Brazil’s talent shortage time bomb sparking migration

05 September 2018 4 min. read

According to a recent article by The Boston Consulting Group, the vast majority of Brazilians do not see Brazil as the best place to develop their careers. As a result, Brazilian workers are more inclined than the global average to leave the country and work abroad. 

Despite Brazil's social and economic shortcomings in the past two decade, the country has experienced mild yet unsteady growth in recent years. However, the prospects of further economic reform have been held back by political instability stalling international investors. Posting only 1% growth in the first quarter of this year, the country’s flat-lining economy is having a negative effect on the workforce.

During the boom years, Brazil attracted foreign talent and investment alike. The country’s bourgeoning economy elevated millions into the middle class and provided an alluring business environment. Yet, the prospects which this growth brought seem to have dried up and now the country must reassess its strategic planning of the workforce, according to Manuel Luiz, Managing Director of BCG in Brazil. 

Brazil, alongside Colombia and Jamaica, is among the second bracket of countries with the highest willingness to work abroad. Only eclipsed by Venezuela – which has by some estimates lost 17% of pre-crisis population – Brazil’s coming talent diaspora is an issue for a country struggling to boost economic output. 

Willingness to Work Abroad

The BCG report states that 75% of the Brazilians surveyed – the majority of which are under 30 and have at least a masters degree – were willing to leave the country if the opportunity presented itself. Titled ‘Decoding Global Talent 2018’, the BCG research shows global attitudes towards talent and workforces in an era where the only constant factor is change. 

“The numbers show that our young people and professionals with a higher level of education do not see Brazil as the best option to develop their careers and that this problem goes beyond our borders, since we also have difficulty attracting foreigners,” Luiz said.

According to the survey, the global trends in willingness to work abroad has dropped 7 percentage points since 2014 to 57% overall. The opposite is true for Brazilians, who have become increasingly keen to look abroad for opportunities over the same time period, with the figures up 12 percentage points from 63%. 

Top work destinations by geography and demographics

To shift this perception and increase talent retention, Brazilian employers must play into job satisfaction priorities, says Luiz. “To address these challenges and ensure sustainable growth, organizations need more than ever to fully understand the desires and expectations of professionals.”

In this respect, Brazilian’s overtly value personal interactions in the workplace. Their three main priorities in their jobs are good relations with colleagues, good balance between professional and personal life and good relationship with superior. “Transformations [which focus on issues like these] will be fundamental for organizations that do not want a time bomb to explode in their hands: a shortage of talent,” says Luiz.

Brazil’s ability to retain talent aside, attracting top talent also has a direct effect on a business’s international competitiveness as well as the economy as a whole. Globally, Brazil is the 23rd most popular destination of professional preference and is greatest for residents of Peru, Angola and Argentina. 

Political stability affects the motivations to work abroad

This poor ranking reflects the state of both Brazil’s economy and its shaky political environment. Looking at what motivates a worker from a country with a high level of political stability – i.e., Germany, US, Australia – to move countries, the top three drivers are centered around personal experience and job prospects. 

The number one driver for those looking to move from one of these countries is a desire to broaden one’s personal experience, second is to enjoy better career opportunities, and thirdly acquire work experience. Brazil’s ability to capitalize on these factors may come with an exile of home-grown talent, leaving jobs open to foreign talent seeking to build experience that they would not get at home.

Attracting and retaining highly skilled talent is crucial for the development of economies in the long run. The global consulting firm puts it simply; countries must forge a retention plan. “Countries’ workforce plans will highlight which segments of the labor market are most important to their future. These most important workers must be given a reason to stay – or to come home if they have already left.”

In the case of Brazil, this means adapting a culture of work to reflect what Brazilians workers want. Internationally, as Brazil cannot attract talent through political stability or a thriving economy, it can offer international workers challenging job prospects which they wouldn’t be able to reach in their own country;“Where they could stand out more and make more of a mark,” concludes the report.