What’s the Current Global Cost of Talent?

What’s the Current Global Cost of Talent?


  • 511,721 business and STEM students from 39 countries provide their salary expectations for their first job.
  • STEM students expect higher entry salaries than those graduating with business degrees.
  • The gap in salary expectations by gender are particularly large in a handful of industries.
  • This year’s research again shows a clear difference between young men and young women regarding their expectations for first-year salaries.


Stockholm, January 30th, 2018 – Today, Universum released their annual Cost of Talent report. This year’s report is based on the feedback from 533,351 business and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) students from the 39 countries that participated in Universum’s 2018 Talent Survey.

To assess the cost of talent in each country, we asked business and STEM students what they expect to receive in their first job after graduating university, the exact question being: What salary do you expect to earn in your first job after graduation? (Please provide a before-tax salary, excluding commissions and bonuses.)

Talent is more empowered than ever before to choose where they start their professional careers and remuneration will always be a key factor in their employment considerations. Achieving optimum talent attraction requires that you provide competitive wages, however, it should not require that you overpay to accomplish this. You have to match your Employer Branding and wages with the salary expectations of the country, market and industry.

2018 Trends – Business vs STEM

Apart from talent from the UK and Kazakhstan, STEM talent from all other markets expects to earn more than their peers studying business. This will not come as a surprise to recruiters as the demand for STEM talent continues to drive up the cost of talent. Switzerland, Norway, Denmark and the United States show the highest cost of STEM talent worldwide.

Discussing this trend, Universum’s CMO, Jonas Barck, said: “The underlining reason we are seeing STEM talent expect more remuneration is that they know that their skills and knowledge are in demand, and furthermore the doors are open for them to join more industries than ever before”. Barck continued “If we look at this year’s Most Attractive Employer rankings, we are seeing more STEM talent choose less obvious paths to start their careers. Traditional tech companies like Microsoft and Google are still the most sought-after employers for this group of talent, however, this year, especially in Europe, we are seeing companies like Adidas as well as professional services firms like BCG, EY, McKinsey & Company and PwC all making a lot of effort and taking huge strides to attract, recruit and retain STEM talent. This not to say that a large salary alone will attract STEM talent but to compete with the likes of these well-known employers, all of which have a reputation for awarding higher than average salaries, other companies will also have to offer competitive remuneration.”

Gender Gap – In what countries are salary expectations among women and men most similar?

Understanding the Salary Expectations Index Score:

When women and men expect the same salaries, the

Index score is 1.0. Any score below 1.0 indicates women

expect less than men. For example, a score of 0.90

indicates that on average, women expect a starting

salary equal to 90% of what men expect.


In all the 39 countries that took part in this research, male talent in both fields of study expect to earn more than their female peers. The gap in salary expectations by gender are particularly large in a handful of industries. This year’s Cost of Talent research points to what may be among the earlier drivers of inequality: different expectations for starting salaries between men and women.

Discussing the ongoing gender pay gap, Universum Employer Brand Advisor, Federica Leotta said “We are continuing to see male talent in both fields of study demand and negotiate higher salaries than women do, unfortunately; the lower salary expectations of women do not help eradicate the pay gap and in many circumstances, this is actually having the opposite effect.”

Leotta continued “For a few years now we have seen talent in both fields of study use apps and websites like Glass Door to find out what salaries they can expect before joining a company. This year we have dedicated a section of our annual Cost of Talent eBook to shine a spotlight on the UK and its new gender pay gap legislation. With other countries planning to implement similar laws, it’s obviously very interesting for our own research to see if this new law will help narrow the gender pay gap, as well as establish what effect, obligatory gender pay gap reporting will have on employer brands.”

Download our free report and find out more information, including the individual salary expectations in each country in each field of study


About Universum:

Universum is the global leader in employer branding, during our 30 years, we have established ourselves in 60 markets globally, and our diverse workforce is physically present in 20 countries. Our services include actionable researchstrategic advisorydata-driven communication and social media solutions for talent branding, sourcing, and analytics. A trusted partner to over 1,700 clients, including many Fortune 500 companies, as well as global media partners that publish our annual rankings and trend reports. We work with over 2,000 universities, alumni groups, and professional organizations to gather insights from students and professionals in order to advise employers on how to attract and retain talent that fits their culture and purpose. On an annual basis, Universum surveys over 1,000,000 students and professionals worldwide. Find out more at www.universumglobal.com.