Six in ten Kenyan 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 Kenya
  • One in four professionals globally and six in ten Kenyan 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 
  • Cape Town, Abuja, Cairo, Alexandria, Johannesburg, and Durban are the African cities that rank in the top 100 
  • Nearly 70% of Kenyan respondents cite financial and economic reasons to move abroad, while more than 45% cite not being able to bring family or life partners as reasons not to relocate.

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 60% of local 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, while Cape Town, Abuja, Cairo, Alexandria, Johannesburg, and Durban rank in the top 100 cities.

Kenya ranks 75th in terms of its overall attractiveness to global workers, while people from Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria, Belgium, and Estonia would like to come to Kenya to work.

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 Kenya, 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.

“Africa is home to the workforce of the future, and by 2040, half the world’s young people will live on the continent. There are some clear reasons why people are choosing to relocate to Kenya, most notably, its welcoming culture and inclusivity (50%), quality of job opportunities (49%), quality of life (37%), and a family-friendly environment (34%),” says Zoë Karl-Waithaka, Managing Director and Partner at BCG, Nairobi.

“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.”

The top 10 countries Kenyans prefer to work abroad for are the United States (US), Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom (UK), Germany, United Arab Emirates (UAE), South Africa, Qatar, France and Switzerland.

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 vs 67% local respondents) and career considerations such as work experience (56% global vs 64% local respondents) as their top reasons for doing so.

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.

“The three biggest reasons identified by Kenyan respondents, who are not willing to move overseas are the inability to bring family members or a life partner with them (48%); the cost of relocation (43%) and concerns about personal safety and security (34%),” says Karl-Waithaka.

“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 respondents globally expect to get help with housing (79%), versus 86% of respondents in Kenya, as well as visa and work permit assistance 78% and 91% of Kenyan respondents. More than half count on relocation support globally (69%) as opposed to 76% of Kenyan respondents.

“Importantly, nearly nine in ten (89%) local respondents have expressed a willingness to work remotely for foreign employers in Kenya, which could present global organisations with access to resources to meet people shortages in important economies,” adds Karl-Waithaka.

“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.

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