Germany’s Talent Exodus: New Study Highlights Growing Trend of Student Emigration

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Are Germany’s brightest minds bidding farewell? Study reveals a staggering trend as students eye opportunities abroad. Learn more about Germany’s talent exodus here.

The shortage of skilled labour in Germany, particularly in the fields of mathematics, IT, natural sciences and technology (STEM) and the healthcare sector, has persisted for years and is even getting worse.

Germany's Talent Exodus

According to the DIHK Report 2023/2024, “every second company in Germany is unable to fill at least some of its vacancies”. In addition to reasons such as demographic change, another factor is exacerbating this trend: prospective skilled workers in Germany see their professional opportunities better abroad, and a not insignificant number have concrete plans to emigrate.

This is the result of a new representative study from the Fachkraft 2030 study series (launched in 2012 – more than 420,000 participants to date) by jobvalley, a recruitment service provider for students and graduates, and the Department of Labour Economics at Maastricht University. The latest survey was conducted in October/November 2023, with a total of 12,343 students from all over Germany taking part.

Talent exodus – the results in brief:

  • Better prospects abroad: 17.7% of students see their job opportunities abroad as better than in Germany. For urgently needed (prospective) specialists in STEM subjects, the figure is even over 22% in some cases, and 26.9% in the healthcare sector.
  • Concrete plans for emigration: 13.3% of all students surveyed stated that they wanted to leave Germany with their degree in their pocket – i.e. one in seven to eight students. Both the approval of better career prospects abroad (24%) and plans to emigrate (17.5%) are even higher among students with a migration background.
  • Pessimism regarding the German economy: At the time of the survey, 27.5% of respondents rated the current economic situation in Germany as “(rather) good” – 33.6% “(rather) bad”. Pessimism also predominates with regard to future economic development: 35.6% see this as (rather) bad.

Particularly motivated to emigrate: students with a migration background

24.1% of students with a migrant background and a school-leaving qualification in Germany see better career prospects abroad – almost 6 percentage points more than the average for all students. Concrete plans to emigrate after graduation are also significantly higher in this group.

Pessimistic view of the economic situation

Photo People in the office

It is not only the students’ individual view of career prospects in Germany that is pessimistic to a not inconsiderable extent. Their general opinion of the economic situation and future in Germany is also less optimistic.

The analysis by gender is interesting here. While 32 per cent of male respondents rated the current economic situation in Germany as “(rather) good” and around 32 per cent as “(rather) bad”, only 23.9 per cent of female respondents stated that they believe Germany’s economy is currently on track, i.e. “(rather) good”, while 35.3 per cent disagreed with this assessment as “(rather) bad”.

It is also striking that the expectations between the genders diverge even further when looking at the economic future. Almost 42 per cent of male respondents believe that Germany is on the way to a “(rather) good” economic future. Only around 32 per cent of the same gender group disagreed.

Women are even more pessimistic than men

The picture is almost diametrically opposed on the part of female respondents, 26.8 per cent of whom see the German economy on a “(rather) good” course in the longer term. In contrast, almost 40 per cent of female students rated the economic future prospects in Germany as “(rather) poor”.

Photo Teamwork

The judgement is even more pronounced among the group of respondents who stated that they had a migration background and had gone to school in Germany. Here, the proportion of those who attested that Germany currently has a “(rather) good” economic situation was only 17.3 per cent, while 45.2 per cent in total were of the opposite opinion. No other variable showed a greater divergence between positive and negative assessments of the economic situation in Germany.

Almost logically, the pessimism of this group also continues with regard to the economic future of the Federal Republic. Here, 21.2 per cent were of the opinion that the situation will develop “(rather) well”. 50.7 per cent are convinced of the opposite.

Where do the students emigrate to?

Of the students who want to emigrate, 56% want to go to another European country, 17% to an Asian country and 13% to North America. Africa (6%), Oceania (5%) and South America (2%) play a subordinate role.

The most frequently mentioned countries are Switzerland (10%), USA (8%), Spain (7%), UK (6%), Canada (4%), France (4%), Austria (4%), Netherlands (4%), Australia (3%) and Italy (3%).

You will find more information here (in German only).

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