• Derk van der Grijp

Why Europe is poised to win the Tech-Talent War

Updated: Mar 14, 2019

“Failure to attract and retain top talent” was considered the number-one issue on the Conference Board’s 2016 survey of global CEOs. Yes, even before competitive intensity and economic growth. This topic will continue to be extremely relevant as baby boomers with all their experience are leaving the workforce very soon. Next to that, technology is moving fast in the current competitive business environment. Processes and practices are being replaced at the fastest rate in human history. Therefore, innovation is considered the number-one key stakeholder of the corporate landscape. Unleashing creativity and innovation demands sophisticated skills and highly-skilled talent.


A McKinsey study (2012) suggests that employers in the United States and Europe will require 16 million to 18 million more highly-skilled workers in 2020 than are going to be available. They outline that companies may not be able to fill one in ten roles they need, much less fill them with top talent. Yet in high-income economies, up to 95 million workers lack the right skills in order to be employed.


In order to fulfill the demand for high-skilled employees and especially tech-talent, companies and countries are looking across borders to attract the best in class. This is not a new phenomenon but the matter has become more stringent throughout the years, with a focus on attracting tech-talent. The war for tech-talent has intensified with the United States probably on the short end of the bargain.

In 1993 an Indian immigrant with a bachelor’s degree in metallurgy arrived in California. Twenty-two years later he was the CEO of Google.

Sundar Pichai’s story stresses the importance of the global war for talent. Until recently, the United States was the country of unlimited opportunities and was seen as the ultimate destination for doers and dreamers. The success of the U.S. in attracting immigrants can be shown by the fact that companies such as Coca-Cola, Google, Microsoft, McDonald’s, PepsiCo and Tesla all have or had foreign-born CEOs.


Although in a recent report, the IMD World Competitiveness Center concluded that Western Europe is “dominating” the international workforce landscape as nine out of the top ten countries in their ranking are European. The U.S is to be found at the 12th spot.


However, looking at immigration rates of highly-skilled workers projects a different story.

According to data of the OECD, the United States, a country with about 4% of the global population, is attracting roughly 54% of all highly educated immigrants to the OECD countries.

In contrast, European OECD countries collectively account roughly for a third more population than the U.S., but attracted only half as many highly-skilled immigrants (27% of the total share).However, these figure are likely to change in the coming years.


Through several policies and statements the Trump administration has sent an unwelcoming message towards highly-skilled immigrants. Trump imposed a temporary travel ban to and from some middle eastern countries. Next to that he reviewed the ‘high-skilled visa program’ and he declared ‘America (and americans) First’ as his philosophy disregarding every context. Academics warn that top students are rethinking studying or working in U.S., and even professors are affected by its immigration policy.



How long before tech-talents from abroad start neglecting the U.S.? Iranian immigrants are considered to be a major source of tech talent in the U.S. The attempted ban on Iran will provoke the best talent to start looking elsewhere. In addition, current U.S. immigrants from banned countries, or even naturalized citizens, have become afraid to travel.


Today, immigrants are getting the message that they’re not welcome in the United States.

Ultimately, this has an effect on how the highly-skilled talents from abroad make their decisions on where to go. Do they go to a country where they feel not welcome or to a country where your skills are wanted no matter your passport?


What about Europe?

The first choice for skilled immigrants has been the United States for decades but the current attitude towards immigration opens opportunities for European countries to become the next number-one destination.

Brexit and Trump: These are considered two historic shifts presenting European countries unparalleled opportunities to attract top digital innovators

For now, only some European countries are being serious and proactive about attracting and facilitating top talent. Switzerland has been renowned for its immigration policies. In addition, The Netherlands and Scandinavian countries are making efforts to increase their attractiveness, by introducing policies such as the ‘blue card’ to make it easier for skilled immigrants to apply for a visa. Other European countries have varying degrees of friendliness towards immigration, but at least none are actively trying hold up immigration. With Brexit and Trump, the UK and the U.S.are increasingly off-limits to highly skilled internationals.


The movement of skilled immigrants does not only have a historical impact, but will ultimately gain a competitive edge for businesses moving forward. Countries fishing for talent in the ‘World Talent Pool’ will very likely see themselves ahead of those who are fishing in the ‘National Talent Pool’.

Europe do not waste the opportunity


Who are we?


We are Caspar Coding. Caspar Coding is a tech-job marketplace. We are on a mission to connect Africa’s best tech talent to the coolest tech companies in Europe. Caspar Coding helps developers in wide range of languages and stacks to find the jobs they love.


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