Global migrants: Which are the most wanted professions?
Around the world, there are a number of professions in high demand from the pool of 200 million international migrants.
The need for nurses and doctors is perhaps the best known, but there are also countries short of chefs, for example Belgium and the UK.
And psychologists looking for a change of scene could try the Nordic countries, where they are in demand.
Use the interactive guide below to explore the top 20 most wanted professionals and the countries that want their skills. You can also read case studies of professionals who have made the move to another country.
Click on the countries on the right to reveal more information about the profession and the selected country.
- Mechanical engineers
- Electrical engineering professionals
- IT developers and programmers
- IT engineers and analysts
- Civil engineering professionals
- IT database and network professionals
- Industrial and production engineers
- Electronics engineers
- Chemical engineers
- Mining and petroleum engineers
- Audiologists and speech therapists
- Czech Republic
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- United Kingdom
- United States
National average salary (PPP)
Nurses have been in demand in several countries* for the past 10 years.
The demand for nurses in Australia includes mental health and surgical nurses. The salary starts at AUS$55,617 (US$57,876) per year.
Austria has a list of 14 types of nurses it needs in 2013, including surgical, psychiatric and paediatric nurses.
Geriatric, palliative care and urgent care nurses are among those wanted in Belgium.
According to the government, for every qualified geriatric nurse, there are three positions that need to be filled in Germany.
The UK is looking for neonatal intensive care and operating theatres nurses.
Florida and California are the two US states with the biggest nursing shortages. The mean annual wage (in 2011) was US$69,110.
Mechanical engineers are wanted in 18 countries*, especially in the car manufacturing and aerospace fields.
Austria's shortage list includes 23 types of mechanical engineers and technicians, some of them professionals in the car industry, and in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.
Germany is especially interested in engineers for the car industry.
Singapore needs graduates in mechanical engineering for the automation and precision engineering fields. Salaries start at about US$31,200 a year.
Though the unemployment rates in Spain are high, mechanical engineers are considered to be some of the professionals who fare better overall.
The UK wants mechanical engineers for the aerospace sector. The salary for a new graduate is, on average, £23,000 (US$36,850) a year.
At least 18 countries* in the world are interested in recruiting GPs and specialist doctors.
Anaesthetists, gastroenterologists and neurosurgeons are among the 30 specialists Australia needs.
Germany needs about 5,000 doctors. It is the best paid profession in the country, with an average salary of 49,000 euros (US$63,741) a year.
New Zealand needs GPs and at least 10 types of specialist practicioners, including surgeon generals and anaesthetists.
The UK needs seven types of specialist practitioners such as paediatricians and gynaecologists, and consultants in areas like haematology and forensic psychiatry.
Electrical engineering professionals
Electrical engineers and technicians are wanted especially in the energy and construction sectors.
Austria needs engineers and technicians for the energy and construction sectors as well as the car industry.
Electrical engineering is among the 10 professions most affected by long term labour force shortages in Hungary.
In Singapore, electrical engineers are in demand in the chemical and biomedical manufacturing industries, and in aerospace, as well as the marine and offshore sector.
The UK needs electrical engineers for the oil and gas industry and the energy distribution sector. The salary for a new graduate is, on average, £23,000 (US$36,850) a year.
IT developers and programmers
Those professionals do research, development or write programme code and instructions for software, applications and websites.
Austria's shortage list has at least 15 professions in programming and development for web, software and multimedia.
New Zealand has at least nine different types of developers and programmers on its latest shortage list.
Apart from developers in general, Singapore also needs a wide range of professionals for the gaming development sector.
Software developers and shader writers, the professions required in the UK in this category, earn £31,000 (US$49,664) per year.
IT engineers and analysts
Systems engineers and systems analysts are especially wanted in countries which need IT professionals. Telecommunications engineers are also commonly included in this field.
Austria needs at least nine different types of IT engineers and analysts.
The number of jobs available for IT professionals in Luxembourg has more than doubled from 2010 to 2012, according to a government survey.
New Zealand has at least 12 such IT professions in its current shortage list. Salaries for systems analysts with up to 5 years' experience start at US$61,699 a year.
The average salary of a systems engineer in the UK is £41,800 (US$66,993) per year.
Civil engineering professionals
Geotechnical specialists are especially popular among civil engineers. They are wanted in at least eight out of 17 countries* where there is a demand for these professionals.
Because of a construction boom sparked by future sporting events, more foreign geotechnical and other civil engineering specialists have been entering the country to work.
The salary for civil engineers in Germany starts between US$46,000 and US$58,000 a year.
According to the Indian authorities, the construction industry needs at least six million people a year, especially technicians.
The salary for civil engineers in the UK varies from £20,800 in the first year after graduation (US$33,345) to £70,000 at managing-director level (US$112,000) a year.
IT database and network professionals
Those professionals work on the design, development and support of databases, networks and operating systems.
In Austria, electronic data processing specialists are the professionals most in demand in this category.
A database administrator in New Zealand starts by earning US$37,000-US$49,000 a year.
There is a special need for IT professionals at the Skolkovo Innovation Center, a high technology business area near Moscow. Professionals hired by companies in Skolkovo face fewer requirements to enter the country.
Among the countries* where accountants are needed are Ireland and Greece, which have been badly hit by the recent financial crisis.
The financial sector has the most important needs for the highly skilled in Greece.
Heavily hit by the economic crisis, Ireland needs business analysts, risk specialists and tax experts.
An accountant with three to five years' experience earns US$48,757 to US$61,000 a year in Singapore.
All Scandinavian countries as well as Finland say they need highly qualified and experienced dentists.
There is a gap of 58% between practising dentists and dentists needed in the rural areas of India, according to the country's Planning Comission's 2012 report.
The average annual salary of a dentist in Sweden is approximately US$78,826
Highly qualified pharmacists are wanted in hospitals and industries for the research, prescription and testing of medicines.
A pharmacist with one to five years' experience earns US$57,579 to US$65,810 a year in New Zealand.
Industrial and production engineers
Industrial and production engineers do research, design, and organise or supervise the operation and maintenance of industrial plants.
Singapore needs production and process engineers in the aerospace sector, as well as the marine and offshore sector.
The UK is in need of production and process engineers in the aerospace sector.
Specialists are needed in at least eight countries* to design, develop and supervise the making of electronic products.
Electronics engineers start earning US$24,696 in New Zealand. The salary can go up to US$82,327 a year for experienced professionals.
Chemical engineers are wanted in sectors such as product development, water treatment, and oil and gas.
A chemical engineer in New Zealand usually earns US$41,000 to US$82,000 a year.
The salary for a chemical engineer in Singapore starts at approximately US$28,000 a year.
Mining and petroleum engineers
Engineers specialised in the extraction of metals, minerals, oil and gas are in demand, especially in developing countries like Brazil.
The demand for mining and petroleum engineers in Brazil has risen after the discovery of new oil reserves.
The UK has included at least 10 different types of mining or petroleum engineers on its shortage list.
Physiotherapists are some of the most sought-after highly skilled professionals in the health sector.
In Australia, a physiotherapist with clinical experience can earn around US$59,500 and up to US$83,600 per year.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, vacancies for physiotherapists is expected to grow by 39% by 2020, above the average growth for other professions.
All the countries* where this profession is in demand require at least a masters degree from foreign practitioners.
The demand in New Zealand is for clinical and educational psychologists. Salaries for professionals with three to ten years' experience are usually US$50,400 to US$80,200 per year.
Psychologists in Sweden earn an average US$60,500 a year.
Medical-imaging technicians such as radiographers are increasingly wanted for laboratories and services specialised in diagnostics.
The salary of a radiographer in the UK can vary from £20,710 for a therapeutic radiographer (US$33,220) to £44,258 for a consultant in diagnostic (US$71,000).
Audiologists and speech therapists
Audiologists may evaluate, manage and treat physical disorders that affect hearing, speech and communication.
In New Zealand, an audiologist earns US$37,200 to US$91,000 per year. Speech therapists earn up to US$62,000 per year.
At least five countries* in the world say they need highly skilled chefs, with about five years' experience.
Chefs in New Zealand earn an average US$13,20 to US$22,33 per hour.
The UK requires only senior chefs: executive chefs, head chefs, sous-chefs and specialist chefs. Those professionals also have to be employed in restaurants that are neither fast-food nor franchise restaurants.
Australia was one of the first countries to introduce the points-based system and programmes to attract highly skilled migrants. Recently, the Australian government has introduced a more selective policy for foreign professionals, to match the demands of its different regions, especially those outside the major cities.It has also halved the number of visa categories and revised its points-based system to select professionals who have more skills and experience, better English and higher qualifications.
There have been relatively strong increases in migration through the full implementation of free movement with countries that joined the EU in 2004.Employment has also grown more for migrants than for natives, according to the OECD. Since 2012, Austria has been using a points-based system for highly skilled workers, who can obtain two types of cards: an RWR (Red-White-Red) card grants residency and work with a specific employer; and an RWR card plus allows residency and free access to work.
Belgium greatly facilitated access to citizenship in 2000, introducing one of the most liberal regimes in the OECD.Each region has a list of occupation shortages, used to compile a national list. For professionals qualified in those areas, conditions for acquiring work and stay permits are more flexible.Foreign highly skilled workers now make up a greater share of total entries for employment, as permits for the less skilled were largely issued to European citizens no longer subject to permit requirements.
Brazil's approach to labour migration is based on the demands of companies, which need permissions from the labour ministry to hire foreign professionals.Those with masters or doctorate degrees only need proof of their qualifications. During the recent period of economic growth, the Brazilian industry started to face shortages, mainly in the sectors of engineering and IT.Parts of the government have started talks about the adoption of specific policies to facilitate the immigration of those professionals, such as shortage lists.
Labour migration has increased in recent years in response to growing demand. However, policy has shifted to focus on selecting more skilled professionals.The Canadian government has temporarily stopped accepting new applications from professionals on its list of 29 professions in demand unless they have an arranged job offer or are applying under the PhD stream - while processes are put in place to speed up immigration procedures and reduce the backlog of applications.
In 2006, Hong Kong introduced a points-based system for skilled workers, and has admitted more than 20,000 foreign qualified professionals annually, according to the OECD. Hong Kong does not have an official shortage list, but official reports predict labour shortages up until 2018, especially in IT, health and engineering.China has no official policy for attracting highly skilled migrants. Currently, professionals are allowed in if considered experts in their field. The government has focused on attracting highly qualified Chinese living abroad.
The Czech Republic has faced a steady decrease in migration since 2008.Its highly skilled migration programme, in place since 2003, ended in 2010, but a Green Card and the European Blue Card were introduced to give labour market access to qualified workers from countries outside the EU.It simplifies the entry to the job market for foreigners who have qualifications for which the Czech Republic has job openings - mainly those that have not been filled by Czech or EU workers.
In 2008, Denmark adopted a so-called Positive List to facilitate the entrance of professionals in demand. A points-based system can also grant access to a Green Card which allows qualified workers to look for a job in the country. In 2011, a new government announced a reform of the migration policy. The permanent residence permit is now based on four requirements: at least five years' residence in Denmark, three years' full-time employment, financial self-support and a language test.
In January 2012, Finland implemented the EU Blue Card Directive to issue residence and work permits for highly skilled migrants from outside the EU with at least one year of employment in the area where high skills were required. The Blue Card is conditional on an above-average salary. The country also has a list of occupations in high and medium demand.
In 2011, France introduced the EU Blue Card directive, and reduced the number of occupations in short supply on its list from 30 to 14. It also adopted stricter rules, allowing people with higher qualifications to stay in the country and gain work experience in their as temporary workers.But France also has specific lists of occupations (of varying skills) that can be filled by nationals from African countries with which it has agreements, such as Congo, Benin, Burkina Faso and Tunisia.
Germany has had a ban on recruiting foreign workers in place since 1973 to protect its domestic labour force. However, the shortage of highly skilled professionals in areas such as engineering, IT and health prompted the government to implement the EU Blue Card directive in 2012, facilitating access to non-EU professionals. Qualified workers can also enter the country for six months to look for a job.
Greece is one of the countries more severely hit by the economic downturn and faces alarming rates of unemployment. According to the OECD, a large part of migration to the country over the past decade consisted of labour migrants for low-skilled jobs. Low- and medium-skilled professionals are still in demand in some parts of the country. The financial sector has a shortage of highly skilled professionals. Greece, however, has no specific programme for the attraction of those professionals.
Hungary was also hit by the economic crisis and saw a decrease in long-term migration, after reaching record levels in 2008. But the country has been taking measures to attract entrepreneurs and highly skilled professionals, mainly in the health sector. In 2011, the Hungarian government implemented the EU Blue Card directive for non-EU nationals and approved new legislation that exempts senior managers from labour market tests to be admitted in the country.
India is one of the biggest providers of qualified immigrants and international students to the world and especially the OECD countries. So far, the Indian government has focused on attracting skilled professionals from its own diaspora, and on education programmes and skill upgrades for its resident population.The country does not have an official shortage list, but there is a persistent shortage of qualified professionals, especially in the health and construction sectors.
Ireland has seen a sharp decrease in its net migration since being hardly hit by the financial crisis. Migrants, especially highly and medium-skilled professionals, have been more affected by jobs losses than native-borns. Since 2010, Ireland has shifted its migration policy to attract selected skilled workers. The country limited the issue of new employment permits to those with highly paid job offers and those in occupations with recognised shortages, who enter the country through the Green Card scheme.
During the economic crisis, employment for migrants in Luxembourg increased more than for native workers.In 2011, the country adopted the Blue Card directive for citizens of non-EU and non-EEA countries. To be eligible, professionals must have a diploma of higher education or five years specialised professional experience, a work contract of at least one year and a salary of at least 66,000 euros ($ 87,000) or 53,000 for occupations in demand, mostly in the IT sector.
New Zealand was one of the first countries to adopt a points-based system and shortage lists to attract skilled migrants. In 2010, a new immigration act came into force, introducing interim visas that allowed professionals to start working before permanent visas were issued. It also strengthened the sponsorship system, establishing more requirements for companies. The entrance of investors, entrepreneurs and visiting academic researchers has also been facilitated.
In 2010, Norway reached a new record-high level of immigration, especially due to free movement flows from countries like Sweden, Lithuania and Poland.The country has set an annual limit of 5,000 skilled migrants, which has never been reached, and the government has also been taking measures to attract entrepreneurs.In 2011, the number of permits to skilled migrants reached a peak. Norway currently has a list of about 150 occupations in demand, including high-, medium- and low-skilled professions.
The number of work permits issued to foreigners increased in 2010-11 in Poland, according to the OECD. Recognising the need to attract and retain highly skilled professionals, the government also issued new migration criteria. Five types of working permits were created. Professionals with specific skills who are in demand do not need a labour market test to be admitted. Employers are required to pay foreigners a salary that is no lower than the equivalent for a Polish worker.
One of the countries most affected by the crisis, Portugal has seen a decline in migration and a rise in emigration, especially to Angola and Brazil. According to the OECD, estimates suggest more than 70,000 departures per year, with more than half by people under 29. In 2010, the share of working visas to Portugal decreased below the annual government quota. In 2012, the country implemented the EU Blue Card directive for non-EU country nationals with highly paid employment offers.
The Russian Federation has seen an increase in migration, thanks to measures to facilitate the access of foreign professionals to the labour market.The procedure for recruiting highly qualified foreign specialists was simplified in 2010. The main criterion for acceptance is a minimum annual salary of RUB 2 million (about $ 68,000), but only half its amount for high-level professors and researchers. Eligible migrants may also bring their families.
In recent years, Singapore has emerged as one of the most attractive countries for highly skilled professionals, with a number of policies to support their immigration. There are 93 skills on its list of in-demand jobs and the country admitted about 174,000 highly skilled professionals until June 2012. In September that year, the government raised the salary requirements for labour migrants to bring their families, so it could "ease the pressure" on its social infrastructure.
In 2011, the Slovak government approved a new migration policy to attract more highly skilled foreign professionals in response to labour market needs. It established a Slovak card similar to the European Blue Card. It also started to offer economic advantages and facilitate the integration of highly skilled Slovak professionals returning to the country. Slovakia does not have an official skills shortage list, but sectors of the government conduct research on the subject.
In 2009, the government responded to the economic downturn by reducing the annual quota of work permits for citizens of countries outside the European Economic Area. As a result, migration fell by more than half in 2010.Recently, Slovenia adopted measures to attract skilled workers from inside and outside the EU/EEA. In 2011, it implemented the EU Blue Card directive. A new immigration law also says that de-facto and same-sex partners are family members eligible for residence and work permits.
South Africa has the largest highly skilled emigrant population on the African continent and is trying to strengthen the links with its skilled diaspora. Since 2002, the government has also adopted an open policy of admission of highly skilled professionals who wish to work in the country.Annually, the government makes a list of scarce and critical skills to select immigrant professionals admitted under the quota work permit, who have to prove at least five years' of work experience.
One of the countries hardest hit by the crisis, Spain faces decreases in immigration and increasing emigration from the country, due to massive job losses. According to the Labour Force Survey, the unemployment rate of foreigners reached 32% by mid-2011.In 2011, Spain implemented the EU Blue Card directive for non-EU highly-skilled professionals with job offers. But other restrictive measures to labour immigration have been taken to protect the domestic labour force.
Sweden is considered to have one the most liberal regimes for labour migration in Europe. Since 2008, the recruitment of labour from countries outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) has been eased. The country has a list of about 80 in-demand occupations, including high-, medium- and low-skilled professions. Migrants need to have a written employment offer from a potential employer in Sweden. Family members are generally allowed residence permits and access to the labour market.
Switzerland has one of the biggest immigrant populations in Europe, mostly highly skilled. During the crisis, native unemployment rose more than immigrant unemployment in the country.Most of the professionals who migrate do Switzerland come from the EU, since the regulations to obtain a working permit are much tighter for countries outside the EU/EEA. Foreigners from other countries must have an employment offer, and employers must show they have made "intensive efforts" to recruit professionals inside Switzerland and the EU.
Since 2010, the UK's migration system has become more demand-driven. In 2010, the government introduced measures to reduce net migration, including that of skilled professionals, with the purpose of protecting the domestic labour force. The measures included caps limiting the number of people admitted in the highly skilled categories (Tier 1 and Tier 2). In 2011, the Shortage Occupation list was reduced. In 2012, some of the conditions for entry were made more flexible in response to requests from businesses and employers.
From 2000 to 2010, there were close to three highly educated new entrants in the US for every retiring one, according to the OECD.But since the economic downturn, sectors that typically employ highly skilled workers, like the financial sector, have recorded substantial job losses. The US keeps a so-called "Schedule A" list of shortage occupations. Professionals in those occupations have their conditions to apply for a Green Card eased, but they must have a job offer.