The RSM Global Talent Movement Survey

At RSM we’re passionate about supporting and empowering our clients – wherever they are in the world. To achieve this, we rely on local expertise combined with the collective knowledge, vision and resources of our global professionals.

One of the issues which crops up time and again for our clients around the world is that of talent movement. How best can they attract top employees from around the world? And where are talented employees most likely to move to?

Knowing the answers to questions like these can help companies to retain market leaders and attract new employees to join their workforces. With this in mind, we conducted a survey involving 1,000 professionals from 20 countries across the globe.

A focus on people

An international representation 

Our survey respondents were located in the following nations:

Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Russia, Singapore, Spain, South Korea, Turkey, the UK and the USA

When it came to occupations, our respondents were in the following positions:

  • C-Suite – 9.9%
  • Senior Management – 15%
  • Middle Management – 27%
  • Unemployed – 15.98%
  • Other – 10.3%


Motivations for Moving

The first topic that the survey covered was the question of why people moved from one country to another in order to work. The number one factor, according to our respondents, is the chance to lead a new lifestyle. This is closely followed by the desire to find better opportunities for their families. In other words, our respondents see a good work-life balance as being of key importance.

Cost of living was also a popular reason given by respondents, showing that they were looking at the practical considerations of living abroad. Similarly, financial incentives were often cited as a reason for potentially moving. And, finally, the weather was a high-ranking factor, reinforcing the finding that quality of life is an important consideration for people considering the leap to working in a foreign country.


Motivations by country

The motivations respondents had for moving were highly dependent on the country they currently lived in. The breakdown of the top reason for wanting to work abroad by existing country of residence is as follows:

  • Australia – New lifestyle 12%
  • Brazil – Financial incentives 11%
  • Canada – Cost of living 11%
  • China – New lifestyle 10%
  • France – New lifestyle 11.5%
  • Germany – New lifestyle 11%
  • Hong Kong – Better opportunities for families 14%
  • India – New lifestyle 10%
  • Indonesia – New lifestyle 10%
  • Italy – New lifestyle 10%
  • Japan – Cost of living 10%
  • Mexico – Better opportunities for families 12%
  • Netherlands – Weather 11%
  • Russia – New lifestyle 11%
  • Singapore – Better opportunities for families 10%
  • South Korea – New lifestyle 11%
  • Spain – Cost of living 12%
  • Turkey – Financial incentives 10%
  • UK – Weather 12%
  • USA – Cost of living 15%

Interestingly, respondents in the UK and the Netherlands were most likely to cite the weather as their reason for potentially moving for work.

The results according to age and gender

Women respondents were more likely to want to move abroad for better family opportunities and the lower cost of living, while men were motivated by the chance of a new lifestyle and potential for better weather.

If we break down the results by generation, the 18-25 and 45-54 groups were most likely to want to move abroad for a new lifestyle. Those in the 25-44 group were more likely to move for better family opportunities. For those over 54, the main drawcard which would entice them to another country was financial incentives.

Most sought-after areas

The most sought-after location in the world, according to our survey, is Sydney. This is a city that ticks so many boxes – weather, lifestyle, family opportunities – that it’s easy to see why it is such a popular choice.

The next most selected locations, New York and Paris, also fulfil multiple criteria in that they offer a good balance of financial incentives and lifestyle.

London was the fourth most chosen location thanks to the financial incentives on offer to top talent. The oft-maligned weather and relatively high cost of living did little to deter respondents from selecting this city.


A focus on businesses

Perceived barriers to moving


Managers looking to attract top international talent might be particularly interested in our findings concerning the perceived barriers that countries face. These were the reasons that our respondents gave as to why it was difficult for them to attract talent to their companies. The breakdown was as follows:

  • Australia – Tax 16%
  • Brazil – Cost of investment in appropriate technology 18% 
  • Canada – Cost of living 18%
  • China – Cost of investment in appropriate technology 30%
  • France – Tax 18%
  • Germany – Language barriers 20% 
  • Hong Kong – Lack of opportunities 12%
  • India – Tax 16%
  • Indonesia – Pension fears 16% 
  • Italy – Tax 18%
  • Japan – Tax 14%
  • Mexico – Visas 20%
  • Netherlands – Tax 14%
  • Russia – Lack of future job prospects 14% 
  • Singapore – Cost of living 24% 
  • South Korea – Tax 14%
  • Spain – Cost of investment in appropriate technology 18% 
  • Turkey – Cost of investment in appropriate technology 16%
  • UK – Uncertainty after Brexit 32%  
  • US – Tax 12%  

As can be seen, tax, the cost of investment in appropriate technology and the cost of living are the biggest perceived barriers to attracting new talent globally.

Perceived barriers by age and gender

Women business leaders are more likely to perceive the cost of investment in appropriate technology as a barrier to attracting talent. Men, on the other hand, were more likely to opt for high tax rates or pension fears as their perceived barriers. When it came to age groups, for those over 54 the biggest perceived concern when attracting talent was the difficulty of arranging visas.

Global talent movement

Overall, the survey reinforces the need that businesses around the world have for international talent. In many cases, it can be difficult to surmount obstacles such as the weather or high taxation rates, but financial incentives and the chance of a new lifestyle can prove to be strong draws that might encourage professionals to move.

For more information, please get in touch. And if you’re interested in topics like this, please bookmark our blog.  

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