Climate change drives international mobility. Spain attracts European workers seeking to escape cold, wet weather

European workers’ ideal living and working locations are undergoing a notable shift due to climate change, as revealed in a comprehensive 2023 study by Intelligence Group. This study focused specifically on European workforce preferences regarding relocation based on climate (weather) conditions.

Nonso Onowu on January 10, 2024 Average reading time: 4 min
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Climate change drives international mobility. Spain attracts European workers seeking to escape cold, wet weather

Contrary to prior expectations, countries traditionally known for colder climates, such as Finland, Sweden, and the Netherlands, are witnessing a decline in appeal among workers who want to work international. Even residents of these regions are expressing a strong likeness toward warmer destinations, marking a surprising trend, taking climate change into account where hotter countries are getting even more hot or too hot. 

This shift emphasizes the increasing significance of climate preferences in shaping Europeans’ decisions regarding their living and career choices of international mobile workers.

It goes beyond mere changes in weather patterns, significantly influencing migration within the continent. Weather conditions play a pivotal role in migration patterns, impacting decisions to relocate. Factors like extreme temperatures, varying levels of sunlight, precipitation, natural disasters, and seasonal changes weigh heavily in these decisions, underscoring the profound influence of climate change on Europeans’ lives.”

Spain’s emergence as a climate-driven migration destination

Spain has emerged as a highly sought-after destination for individuals contemplating relocation due to changing climatic conditions. According to Intelligence Group’s pooling of almost 8,800 individuals seeking employment opportunities across Europe, an impressive 35% express a keen interest in Spain as their potential relocation spot. 

The driving force behind this attraction lies in Spain’s awe-inspiring landscapes and sunny weather, which captivates the attention of prospective migrants. 

A notable trend among remote workers reveals a preference for warmer climates during winter months, returning to their home bases when temperatures soar. Spain’s ascension as a preferred choice aligns harmoniously with this factor, catering to those in search of a more temperate climate for seasonal habitation. 

Moreover, the accessibility and cost-effectiveness of intra-EU travel significantly contribute to Spain’s allure.

The average pricing of plane tickets within the EU typically ranges between €100 to €200, while train fares range from €50 to €150, facilitating seamless mobility between different European countries. 

The surge in interest towards Spain transcends its aesthetic appeal; it mirrors a broader movement where individuals actively seek environments aligning with their climate preferences, particularly prominent among the remote working community. The convenience and affordability of traversing within the EU further fortify Spain’s attractiveness as a climate-friendly haven for potential migrants. 

Top countries preferring Spain’s climate

Rank Country Percentage (%)
1 Romania 59
2 Sweden 54
3 Netherlands 48
4 Denmark 48
5 Belgium 46
6 United Kingdom 44
7 Ireland 41
8 Bulgaria 37
9 Italy 34
10 Germany 32
11 France 32
12 Hungary 28
13 Poland 28
14 Austria 17
15 Switzerland 16
16 Czech Republic 13


Iceland: A less preferred destination  

Contrary to the trend favoring Spain, Iceland emerges as a less favored destination for those considering climate-motivated migration, with a mere 4% of survey respondents indicating interest. Several factors contribute to this lesser appeal, including Iceland’s remote geographical location, harsh weather conditions, limited employment prospects, and being an expensive country.

Individual preferences play a significant role in shaping decisions regarding relocation.

However, it’s essential to acknowledge that individual preferences play a significant role in shaping decisions regarding relocation. While Iceland may not align with the preferences of a majority seeking climatic shifts, some individuals might still find its unique offerings appealing despite the challenges it presents. 

This structure aims to present a holistic view of climate-driven migration patterns, highlighting the varying implications and emerging preferences observed across different European nations, including both popular and less popular destinations like Spain and Iceland, respectively. 

Weather’s Profound Influence on Migration  

The pursuit of improved quality of life, safety, and expanded opportunities often propels individuals to seek refuge from regions grappling with severe weather conditions, such as droughts or extreme cold. Driven by the quest for stability, people migrate toward areas promising enhanced living standards and greater prospects for a fulfilling life.  

Furthermore, climate-induced alterations, like rising sea levels and shifts in agricultural landscapes, compel individuals to seek more conducive living environments. The search is for places where they can survive and thrive.

Predicting the scale of future migrations due to these changes presents significant challenges. Factors such as population growth, poverty, and socio-political issues complicate estimations. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) projects around 25 million to one billion individuals migrating by 2050. The gap in range highlights the complexities and unpredictability of these shifting migration patterns. 

Climate-Driven labor mobility in the EU: Implications and policy considerations

The anticipated influx of environmental migrants into the EU labor market extends beyond demographic changes. This shift could trigger alterations in workforce composition, skill demands, and geographic preferences for job opportunities within the EU.  

Adjusting policies to support adaptation, skill enhancement, and employment opportunities in regions affected by environmental changes is crucial. These measures aim to minimize potential disruptions in the labor market. There’s a pressing need for proactive strategies that aid the smooth integration of incoming populations seeking refuge due to environmental challenges. Adapting to these changing workforce dynamics amid environmental shifts is paramount. 

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