Japan and Singapore among globe's top 10 talent hubs

25 March 2021 Consultancy.asia 3 min. read

A new survey by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and The Network has put Japan and Singapore in the top-ten preferred destinations for global talent, while both countries’ capital cities also outperform New York as a popular work hub.

BCG and The Network surveyed over 200,000 people across 190 countries – to see how they feel about working abroad. Covid-19 is the underlying narrative, which has tangibly dulled the appeal of moving to a foreign country for work. 

Only half of the respondents now want to work abroad, and those who do are rethinking traditional destinations of choice. An example is the US, which topped the list of preferred work markets for years, but has now fallen to second behind Canada for the first time ever. Benefitting from these global shifts are economies in Asia Pacific. 

Top ten preferred countries for global talent

Per the researchers, a key factor here is the pandemic response – notoriously sub-optimal in the US. “Asia-Pacific countries, by contrast, have done a better job of containing the virus, and this has helped them move up in the rankings,” explained Orsolya Kovács-Ondrejkovic, an associate director at BCG in Zurich. 

Japan and Singapore took 6th and 8th spot respectively on the top destination countries list – the former making the jump from 10th in a similar survey from 2018, while the latter saw its first appearance in the top ten. The report also highlights 12th-placed South Korea, which may not have cracked the top ten, but has jumped a staggering 12 spots from 24th in 2018. 

“This is quite a showing for a country whose language isn’t widely spoken, and it illustrates the weight that respondents are placing on public health after millions of Covid-19 deaths and widespread business shutdowns around the world,” noted Rainer Strack, managing director and senior partner at BCG Düsseldorf.

Top ten preferred cities for global talent

That said, Covid-19 is not the only factor at play here. Singapore and Japan are also much-coveted business hotspots in today’s economy. Japan is widely regarded as an attractive market in many ways, while a vibrant tech-startup environment is putting Singapore in contention as an alternative tech hub to rival Silicon Valley – both appealing propositions for young talent. 

Together with South Korea, these markets represent an emerging challenge to global economic flows. Urban centres of choice reflect similar eastward undercurrents. Tokyo and Singapore feature in the top 10 cities – in 6th and 7th respectively. Both have managed to outperform New York, which dropped six places to 8th presumably owing to the widespread shutdown currently gripping the city. 

London remains the top city, followed by a Brexit-boosted Amsterdam. Middle Eastern urban centres are also growing in prominence, with a significant share of global talent gravitating to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Berlin, Barcelona and Sydney complete the top ten – all dipping in popularity due to broader pandemic-induced trends.

Other key themes from the research include a distinct preference for remote working, which has also affected the preferred assignment destinations. This, combined with a shortage of key talent worldwide, gives businesses a lot to think about when it comes to the future of the labour force.