Australia most desired destination for global expat workers

04 June 2024 4 min. read

Australia has been named as the most desired destination for expat workers according to a new study from Boston Consulting Group, ranking ahead of the United States and Canada for the first time.

Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study, conducted in conjunction with The Stepstone Group, surveyed more than 150,000 workforce respondents in 188 countries worldwide, with one quarter actively seeking jobs abroad and a further third willing to relocate internationally should the right opportunity arise.

Among those, Australia was cited as the most commonly preferred destination for the first time in the study’s ten-year history, rising from 7th in 2014 and 3rd place in the Covid-impacted 2020 edition to jump both Canada and the United States.

Australia most desired destination for global expat workers

New Zealand meanwhile dropped out of the top ten most desired locations.

Notably, a rise in interest in Australia from North American respondents has helped push the country to the top of the list, with East Asia & the Pacific and South Asia also ranking Australia as number one. However, there was far less interest among Europeans despite a long migrant history, with Australia only landing in 8th place – the same as for respondents from the Middle East.

Elsewhere, Australia also ranked first among both highly educated (defined as having a bachelor’s degree or above) and white collar workers, as well as for the younger cohort (those under 30), while placing second for digital talent behind the US. Sydney meanwhile remained the tenth most popular city globally, with Melbourne slipping one place to 14th and London once again retaining the top spot.

Australia most desired destination for global expat workers

While ‘quality of job opportunities’ was the greatest attraction for those considering Australia (and generally for workers looking abroad), a deeper dive suggests Australia as an all-round package is what proves most appealing. Australia was easily outranked by most of the top eight in terms of quality of jobs, but for example finished five or more percentage points higher than the US in a series of other metrics.

In order of their importance to respondents, these included ‘quality of life and climate’, ‘safety, stability, and security’, and perceptions of a ‘welcoming culture and inclusiveness’ and more ‘family friendly environment.’ However, Australia was again trumped by its fellow top eight countries in terms of ‘innovation and digitisation’, cited 22 points less as a decisive factor as compared to Japan.

Australia most desired destination for global expat workers

Yet, Constanze Freyberg, a former consultant with BCG in Berlin who took up a role with BC Strategy in Sydney earlier this year, highlighted another major overall factor in terms of location; “What was most important for me is that the local language is English. If you don’t speak the local language fluently, it’s difficult to work and to become part of the local community,” she explains in the report.

Other intrinsic factors included personal recommendations and an existing expat community of the same nationality, which followed language as the top three ranked practical considerations across the board for the top four destinations. However, Australia still triumphed as a preferred destination despite (or because of) placing behind the others in respect to respondents having previously visited the country.

“Other countries can be a great source of talent, but establishing a channel of workers from abroad requires employers to fundamentally overhaul how they recruit, relocate, and integrate talent,” concluded BCG senior partner Jens Baier. “They may have to challenge their own biases and look for talent in markets and regions that they had not previously considered.”