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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Why Italy is fighting EU plans to limit vehicle emissions

Italy's government is leading a revolt against an EU plan for a green car transition, vowing to protect the automotive industry in a country still strongly attached to the combustion engine - despite the impact of climate change.

Why Italy is fighting EU plans to limit vehicle emissions

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s hard-right coalition, which came into office last October, tried and failed to block EU plans to ban the sale of new cars running on fossil fuels by 2035, which her predecessor Mario Draghi had supported.

But this week the government took the fight to planned ‘Euro 7’ standards on pollutants, joining with seven other EU member states – including France and Poland – to demand Brussels scrap limits due to come into force in July 2025.

READ ALSO: Why electric cars aren’t more popular in Italy

“Italy is showing the way, our positions are more and more widely shared,” claimed Enterprise Minister Adolfo Urso, a fervent proponent of national industry in the face of what he has called an “ideological vision” of climate change.

The EU plan “is clearly wrong and not even useful from an environmental point of view”, added Transport Minister Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right League party, which shares power with Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy.

Salvini led the failed charge against the ban on internal combustion engines, branding it “madness” that would “destroy thousands of jobs for Italian workers” while he claimed it would benefit China, a leader in producing electric vehicles.

Electric car being charged

Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

Federico Spadini from Greenpeace Italy lamented that “environmental and climate questions are always relegated to second place”, blaming a “strong industrial lobby in Italy” in the automobile and energy sectors.

“None of the governments in recent years have been up to the environmental challenge,” he told AFP.

“Unfortunately, Italy is not known in Europe as climate champion. And it’s clear that with Meloni’s government, the situation has deteriorated,” he said.

Low demand

Jobs are a big factor. In 2022, Italy had nearly 270,000 direct or indirect employees in the automotive sector, which accounted for 5.2 percent of GDP.

The European Association of Automotive Suppliers (CLEPA) has warned that switching to all electric cars could lead to more than 60,000 job losses in Italy by 2035 for automobile suppliers alone.

READ ALSO: Italians and their cars are inseparable – will this ever change?

“Since Fiat was absorbed by Stellantis in 2021, Italy no longer has a large automobile industry, but it remains big in terms of components, which are all orientated towards traditional engines,” noted Lorenzo Codogno, a former chief economist at the Italian Treasury.

For consumers too, the electric revolution has yet to arrive.

Italy has one of the highest car ownership rates in Europe: ranking fourth behind Liechtenstein, Iceland and Luxembourg with 670 passenger cars per 1,000 inhabitants, according to the latest Eurostat figures from 2020.

But sales of electric cars fell by 26.9 percent in 2022, to just 3.7 percent of the market, against 12.1 percent for the EU average.

Electric cars charge at a hub in central Milan on March 23, 2023. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Subsidies to boost zero emissions vehicles fell flat, while Minister Urso has admitted that on infrastructure, “we are extremely behind”.

Italy has just 36,000 electric charging stations, compared to 90,000 for the Netherlands, a country the fraction of the size of Italy, he revealed.

READ ALSO: These are the most (and least) eco-friendly towns in Italy

“There is no enthusiasm for electric cars in Italy,” Felipe Munoz, an analyst with the automotive data company Jato Dynamics, told AFP.

“The offer is meagre, with just one model manufactured by national carmaker Fiat.”

In addition, “purchasing power is not very high, people cannot afford electric vehicles, which are expensive. So the demand is low, unlike in Nordic countries.”

Gerrit Marx, head of the Italian truck manufacturer Iveco, agrees.

“We risk turning into a big Cuba, with very old cars still driving around for years, because a part of the population will not be able to afford an electric model,” he said.