July 22, 2019

Two-Thirds of Digital Experts Would Move Abroad for Work, a Global Study Reveals

Two-Thirds of Digital Experts Would Move Abroad for Work, a Global Study Reveals

People with Expert-Level Digital Skills Are More Willing Than Nonexperts to Relocate; They Choose the US and Germany as Top Destinations, According to a Study of 27,000 in 180 Countries by BCG and The Network

Digital experts are not only among the most in-demand talent in the world, they are some of the most willing to relocate, with two-thirds open to moving to a different country to advance their careers, according to a new study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and The Network. The US is the top country destination for digital experts worldwide, and London is their preferred city for a work-abroad assignment, according to the study.

A report based on the study, Decoding Digital Talent, is being released today as part of the ongoing Decoding Global Talent series from BCG (one of the world’s leading management consultancies) and The Network (a global alliance of more than 50 leading recruitment websites). As part of the study, BCG and The Network polled 27,000 people in 180 countries with expert-level knowledge in such skills as programming and web development, mobile application development, artificial intelligence, and robotics and engineering.

Digital experts have several things in common. Eighty percent have a college degree, and 68% are men. Contrary to popular wisdom, their top preference is working for a large company, not a startup. Just 9% are in upper management, and 41% work in positions with no management responsibilities.

Subgroups of digital experts have skills in areas where demand is growing significantly and urgently, specifically in agile ways of working (18%) and AI (14%).

On average, 67% of digital experts would relocate for a better career opportunity, but interest varies greatly by country. More than three-quarters of residents in places including India and Brazil would relocate for work, while in countries such as China fewer than one in four would consider such a move. By contrast, only 55% of nonexperts would relocate for work.

Willingness to move is highest for digital experts in developing economies, who would relocate to gain access to better opportunities to advance their careers. “When we dug deeper into the data, we also saw that in many parts of the world people with expert digital skills are most interested in moving to a nearby country or to a place where they share the language or culture,” said Rainer Strack, a BCG senior partner and coauthor of the report.

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The US and Germany Are Popular Countries for Working Abroad

In addition to the US, other top destinations for digital experts include Germany, Canada, Australia, and the UK. The same five countries are also the most popular destinations worldwide for anyone interested in relocating for work, as determined in the 2018 Decoding Global Talent study.

London, the top city globally for anyone willing to relocate, is also the top work destination for digital experts, whose next choices are New York, Berlin, Amsterdam, and Barcelona. The study’s findings make it clear that the appeal of some top-ranked cities exceeds their countries’ attractiveness among digital experts.

Digital experts appreciate having an equitable work-life balance and opportunities for learning and training over any other aspects of work, according to the study. Digital experts also put a high value on opportunities for career development, and good relationships with colleagues and managers.

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Employers and Countries Must Act to Attract and Retain Digital Experts

Digital experts who can code software or run advanced AI data analytics are a valuable asset. Companies that need digital experts to run or expand a business face stiff competition for talent with those skills. In addition to recruiting, companies can meet their need for digital experts by offering upskilling or reskilling programs to teach current employees needed skills, aligning what they offer with the organization’s broader strategies.

Likewise, cities and countries must compete with other areas to recruit or retain the digital experts who could be crucial to their economic development. Undertaking a country- or area-wide strategic workforce plan to map out digital expert supply and demand is the first step toward that effort. Governments should also launch education programs and create a city or national “brand.”

“How companies, countries, and individuals will adapt their strategies to the scarcity of digital skills will be crucial for the years to come,” said Pierre Antebi, managing director of The Network and a coauthor of the report. “Recruiters are already on the frontline of this battle. Their everyday duty is finding, attracting, and retaining digital experts in their own countries and, more and more, internationally. They need to be more inventive than ever and need data to make the relevant choices. This study and the data in it are particularly dedicated to them.”

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