What Makes People Want to Work Abroad? Brain Drain Potential from European Countries (+infographic)

The willingness of people from Central and Eastern Europe to travel abroad for work is quite high. Only three out of ten employees from this region completely rule-out the option of working abroad. Almost half the CEE region’s employees declared a willingness to travel abroad for work, either for several weeks or months, or a longer period. But they are more choosy about the job offers. Men are significantly more interested in working abroad than women. The survey is part of PAYLAB COMPENSATION MONITOR which observes on regular basis trends related to remuneration.

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This is the result of the international Work Migration Abroad survey, carried out by the Paylab.com salary comparison portal in 11 CEE countries on a sample of 35,476 respondents.

According to the survey, 28% of employees in the CEE region would be willing to work abroad for a shorter time, i.e. several weeks or months. But almost a fifth (19%) said they would be willing to stay and work abroad for even more than one year.

Of the countries surveyed, employees from the Czech Republic, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Poland show the most interest in working abroad. While employees from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Slovenia prefer short-term jobs taking several weeks or months, the Balkan countries (Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina) are much more inclined to work abroad for longer than one year. Employees from the Balkans are much more flexible in accepting any work they can find. Compared to other countries, Serbs and Bosnians appear to have the least worries about the language barrier and unknown environment. In contrast, employees from the Baltics (Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia) have a somewhat lower willingness to travel abroad for work. They are also more demanding of the offered job and agreed working conditions.

What makes people want to work abroad?

The biggest driving force is higher salary, which is the most important motivator for labour migration. Other reasons include interesting career opportunities, as well as the opportunity to acquire new work experience and improve language skills.

When considering working abroad for a longer time, many people would appreciate the option to take family members with them, since separation from family and friends is the biggest impediment, especially for people aged 25-44, who are more likely to have families with young children. Another important decision factor for about a fifth of employees is the employer's help with the process of relocation, especially organisation and administration.

Working abroad mainly attracts experts and specialists

An interesting finding is that working abroad is more attractive to people with university education (54%), compared to those with secondary education with school-leaving exam (45%). While people with lower education are less demanding of offered work, and about half would take any job offered, the vast majority with a higher level of education prefer to work exclusively in the field or profession they perform at home.

Working abroad mainly interests people working in IT, construction and real estate, administrative and support services, finance and banking, health, and social services.

It should also be noted that working abroad has the biggest appeal for employees who earn above average in their home country. In terms of the level of job positions, working abroad is interesting for qualified technical personnel (53%), lower and middle management (54%), and top managers (52%).

Paylab knows the average salaries of employees for more than 600 job positions in CEE countries. It prepares salary analyses for employers in various sectors.

Working abroad is attractive for older employees too

An interesting finding is that working abroad is not only an issue among young people. Naturally, the willingness to travel abroad for work was the highest among people aged under 34 - more than half of millennials would take the opportunity to work abroad. However, even among employees aged 35-44 (41%), 45-55 (36%), and over 55 (31%), a relatively large proportion of people declare a willingness to travel abroad for work.

Older employees have more life experience, often have grown-up children, and working abroad can be an interesting opportunity to increase income. More mature people are also better at dealing with long-term separation from their family and friends compared to younger people. On the other hand, older employees have a bigger language barrier than their younger counterparts, and more concerns regarding the deterioration of health abroad

Barriers to labour migration

The most prominent factor affecting the willingness of employees to move abroad for work is clearly long-term separation from friends and acquaintances. This barrier was mentioned by almost half of respondents from CEE countries. Communication in a foreign language is an impediment for a quarter of people. About a fifth of employees are afraid of an unknown environment, and about 15% also expressed concerns about being discriminated against and disadvantaged in the workplace. Less significant obstacles are travelling (8%) and the fear of health deterioration abroad (7%).

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About the survey

The survey is part of PAYLAB COMPENSATION MONITOR which observes on regular basis trends related to remuneration. The international Work Migration Abroad survey was carried out online by the international Paylab.com portal through local salary comparison portals, managed by Paylab in 11 CEE countries (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina). The survey was conducted online in the local languages of the respective countries in November and December 2016 on a sample of 35,476 respondents.


Daniela Beráková, Pribinova 25, 811 09 Bratislava, Slovakia

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