Do you know how wrong Eurostat’s survey is?

A few weeks ago I published an article on Maltese youth. I reported on a Eurostat survey showing 70% of youth would not relocate for a job. Wanting to put this hypothesis to the test, I worked with the team behind A Birds Eye View to survey people and see what’s what.

I – Survey results

My original article took Eurostat’s results at face value. I couldn’t understand why people would not relocate abroad for work. This led to the idea of a second survey to answer that question. I did suspect fear of moving as a reason and I described how people reacted to me when I chose to move abroad.

The rest of this article is a summary of the results of this survey. I focus on what I found interesting.

(Note, there are times when percentages do not add up to 100% because of rounding.)

I’ll start with the basics. A total of 904 people answered the survey. The number is large enough to be useful, but not large enough to change policies. Nevertheless, the information is useful.

The survey was open to all age groups. Eurostat focused on 20-34 year olds because they wanted to focus on people about to finish, or finishing, University studies. I understand Eurostat’s aims but they missed a trick here. People in employment are also interested in opportunities abroad. They have the advantage of work experience and life skills which help them in a foreign environment. It’s worth knowing what the population would do.

In our case 35% of our respondents were within the 18-35 age bracket. A further 27% were 36-44. In other words, the majority are in this age range.

We also asked people to tell us which locality they’re from. In a place as small as Malta you wouldn’t expect a home town or region to make much difference but it’s fun to look at this data.

Would people consider leaving Malta or not? Eurostat says no, but its survey was narrow

  • Half of our respondents listed their locality as Northern Malta.
  • 35% are from Central Malta.
  • 16% are from Southern Malta.
  • The rest are from Gozo.

We did not define these localities. This was intentional. People answered based on how they self-identify.

This leads us to the important part of the survey: would people consider leaving Malta?

II – Leaving Malta

We asked if people ever considered it. 80% said yes.

This is not the same as saying they’d actually do it. We’ve all considered things we haven’t done. I find this question interesting because it shows what people think. There may be good reasons to never leave, but if people weren’t open to the possibility we’d have a bigger problem on our hands.

The next question asked why they considered living abroad.

44% said they’d thought about it because of work, 26% chose ‘family’. I’m not surprised these were the top two choices. I was curious about the 17% who marked ‘other’. The majority of them mentioned things like ‘a better quality of life’ or ‘to start afresh’.

Why people would move – Survey run by A Bird’s Eye View, Malta

Oh, and for the one person who replied ‘to find love’, if you need to emigrate for that then good luck. You’re going to need it.

As a follow-up question, we asked what people would do if they ended up unemployed. We designed this question to see if it would match the previous one. In a perfect world, all who consider leaving for work would also consider it when they’re unemployed. In practise, people hesitate due to many factors. The difference between the answers to these two questions is insightful.

47% said they would look for a job abroad. This means fewer people would look for jobs abroad if unemployed than actually considered it.

This contradicts the spirit of the Eurostat survey because it shows leaving Malta is not only an obvious choice, it’s what many people’s first reaction would be. Eurostat painted a darker picture than this.

A further 30% would change their profession. That’s not an easy route. Hats off to these risk takers.

So where would these people go?

III – Other countries

I was sure the majority would opt for Western Europe or the Mediterranean and I was right. This is what 86% of our respondents chose. It’s obvious because it’s a choice based on language skills and culture.

Where people wouldn’t live – Survey run by A Bird’s Eye View, Malta

We then asked what their ideal country would be. We asked them to choose a country assuming their family could be with them and they had a good job. The results were obvious – the United Kingdom and France were the top two choices (39%). Norway came in third place (12%) which surprised me.

To round off this segment, we asked if there are places they would never move to. Many listed the Middle East and Northern Africa (84%) which makes sense.

I couldn’t help laughing at the 13 people who listed ‘Gozo’ as the place they’d never live in.

This information is useful but isn’t it all theoretical?

IV – What does it mean?

We asked if they would consider living abroad in the next 5 years. Only 38% said yes, while 57% said no. This looked like it confirmed Eurostat’s findings and was upsetting.

Then I thought about it and realised this wasn’t the case. This reflects the respondents’ current situation. If they’ve a job in Malta and if all is well with their lives, why would they plan to leave? They might find a great opportunity tomorrow. In that case, I’m encouraged by their answer to the question, ‘Would you?’

All this shows is most people aren’t making plans to emigrate any time soon.

This is the same in any country.

Would people move over the next 5 years – Survey run by A Bird’s Eye View, Malta

We also asked them to expand on that ‘No’. Family was the main reason with 38%, followed by work related reasons at 30%. (I smiled at the 3 people who listed ‘I simply don’t want to leave.’)

Where does this leave us? Does this tell us anything we didn’t already know?

V – Dig deeper

The survey helped answer the big question I had at the end of my previous article2. Eurostat did not capture why people would not consider leaving. It was obvious family would feature as the main reason for this even if it wasn’t quantified. This is not unique to Malta, but since people in larger countries are more comfortable with the idea of relocating for a job, it’s easier to consider relocating abroad.

It is encouraging to see people in Malta have thought about leaving, even if other factors prevent them from doing so. Eurostat’s press release concluded the Maltese would never do this. The truth is more subtle than that.

No one can predict the future.

With the right attitude you can face whatever life throws your way. I’m pleased with these results because things are not as bad as I thought they were.

Moral of the article: Don’t take things at face value. Always dig deeper.

Share this with someone who wouldn’t mind living abroad. Or who would never live in Gozo.

References

  1. Half of unemployed young people in the EU ready to relocate for a job; Eurostat; 2018-03-27
  2. Do you know why our youth ignore opportunities?; Antoine Borg; Brain, not ego; 2018-08-21

All references were valid and correct when this article was published. Changes to referenced websites or web pages may render some references invalid. If this is the case, please leave a comment below.


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