Germany ranked fifth most popular destination for foreign workers

Imogen Goodman
Imogen Goodman - [email protected]
Germany ranked fifth most popular destination for foreign workers
A foreign workers undertakes vocational training in Schleswig-Holstein. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christian Charisius

Germany is among the most popular destinations in the world for foreign workers to migrate to, according to a new study. But Germans themselves are reluctant to move abroad.


Encouraging skilled workers from abroad to migrate to Germany is a key issue right now, with the government aiming to transform the European powerhouse into a "modern migration country". 

But according to the results of a widescale survey published on Wednesday, the Bundesrepublik already ranks highly as a desirable location for international workers to migrate to.

Management consultancy Boston Consulting Group, the job portal Stepstone and its umbrella organisation The Network surveyed 150,000 employees in 188 different countries to try and gauge the willingness to work abroad and the most attractive destinations to do so.

They found that Germany was the fifth most popular country for foreign workers to move to, coming in behind Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. Among non-English speaking countries, meanwhile, Germany ranked the highest.

In terms of cities that foreigners wanted to move to, Berlin landed in sixth place. London was the most popular city for foreign workers, followed by Amsterdam, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and New York.

According to the researchers, however, attractive jobs and a healthy job market were much more important to foreign workers than the desire to move to a particular country or city.


This was especially relevant for Germany: for almost three quarters of respondents (74 percent), job quality was the reason they choose Germany, while the healthcare system, for example, was only relevant for around a third (34 percent).

"In the competition for workers from abroad, the companies that offer talented people attractive working conditions as well as organisational support - for example when applying for work permits - will win," said Jens Baier, a senior consultant at BSG who worked on the study.

"Unfortunately, this is often still very laborious in Germany." 

READ ALSO: Why German companies want faster permits and more housing for foreign workers

Support with the immigration process was also expected by the majority of workers, with 77 percent saying they thought employers should offer significant help with relocation and applying for work permits.

Germans 'relatively sedentary'

On a global level, researchers found that the willingness to move to a foreign country was high, coming in at around 60 percent of respondents.

Between October and December last year, almost a quarter of respondents were actively seeking work abroad.

For residents of Germany, however, relocating for work didn't appear to be a high priority: just seven percent of the 14,000 people surveyed were looking for a job in a foreign country, with Austria and Switzerland ranking as the top destinations.

This was less than half the percentage of people from the UK, Italy and USA who said they dreamt of working abroad.


People from African countries, meanwhile, were most likely to want to relocate, while more than half (54 percent) of Indians also expressed a desire to live and work in a foreign land.

The results are likely to give a boost to Germany's current government, which has recently passed sweeping citizenship and migration reforms with the aim of attracting an influx of skilled workers. 

READ ALSO: Germany's plans to improve digital access to the labour market

However, there are signs that Germany may be losing some of its lustre as a destination for foreigners: back in 2018, the country managed to land in second place in the international rankings.

For Stepstone Group labour market expert Dr. Tobias Zimmermann, who co-authored the study, both the private and the public sector should be involved in making immigration easier for workers.

"Without immigration, we will not be able to maintain our prosperity," Zimmermann said. "It is a huge opportunity that so many people are keen to move to Germany for a good job. Politics and business should work even more closely together to promote more flexible and faster labour market integration."


Migration of workers - (die) Arbeitsmigration

Attractiveness - (die) Anziehungskraft

Willingness - (die) Bereitschaft

Proportion - (der) Anteil

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