Europeans less keen to move to North America and UK, survey reveals

Europeans are less keen to move to Northern America and the United Kingdom than in the past, a survey has revealed.

Europeans less keen to move to North America and UK, survey reveals
An American Airlines plane approaches the runway at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) in Arlington, Virginia, on April 2, 2022. (Photo by Daniel SLIM / AFP)

It might be the effect of the pandemic, but Europeans are less keen to move to Northern America and the United Kingdom than in the past, a new EU survey has revealed.

While the percentage of Europeans saying they would be interested to work abroad has not changed significantly over the years (18 percent in 2022 compared to 17 percent in a previous survey carried out in 2009), there are significant changes in their favoured destinations. 

In 2022, Germany was the most popular choice for those who considering moving to another country at some point in the future, followed by Switzerland, Spain, the United Kingdom and Northern America (US and Canada).  

Germany and Switzerland have risen in popularity as a destination to move to among all nations except Slovenia, with the sharpest increases seen in Finland, Luxembourg and Italy.. 

Some 12 percent would choose Northern America and the UK.

The US and Canada remain favoured work destinations in four EU countries – Finland, Malta, Portugal, and Latvia.

Overall, however, their popularity has decreased by 14 percentage points compared to 2009, with the biggest falls seen in in Ireland, Luxembourg, France, Denmark, Spain and Italy. 

Brexit and the administrative barriers it created might have had an impact on the declining interest for the UK as a chosen destination for Europeans.

However, the UK did see a rise in popularity as a work destination among Swedes and Romanians. Interest also remained high in the Netherlands and Portugal, but declined strongly in Cyprus, Slovakia and Latvia.

Going or staying? 

The survey was conducted between May and June 2022 and was carried out for the European Commission to understand EU labour mobility after the pandemic.

The respondents most likely to say they would see themselves working abroad were from Finland (39 percent), Slovenia (33 percent), Sweden, Malta and Latvia (30 percent). The least likely were from Italy (11 percent), Romania, Austria, Cyprus, Greece (13 percent) and Poland (14 percent). 

The number of people saying they would not work abroad has also increased, reaching 79 percent (+6) compared to the previous research. 

Who moves and how to find a job abroad

Demographic data show that women in Europe are more likely than men to say they would move abroad and the same is true for city dwellers compared to residents in rural areas. Young people are more interested in having experiences in other countries too than older generations. 

Almost three quarters, 73 percent of Europeans considering a move would plan to stay abroad for more than one year. 

Personal contacts (51 percent), dedicated online job search tools (34 percent) and online social networks (32 percent) are the main channels used to find a job in another country, according to the responses. 


Some 13 percent of Austrians would consider working abroad in the future, even for a short time. Almost half of these would want a permanent employment while 28 percent would be keen on an internship. The top destinations for Austrians are Switzerland (23 percent), Germany (17 percent) and Northern America, although the latter saw a drop in popularity of 8 percent. Austrians are more likely than European peers to say they would require a salary offer at least 50 percent higher than the current one to accept a job in another country. Austria is the most popular destination for Hungarians (31 percent). 


Just less than a quarter (22 percent) of Danes would work abroad, a drop of 29 percent over 2009, the largest drop in the EU. The majority (59 percent) would be interested in a permanent employment, and 43 percent would be keen on a temporary assignment abroad through the current employer. The favourite locations are Germany, the UK and Northern America, although the last two countries saw a drop in appeal in recent years. A share of respondents above the EU average (26 percent) would move for the same salary and 8 percent for a lower one. 


About quarter of French respondents (26 percent) said they would consider working abroad. The vast majority (64 percent) would move for a permanent job and more than 50 percent said they would want to earn more. A percentage above EU average (10 percent) would move for volunteering. The favourite destinations are Northern America (18 percent), although it dropped by 17 percentage points compared to the 2009 survey, Spain and Switzerland. There was no significant change in interest for the UK (13 percent). 


Germans are less likely than EU peers to be interested in a job in another country (14 percent), although the percentage is on the rise (+3 percent). Some 59 percent would move for permanent employment and 24 percent for temporary assignment with their employer. In a nod to language preferences, Switzerland (21 percent), Austria (15 percent) and Spain (12 percent) are the favourite destinations among Germans. North America saw a big drop in popularity among German – a drop of 13 percent compared to 2009. The UK also saw a drop in popularity from 12 to 6 percent.


Only 11 percent among Italian respondents would be keen to move, a growth of 7 percentage points compared to 2009. Almost half (44 percent) would move for a permanent employment, 28 percent for traineeship and 20 percent for seasonal work. Spain, Switzerland and Germany are the favourite destinations, followed by the UK, which however lost 10 percentage points. The vast majority of respondents need to be offered a higher salary than the current one to take up a job in another country.


Among Spaniards, 15 percent would move abroad for work. The majority (63 percent) would want a permanent job and 29 percent seasonal work. Some 36 percent said they would need to earn at least twice as high to make the move. Germany, France and Italy are the favourite destinations, although the latter two lost some of their appeal over the years. 


Some 30 percent of Swedish respondents would move abroad, with a vast majority among them (66 percent) looking for a temporary assignment through the current employer and 47 percent a permanent job. The favourite locations for Swedes are the UK, Northern America and Germany. 

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EU court ruling ‘could stop Denmark turning away some foreigners at border’

A new EU court ruling could stop Denmark turning away some foreigners at the German and Swedish borders, even if they have no right to be in Denmark.

EU court ruling 'could stop Denmark turning away some foreigners at border'

The ruling, made on Thursday by the Court of Justice of European Union, means that so long as a non-EU citizen has legal residence in at least one EU country, they cannot be turned away at Denmark’s border with Germany or Sweden, even if they have no right of residency in Denmark, Danish newswire Ritzau reports.

The court found that such foreigners are protected by ‘Returns’ Directive, which means that any non-EU citizen illegally staying in an EU country cannot be turned back at a border with another EU country without a formal return decision, giving them time to at first leave the country voluntarily. 

“That also applies where… the person concerned has been apprehended at a border crossing point on the territory of the Member State concerned,” the judgement reads. “Indeed, a person may have entered the territory of a Member State even before crossing a border crossing point.” 

Jens Vedsted-Hansen, a law professor at Aarhus University, told The Local that the judgement was about the procedure for turning away a non-EU citizen rather than about member state’s right to deny them the right to stay.   

“First of all, this judgment is not about the right to refuse entry,” he wrote. “This right in and of itself is not up for discussion in this case, but more the way in which such a refusal can be enforced. What the court is saying here is that in the case of refusal of entry at internal borders, the procedure laid down in the Returns Directive must be respected, as the possibility of exemption from this procedure can only apply in certain cases at external border controls”.   

Anders Vistisen, an MEP with the far-right Danish People’s Party said to news wire Ritzau that the ruling means that any foreigner who has, say, a visa to Poland, can no longer be turned away at the German border if they are stopped by Danish border police as a result of the current temporary border controls. 

Vedsted-Hansen added that although Denmark has an opt-out from the Schengen Borders Code or the EU’s Returns Directive, it had implemented these EU directives into national law and was as a result indirectly committed to complying with them. 

“This means we are indirectly bound by the interpretation determined by the EU Court of Justice,” he said. 

The court case was brought by several French rights groups, including Association Avocats pour la défense des droits des étrangers (ADDE). The groups wanted to test the legality of an order amending the Code governing the entry and residence of foreign nationals and the right of asylum (Ceseda) before the French Council of State.