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More Adults Would Move for Temporary Work Than Permanently

About 1.1 billion worldwide would move for temporary work

by Julie Ray and Neli Esipova

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- More than one in four adults worldwide (26%) say they would like to go to another country for temporary work, according to Gallup surveys in 119 countries in 2009 and 2010. This figure is nearly twice the 14% worldwide who say they would like to migrate permanently to another country if they could and translates into roughly 1.1 billion adults.

temporary vs. permanent migration

Residents of sub-Saharan African countries, who are also the most likely in the world to say they would like to migrate permanently, are the most likely worldwide to say they would like to work temporarily in another country. Nearly half of adults (49%) across the subcontinent express the desire to go to another country for temporary work.

Residents in Asian countries are the least likely to want to go for this reason, but the 19% who would like to move for temporary work translates into more than 505 million adults or about half of the total number of potential temporary migrants worldwide. The desire to move for temporary work varies a great deal across Asia. For example, Chinese (19%) are about twice as likely as Indians (8%) to say they would like to go. There is no gap between Indian (5%) and Chinese (7%) desire to migrate permanently.

Although more adults worldwide would like to go temporarily for work than move permanently, the profiles of the two groups look similar. Potential temporary migrants, like those who would like to move permanently, tend to be younger and have a secondary or higher education. They are also more likely to be underemployed (39%) than employed at capacity (27%) or not in the workforce (20%). Overall, men are more likely than women to say they would like to go for temporary work, but the gender gap disappears when looking at those in the workforce.

temporary for work

Overall, 29% of all adults in the workforce -- those who are either working or looking for work -- desire to go to another country for temporary work. More than half of adults in the workforce in sub-Saharan Africa (55%) would like to move for temporary work, while sizable percentages of adults in the workforce in the Americas (42%) and Europe (38%) say they would leave their countries for this reason. Adults in the workforce in Asia are the least likely to want to go (21%).

temporary work


Temporary migration for work can be a win-win solution for sending and receiving countries and offers several advantages over permanent resettlement. Temporary workers provide a much-needed source of labor for receiving countries facing shortages. While the desire to move for temporary work may be an indicator of a weak job market in sending countries, these countries benefit economically from the remittances these workers send home and potentially gain skills and knowledge when these workers return.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact or call 202.715.3030.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with 141,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in between 2009 and 2010 in 119 countries. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranges from ±2.1 percentage points to ± 4.7 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.


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