The motivations of young adults to undertake temporary mobility differ by gender. Researcher Lucas Haldimann from the University of Lausanne looked at the decision-making process to understand why women are more mobile than men.

According to the available data, and in particular a large survey of young Swiss men and women (ch-x survey), it appears that gender plays a major role in the decision to undertake temporary mobility (educational stays such as language stays or university exchanges). Thus, women are more mobile than men. This observation has been verified by Movetia, since the Swiss-European Mobility Programme SEMP counts 59% of women on exchange compared to 41% of men (student mobility – outgoing - 2019 statistics).

Employability vs. personal development

As part of this survey, 14 interviews were conducted with students. These interviews made it possible to formulate hypotheses on the motivations of young people to undertake temporary mobility. These assumptions were then validated using data from the large ch-x survey. The results show that men are more motivated to leave for so-called utilitarian reasons (professional ambitions), whereas the reasons are said to be hedonistic (seeking independence) for women. Here are some extracts from the results of the survey:

  • “Men tend to accumulate mobility capital as currency for better employability. They often seek profitability from their stay by minimising the effort required to leave and maximising the benefits.”
  • “While women also seek to accumulate mobility capital, they mention a more personal purpose, often related to their independence. They also tend to value the experience itself rather than its benefits in the labour market.”
  • “Women's choice of destination is often guided by personal motives, rather than effort reduction. Female participants often research their destination more and prepare more for their stay, which can also be linked to a lower sense of security.”

Targeting men

Men are less likely to undertake temporary mobilities than women – this is a fact. With the results of this survey, one way to get more students to experience a stay abroad would be to highlight the employability benefits that facilitate their integration into the labour market. Since men seem to be more attuned to this argument, a promotional campaign in this direction could be an avenue to explore for higher education institutions.

For more information on the methodology and results of this survey, the article “Independence or employability: how does gender influence young people's motivations to undertake temporary mobility?” by Lucas Haldimann (Unil) is available (PDF) on this page. Reference: Revue Jeunes et Société, volume 6, number 2, 2021 - Link to the article