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Millennials lead the search for purpose abroad

Millennials are the most likely age group to move abroad in search of more meaningful work – without sacrificing their job security or pay in the process.

Millennials on the move

The research shows that millennials often prize purpose as part of their move abroad. Almost a quarter (22%) of millennials (aged 18-34) move abroad specifically to find purpose in their career, compared with 14% of Gen X (aged 35-54) and 7% of baby boomers (aged 55+).

The younger age group is also the most likely globally to move abroad in pursuit of a new challenge, with 43% of millennials saying this compared with 38% of Gen X and 30% of baby boomers.

When it comes to sectors that millennials work in, financial services is the first choice (15%), followed by education, marketing/media/creative and telecommunications/IT (all 11%) and construction/engineering (7%).

Fulfilling work

Young expats are finding the purpose they seek. Almost half (49%) of millennials say they are more fulfilled in their new job, compared to just 14% who are less so. Indeed, millennials are more likely to find workplaces with a better work culture (52% versus the global average of 45%) and the prospect of picking up new skills (58% versus the global average of 47%).

In the Netherlands without a degree I could have never done what I am doing here. It gives me purpose, joy and a feeling of fulfilment.- Dutch expat in South Africa

However, this search for purpose doesn’t come at the expense of a successful career. Nearly half of millennials (45%) say their job security has improved since moving abroad, compared with only 20% feeling that it has suffered. And almost half (49%) agree their earnings have improved.

Globally, 15% of expats moved abroad looking specifically to find purpose in their career. The good news is that the vast majority tend to find it. Nearly two-thirds (62%) of those expats looking for purpose in their career say they have found greater fulfilment at work after moving. Taiwan (22%), Japan (22%) and UAE (20%) are the stand-out destinations where expats are most likely to move to find purpose in their career (compared with a global average of 15%).

Career ladder

People who moved abroad with career advancement as a priority have also been among those most likely to find purpose – 57% of these expats say their work is now more fulfilling.

For others, a move abroad offers other perks: more than one third (38%) of all expats say their job security has improved and 42% of employed expats say they earn more than they used to.


42% of employed expats say they earn more than they used to

The 2016 Expat Explorer survey is a global survey completed by 26,871 expats across the world. The research was conducted online by YouGov in March and April 2016. League tables are calculated using responses to 27 of the questions asked in the research. A minimum sample of 100 expat respondents including at least 30 expat parents is required for a country to be included in the league tables.

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Expat Explorer collects key findings from countries around the world.

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