a college degree or higher. They conducted a similar study in 2014, 2018, and 2020. From this, it appears that the number of people willing to emigrate for work is decreasing significantly, but the number actively seeking work abroad is slightly increasing.

According to the World Bank, this would amount to around 800 million people actively seeking employment. Additionally, the researchers also note a growing group they call ‘virtually mobile’: people who work remotely for an employer located in a completely different country from their country of origin. Currently, about 66% of respondents say they are considering working in this ‘virtually mobile’ way, compared to 57% at the peak of the COVID-19 crisis.

The research clearly demonstrates a correlation between population growth in a country on the one hand, and the desire to work abroad on the other hand. In shrinking populations, the desire to migrate is generally low. The Netherlands is a clear example of this, as are most other European countries. In countries with rapidly growing populations, there are far more actively job-seeking individuals across borders, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa (Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda), North Africa (Algeria, Egypt), and Asia (Philippines, India).

Want to learn more?

Want to learn more? Download the entire Dream Destinations and Mobility Trends research here, where Amsterdam ranks #2.

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