Why Are Software Engineers Moving to Europe More Than Ever?

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The last 12 months caused a shocking shift within the tech industry, an industry that many thought to be untouchable. With big names like Meta, Amazon and Microsoft laying off more than 240,000 tech roles in 2023, it's no surprise that software engineers are looking for greener pastures. One of those places is Europe, with many highly skilled workers looking at moving to the UK for tech jobs, for example.

The continent of Europe accounts for approximately 22% of the global population of software developers. With European customers keeping their eyes out for customisable, efficient and user-friendly software, tech companies are looking for highly skilled talent—of which the US is in great supply and it seems like American tech workers are more than happy to oblige. 

But why are software engineers looking to Europe? Here are some of the biggest reasons why:


2023's tech layoffs

As mentioned earlier, 2023 is a year marked by many people in the tech industry, especially software developers, finding themselves out of work. While it had seemed that tech companies were experiencing great boons by hiring those talents in the first place, in hindsight, it's clear that economic downturns and consumer behaviour shifts led to post-pandemic business model reevaluations. Companies, both large and small, found themselves put into a corner where they had to make big cost-cutting decisions, resulting in the reduction of their workforce.

The unfortunate impact of these layoffs extends beyond job loss. It instigated a period of introspection for many American software engineers and developers, leading them to reconsider the stability and security of their careers within the entirety of the US tech industry. The reality is that this uncertainty has affected not only their current employment status but their long-term prospects and personal lives as well. All of these variables have prompted a significant number to look abroad for new opportunities.


The power of dollars and cents

Professionals across the globe are having to navigate some form of cost of living crisis, and the US is no different. So, it comes as no surprise that financial considerations play a pivotal role in the narrative of American tech professionals relocating to Europe. The cost of living in major US tech hubs like San Francisco, New York and Seattle have reached levels that can only described as stratospheric. Renting a modest apartment consumes a significant part of one's salary, not to mention the exorbitant costs of healthcare, education and even daily expenses. The mental image of a software engineer living comfortably on a six-figure salary is no longer a reality.

Contrast this with European cities such as Berlin, Lisbon or even Amsterdam, where the cost of living is relatively lower, and the quality of life is arguably higher. For example, rental prices in Berlin are 63.6% lower than in New York. With the added benefit of public or affordable healthcare, not to mention free higher education, moving to Germany really does seem worthwhile. Monthly salaries can stretch much further in Berlin than they do in San Fransisco, even though the take-home salary in Europe might be lower. The stark contrast extends to daily expenses as well, from groceries to public transportation (which is completely free for residents in certain countries); it's really no wonder that Europe has become an increasingly attractive destination.

But, as you might expect, all of this does come at a cost—taxes. This is where it turns complex, but it's really worthwhile learning about. European countries are known for their higher tax rates, which fund the extensive social benefits that all Europeans are able to enjoy. Depending on the country you decide to settle down in, you could expect to pay anywhere between 15–55.9% in personal income taxes. However, many European governments are offering financial incentives for highly skilled workers. For instance, the Netherlands developed the "30% facility", which allows employers to give 30% of their highly-skilled migrant employee's salary tax-free for up to five years.


The European work-life balance

In the US, long work hours are the norm and deeply ingrained in corporate culture, especially within tech. With the average workweek often extending beyond the standard 40 hours, it's not uncommon to see those in tech clock in additional hours to meet project deadlines and product launches—oftentimes with unrewarding overtime pay. On the other side of the pond, European countries enforce stricter work-hour regulations, with the typical European workweek averaging between 35 to 40 hours. Plus, EU employment laws state that all employees in the EU have the right to at least 4 weeks of paid vacation per year.

So, for American software engineers, the move to Europe is not just a search for job security, but also opportunities for personal growth and an improved quality of life. Europe offers the chance to engage with diverse cultures, languages and professional practices, showcasing a broader perspective on the tech industry and one's place within it. Naturally, this requires an openness to learning and adapting, from understanding new regulatory environments to embracing vastly different workplace cultures.

For anyone considering this move, you should conduct thorough research and network with tech professionals within the European tech scene. Seeking opportunities to work in IT in the Netherlands or other tech hubs like Berlin, Tallinn or Stockholm can be a good starting point. Leveraging social platforms like LinkedIn or attending international tech conferences can provide valuable insights and the space to develop connections with those in the European tech sector.


Filling up software engineer shortages

The European tech sector is booming, powered by innovation and a robust startup ecosystem. However, this growth is accompanied by a significant challenge: a shortage of skilled software engineers capable of propelling the industry forward. This is where American software engineers, with their expertise and experience, are stepping in to fill the gap.

The growth of Europe's tech industry is impressive, marked by the rise in tech hubs like Amsterdam, Berlin, London and Paris. Yet, a critical shortage of skilled IT workers hampers this growth. So much so that the European Commission has highlighted the digital skills gap as a key challenge, reflected by hundreds of IT vacancies unfilled across the EU. However, European tech companies and startups aren't just passive beneficiaries in this scenario.

Fortunately, this move is mutually beneficial. European tech companies provide American tech workers the opportunity to work in diverse and dynamic environments while also allowing them to contribute significantly to Europe's tech sector growth. This, in turn, enriches the ecosystem with new ideas, methodologies and perspectives. The infusion of American talent into Europe's tech scene helps create a more vibrant, innovative and competitive landscape, capable of tackling any challenge.


Wrapping up

The growing movement of software engineers towards Europe is a multifaceted phenomenon, influenced by factors that extend well beyond seeking new geographical horizons. This trend is more than just a reaction to job uncertainty within the American tech space, but also a proactive choice for a better quality of life, professional growth and financial stability. Europe presents incredible opportunities to work at the cutting edge of technology while enjoying a lifestyle that values balance, well-being and community.

For American software engineers, Europe offers more than just a job with a better work-life balance; it offers a new home in tech. Many European tech companies actively seek out American talent, and they attract them by offering competitive packages that include relocation assistance, attractive salaries based on European standards and, most importantly, the opportunity to work on cutting-edge projects. These companies understand that attracting international talent is key to their growth strategies, and American talents are more than happy to fill the need.

We've clearly seen that the shifting dynamics of the tech industry aren't just shaping where we work, but how we work and live. For those contemplating a move to Europe, know there is a chance to redefine your career path, all while contributing to technological growth and immersing yourself in new, diverse cultures.

If you're working in tech and are looking for opportunities across the Atlantic, start by finding developer jobs abroad here.

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