Nearly two thirds of Nigerian and three quarters of Ghanaian professionals are willing to work abroad

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  • Fourth global study on International Mobility Trends by BCG, The Network, The Stepstone Group, and local partner The African Talent Company (TATC) features survey data from more than 150,000 workforce respondents from 188 countries, including Nigeria and Ghana
  • One in four professionals globally and nearly two thirds of Nigerian and three quarters of Ghanaian professionals actively seek jobs abroad
  • Australia, the US, Canada, the UK, and Germany round out the top five most desired destination countries globally
  • London, Amsterdam, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and New York rank number one through number five for cities 
  • Abuja ranks 63rd and Lagos 103rd in the top cities
  • Nearly 70% of Nigerian and 73% of Ghanaian respondents cite general career considerations as one of the main reasons to move abroad, while 90% and 82% of Nigerian and 95% and 86% of Ghanaian respondents respectively expect to get visa and work permit as well as housing assistance from their employers

Despite global challenges such as geopolitical tensions, widespread economic concerns, and emerging virtual mobility trends from the past several years, moving abroad for work remains a dream for many workers around the world, with 23% of global and 64% of Nigerian and 74% of Ghanaian professionals actively seeking jobs in other countries. Younger people and people from countries with fast-growing populations are the most mobile. English-speaking geographies with strong economies lead the list of top destinations, with Australia, the US, Canada, and the UK being the four most desirable countries, and London topping the list of cities, with New York also placing in the top five.

Nigeria ranks 67th and Ghana 72nd in terms of their overall attractiveness to global workers, while Abuja ranks 63rd and Lagos 103rd when it comes to desired cities. People from Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa would like to come to Nigeria to work, while people from Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya would like to work in Ghana.

These are among the findings of a new report published today by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), The Network, The Stepstone Group, and local partner, The African Talent Company (TATC). Titled Decoding Global Talent 2024, the study is based on survey data from more than 150,000 workforce respondents from 188 countries, including Nigeria and Ghana, and is the fourth installment in a series, the previous editions having been published in 2014, 2018, and 2021.

Natives of regions with a labour surplus (owing to higher birth rates) tend to be more mobile than those who live in areas where the labour force is shrinking. For instance, 64% of workers in the Middle East and Africa are actively willing to relocate, and more than half of respondents in South Asia (58%) and sub-Saharan Africa (52%) are actively willing to do so. At the other end of the spectrum, much smaller percentages are seen in North America (16%) and Europe (10%).

“The world’s most important economies are facing a major challenge: the great people shortage. This looming gap in the global labour market is primarily due to declining birth rates and mismatches between job supply and demand,” said The Stepstone Group CEO Sebastian Dettmers. “Labour migration represents a prime opportunity to bridge this gap. We must adapt our job markets to be more versatile, enabling workers to move to where they are most needed and where they can find the best positions for their skills and aspirations.”

“West Africa continues to offer attractive job opportunities for local professionals and for others from the rest of the continent and overseas, who are seeking to advance their careers. There are some clear reasons why people are choosing to relocate to Nigeria and Ghana, most notably the quality of job opportunities, and the region’s welcoming culture and family-centric environment,” says Adwoa Banful, Principal at BCG, Johannesburg.

The top 10 countries Nigerians prefer to work abroad for are Canada, UK, USA, Australia, Germany, UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, and France. This marks a slight change from the survey done in 2020 that found that people from Nigeria were looking for work in the Netherlands (8th position in 2020), New Zealand (9th position in 2020), and Ireland (10th position in 2020). Ghanaians’ top 10 countries for work opportunities are Canada, USA, UK, Australia, Germany, UAE, Finland, Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium.*

The survey results reveal that global talent moves abroad primarily for professional progress, with those willing to do so citing financial and economic reasons (64% of global, 60% of Nigerian and 69% of Ghanaian respondents), career considerations such as work experience (56% of global, 69% of Nigerian and 73% of Ghanaian respondents), better overall life quality (55% of global, 51% of Nigerian and 57% of Ghanaian respondents), and a concrete job offer (54% of global, 51% of Nigerian and 50% of Ghanaian respondents) as their top reasons for doing so.

Nigerian respondents also highlight better educational and training opportunities (64% versus 37% of global respondents) and more interesting or challenging work (63% versus 48% of global respondents) as top reasons to relocate. The same goes for Ghanaian respondents who would relocate because of better educational and training opportunities (70%) and more interesting or challenging work (68%).

For global respondents who listed a specific reason for choosing a particular country, the quality of job opportunities was the top decisive factor (65%), with quality of life and climate ranking second (54%). Other country-specific characteristics such as opportunities for citizenship (18%) and health care (15%) also play a role but are secondary factors.

Reasons to relocate to Nigeria that were highlighted by respondents include quality of job opportunities (52% of respondents), a family-friendly environment (40%), and a welcoming culture and inclusiveness (34%). Reasons for choosing Ghana include quality of job opportunities (48% of respondents), a welcoming culture and inclusiveness (40%), and safety, stability and security (38%).

“The biggest reasons highlighted by Nigerian and Ghanaian respondents, who are not willing to move overseas are the inability to bring family members or a life partner with them when they relocate (43% and 50% respectively) and the cost of relocation (39% and 36% respectively),” says Banful.

“People don’t associate countries with certain generally attributed advantages and choose them on that basis,” said Sacha Knorr, co-managing director at The Network. “Instead, they opt for the destination region that most closely matches their own personal criteria for their future job choice. Companies should take advantage of this, as they can score points here with job offers that match talents’ expectations.”

The study also highlights the fact that workers who move abroad expect employers to take the lead in supporting their relocation and onboarding and to cultivate an international, inclusive culture. Nearly eight out of ten global respondents expect to get help with housing (79%) and 82% of Nigerian and 86% of Ghanian respondents as well as visa and work permit assistance (78% of global, 90% of Nigerian and 95% of Ghanian respondents), and count on relocation support (69% of global, 74% of Nigerian and 71% of Ghanian respondents) and language support and training (54% of global, 55% of Nigerian and 59% of Ghanian respondents).

“More than eight in ten Nigerian (83%) and Ghanaian (82%) respondents have expressed a willingness to work remotely for foreign employers in Nigeria and Ghana respectively compared to 66% of global respondents, which could present international organisations with access to resources to meet people shortages in important economies,” adds Banful.

“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,” said Jens Baier, managing director, senior partner and leader of BCG’s work in HR excellence. “They may have to challenge their own biases and look for talent in markets and regions that they had not previously considered. Governments also play a strong enabling role in this process. They must establish policies, incentives, and frameworks that help employers bring in the talent they need. Employers and nations that tap into such positive energy from the millions of workers with mobile aspirations will gain a major competitive advantage and source of growth.”

Download the publication here.

More insights about the survey here.

*The question “Which countries would you consider working in abroad?” was not included in the 2020 survey for Ghana.

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