COVID-19 is a key factor that has changed employees’ views on workforce mobility


  • Four Asia-Pacific countries made the list in 2020, suggesting that employees now consider a country’s COVID-19 management success as a criterion for relocation
  • 44% of Singaporeans are willing to work abroad, a sharp drop compared with 79% back in 2014
  • Australia, China, Taiwan and New Zealand are the top overseas destinations that Singaporeans want to work in

SINGAPORE – Media OutReach – 22 March 2021 – COVID-19 is one of the key factors that has drastically changed the way talent think about their work and mobility preferences. This is the conclusion drawn from the 2021 “Decoding Global Talent” report, which examines how the pandemic has impacted global attitudes and preferences towards working abroad. The report also finds that Singapore has leapt from the 24th position back in 2014 to become the 8th most attractive country that employees would be willing to relocate to.

A partnership between SEEK Asia, The Network and Boston Consulting Group, the report is one of the world’s largest survey on workforce mobility, involving 208,807 respondents across 190 countries. Matching over 15 million jobseekers with reputable employers across seven countries, SEEK Asia has the strongest presence in Asia’s online employment marketplace. It aims to empower hiring decision makers by offering the right expertise and tools to help them land the best candidates. The deep and timely insights from the Decoding Global Talent 2021 report will help companies to strategize their hiring plans in a challenging climate as well as allow candidates to understand key movements in the employment market.

COVID-19 has changed views on workforce mobility

When it comes to employee relocation, several Asia-Pacific countries, such as Singapore and New Zealand, have become the preferred choices of talent in 2020. In 2014, just one Asia-Pacific country — Australia — was in the top 10. The 2020 list now sees a total of four Asia-Pacific countries. This is likely due to the countries’ management of COVID-19, which have largely registered low mortality rates and kept infection cases in check.

“Since Q4 2020, we observed an average of 28% growth in job openings compared to the peak of COVID in Q2 of 2020 across the seven countries that we operate in – Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Currently, there are more than 208,000 jobs available in our database, signaling an encouraging recovery for Asia-Pacific countries,” says Peter Bithos, CEO of SEEK Asia.

“COVID-19 has engendered a new kind of mobility — virtual mobility,” he adds. “According to the report, 57 per cent of respondents now say they are willing to work remotely for an employer that does not have a physical presence in their home countries, a level that is higher than the proportion who are open to physical relocation. Not only that, about 62 per cent of candidates who have a master’s degree are also open to virtual work. For hirers who are struggling to fill job openings, the time is ripe to warm up to the option of offering virtual employment, so as to attract competent and suitable talent.”

Singapore’s competitiveness a selling point for talent

Beyond commendable COVID-19 preparedness and response, Singapore has always been an appealing work destination for global talent. Other than robust international trade and investment, her digital infrastructure, national stability and culture of innovation also inspire confidence. The top 10 countries from where PMETs, specifically in the digital field, would like to come to Singapore to work include China (5th), Qatar (6th), United Arab Emirates (8th) and Switzerland (10th). These talent enjoy a high quality of life, and Singapore’s standard of living and working matches their home countries’.

Singaporeans’ willingness to work abroad has dropped

As the world is still in the throes of a pandemic, fewer Singaporeans are expressing a desire to seek overseas job opportunities. Back in 2014, 79 per cent of the Singaporean respondents involved in the survey then wished to work overseas. This number has dropped to 44 per cent in 2020. Australia remains the top destination where Singaporeans would like to work in. Australia is known for her work-life balance and multicultural society, which are likely the main factors that draw Singaporeans to the country.

The United States and United Kingdom were in second and third positions in 2014; now China and Taiwan have replaced the two countries respectively. New Zealand takes fourth place. The data suggests that Singaporeans are more willing to work in countries that have emerged as role models where COVID-19 management is concerned.

About JobStreet

JobStreet is a leading online job board presently covering the employment markets in Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam.

About SEEK Asia

JobStreet and JobsDB are part of SEEK Asia, which is the leading online employment market place in Asia. SEEK Asia covers 7 countries namely Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

SEEK Asia is the extension of the Australian Securities Exchange listed company called SEEK. The company’s purpose is to help improve people’s lives through better careers. SEEK Asia’s database consists of over 105,000 corporate hirers and over 29 million candidates.


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