Barcelona as a city of talent attraction

May 23rd 2023

In 2001 I arrived to Barcelona to work for a Dutch multinational. I felt comfortable in the city thanks to its cosmopolitan atmosphere and its great diversity of nationalities, as well as its good infrastructure, schools and social security.  

In 2006, together with my Catalan partner, José Manuel Nogueras, I founded Talent Search People SL, an international candidate recruitment consultancy for multinationals, taking advantage of the growing presence of companies in Barcelona looking for talent of different nationalities.  

Barcelona had become a HUB for international candidates, attracting technology companies and Shared Service Centres, and to be able to consider it in this way is no coincidence. The Catalan capital has positioned itself as one of the leading European cities thanks to the existence of local talent and also because of its strategic location, good connections and quality of life.  

Fourth most attractive city for foreign workers  

Barcelona, according to The Boston Consulting Group's Decoding Global Talent 2019 report, is the fourth most attractive city for foreign workers, after London, New York and Berlin.  

These results support the idea that the work done by the city council and Barcelona Activa has paid off in terms of attractiveness for digital and foreign talent. Indeed, Barcelona has been recognised as a smart and sustainable city, which has attracted investors and technology companies from all over the world.  

In this regard, Barcelona has launched initiatives such as the Smart City Expo World Congress, which attracts thousands of visitors and exhibitors from all over the world every year, and 22@Barcelona, a project that transformed a former industrial district into a hub of innovation and technology. 

Key points of its success  

It has managed to position itself as one of the most attractive for millennials, thanks in large part to the quality of life it offers. This generation, born between 1981 and 1996, particularly values factors such as sustainability, culture, nightlife, gastronomy and opportunities for work and entrepreneurship. Undoubtedly, the city's commitment to these factors will continue to drive its growth and consolidate its position as one of the most attractive cities for this generation.  

The commitment to innovation and technology is a key driving force in Barcelona's economy, and this has not gone unnoticed by investors, who see great potential for growth and profitability in the city. In this regard, Barcelona has a wide range of start-up incubators and accelerators, as well as a very active entrepreneurial community committed to the development of technological projects. 

Another of its strengths, according to talent search experts, is that Barcelona stands out as a highly competitive city in terms of salaries compared to other European cities. This factor is fundamental for attracting and retaining international talent in the city.  

For this reason, Barcelona is in an enviable position in terms of attracting international talent. Given that it has a diverse and attractive job offer, a high quality of life and a privileged geographical position, which makes it an ideal place to live and work.  

On the other hand, Brexit has brought about a major change in the European labour market situation. London, historically a major centre of attraction for talent, has lost its lustre as a result of the economic uncertainty generated by the UK's exit from the European Union. As a result, many companies have opted to relocate their headquarters to other European countries and cities, including Barcelona.  

Facing competition  

Despite Barcelona's strengths, it is important to bear in mind that competition in attracting investment and talent is strong. Among Barcelona's main rivals are Dublin, Berlin and Lisbon.  

Dublin has attracted many multinational companies, especially American ones, since the 1990s thanks to its ease of communication through language and its tax-friendly investment climate. Berlin, on the other hand, stands out as a multinational city with professionals from all over Europe based there, thanks to its strategic location. Finally, Lisbon is also attracting a lot of technology investment and is positioning itself as a major European technology hub. It also has a similar quality of life to Barcelona and the advantage of having a generally higher level of English.  

It is important that Barcelona continues to build on its strengths and improve in areas where its rivals excel, in order to maintain its competitive position in attracting investment and talent.  

Jan Van Schaik, Co-Founder of Talent Search People 

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