Ireland loses sparkle as destination for overseas talent

Ireland slips to 22nd place and Dublin slips to 24th in attractive work destination rankings, according to the latest Decoding Global Talent survey by Boston Consulting and The Network.

Ireland has dropped six places in the global rankings for most attractive work destinations over the last three years, according to a new data from e-recruitment platform

The Decoding Global Talent, Onsite and Virtual report released today (4 March 2021), reveals that Ireland has dropped significantly in its ranking for attractiveness to workers, dropping thirteen places since the first study was undertaken in 2014.

“Most significantly what we see from the data is the continued decline in Ireland and Dublin’s attractiveness as a career destination amongst foreign workers”

Ireland now ranks at number 32, coming down six places from number 26 in 2018 and moving from number 19 in 2014.

Similarly, Dublin has suffered a fall in the rankings for most attractive ‘cities’ slipping to 36th place in 2020 compared to 34th in 2018.  Dublin’s positioning is down a total of 12 places since the city rankings were first published in 2014, where it was positioned at number 24.

The Decoding Global Talent survey, which was conducted in partnership with Boston Consulting Group and the Network, polled a total of 209,000 workers across 190 countries, including 824 employees in Ireland.

The survey found Canada to be the most desirable country for employment overall, followed by the United States and Australia. London proved to be the most attractive city globally, with Amsterdam and Dubai ranking in second and third position.

Trading places

According to the data, employees from the UK were the most open to moving to Ireland in 2020, entering the top ten list for the first time since the 2018 rankings.  The overall rankings were as follows: the UK, Spain, Italy, United States, India, Brazil, Portugal, Nigeria, South Africa and Romania.

Of those who want to move to Ireland for work, the largest percentage (6.7pc) work in engineering and technical roles. The top industries that view Ireland as an attractive working destination include: engineering and technical (6.7pc); IT and technology (5.2pc); student (5.2pc); management (4.7pc) administration and secretarial (4.6pc); sales (4.6pc); customer service (3.9pc); health and medicine (3.6pc); finance and auditing (3.6pc); and marketing, advertising, and communications (2.6pc).

Despite the impact of Covid-19 on working abroad, 47pc of Irish employees would still be willing to travel for work according to the 2020 data. This is down, 13pc compared to 2018.

The majority of those willing to work abroad are among a younger demographic, with 69pc of young people stating that they would travel for work compared to 49pc of those classified as highly educated (Master, PhD, Doctorate or equivalent).

Irish workers are still drawn to the traditional labour markets of the UK, US, Canada, and Australia according to the 2020 data. The shared language and similar culture along with steadily growing labour markets make these countries an easy choice for Irish workers looking to work abroad.

What will the post-Covid labour market look like?

“The global labour market has changed drastically in the last year due to Covid-19, impacting on workers’ ability to move to different markets,” explained Orla Moran, general manager at

“Despite these challenges, Irish workers still have a keen desire to move abroad for work, possibly out of a hope that travel restrictions will lessen in the not-so-distant future.

“This is particularly evident among young Irish workers, with over 69pc willing to move abroad for work. This can probably be at least in part attributed to the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on younger workers, as demonstrated by the latest unemployment statistics. 

“Most significantly what we see from the data is the continued decline in Ireland and Dublin’s attractiveness as a career destination amongst foreign workers.

“While there is no one clear reason for this decline in Ireland’s desirability, Ireland is now viewed by many as one of the most expensive destinations in the EU and one lacking in sufficient housing stock.”

Moran said that for For UK professionals, the Irish employment market has become a more attractive destination since 2018, with UK workers now making up the largest cohort of overseas workers looking to move here for employment opportunities.

“This may be due to the impact Brexit has had on the UK, with many sectors facing uncertainty over equivalency and access to the EU single market. As a result, UK based professionals may see greater opportunity across the water.”

By John Kennedy (

Published: 4 March 2021