Young people learn web development skills at Social Hackers Academy in Athens, Greece on Jan 24 2018 | Photo: Imago / Marios Lolos
Young people learn web development skills at Social Hackers Academy in Athens, Greece on Jan 24 2018 | Photo: Imago / Marios Lolos

Sweden and Switzerland are among the most favored destinations for skilled migrant workers, according to an international survey. The OECD poll published on Wednesday links countries' migration policies with their attractiveness to workers from abroad.

With aging populations in many western countries, there is a global race on to attract top talent to countries to strengthen the workforce and improve development. The OECD's latest report has quantified the "indicators of talent attractiveness," comparing countries on how attractive they are to three key groups: Potential migrants who are 1) highly educated; 2) entrepreneurs, and 3) aspirant international students.

The results show that for highly educated workers, Australia is the most attractive destination, closed followed by Sweden and Switzerland. Entrepreneurs appear to find Canada most attractive, followed by New Zealand and Switzerland, then Sweden and Norway. For university students, Switzerland tops the polls, closely followed by Norway. A little further behind are Germany and Finland.

Why the USA is not so popular

The USA comes in seventh place for attractiveness to highly educated workers and in fifth place for attractiveness to international students. It doesn’t make the top ten for entrepreneurs because, according to the study "relatively few are able to obtain a visa, and the conditions for their family members are comparatively restrictive."

The indicators looked at seven different factors when assessing a country’s attractiveness rating: quality of opportunities; income and tax; future prospects; family environment; skills environment; inclusiveness; and quality of life.

You can prove your expertise via skills analysis. Credit: Picture alliance/dpa/B.Classen

Where does Germany rank?

Germany came in 12th behind Sweden, Switzerland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Norway and Luxembourg and just ahead of Denmark in terms of attractiveness for potential migrants with master or doctoral degrees. The country did slightly better when it came to entrepreneurs. There, Germany came 6th behind Sweden and Switzerland, Sweden and Norway. Interestingly, for potential university students, Germany came in third overall just behind Switzerland and then Norway.

The OECD said university students often want to study in places where English is widely spoken. However, Germany, Switzerland and Norway came out top overall because of the attractiveness of free tuition, or an equality of any tuition fees applied to both domestic and international students as well as the availability of student visas "allowing international students broad access to work during their studies." The future prospects for students after studying is also important. In this, France and Italy scored highly as they allow an "easy transition to work permits after graduation."

Migration policies influence attractiveness

The OECD found that the migration policies of countries clearly influenced the attractiveness of that country to skilled workers and potential students. Things like family reunification practices and the ease with which migrants could transition from temporary to permanent status also had a large bearing on their choice of destination. For entrepreneurs, migration policy did not play such a big role.

Students of medicine at a lecture at the university of Leipzig | Photo: Picture-alliance/dpa/J.Woitas

According to the report, there is potential for all countries to attract talent. The OECD advises those that did not poll so well - Mexico, Turkey, Greece and Israel - to take "decisive action" if they wish to remain in the market for attracting skilled workers from around the world.


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