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4.5 million Brits considering moving abroad for work

18 July 2022

Story by
Alex Crowther, Senior Reporter, The HR World

Working Abroad

Over 4.5 million UK workers are considering moving overseas for a better quality of life, as a result of the cost of living crisis and for better career opportunities.

The latest Totaljobs Hiring Trends Index, which offers an up-to-date view of the labour market and recruitment trends, found that challenges to recruit and retain staff remain, compounded with a potential talent drain as workers consider opportunities overseas for a better quality of life amongst the cost of living crisis.

Hiring trends over the last three months (April – June 2022)

The research found that 79% of businesses recruited in Q2 2022, a slight increase on the 78% reported in the previous quarter.

The top three roles recruited for this quarter were operations (29%), IT/tech (22%) and sales (18%), with 6.7 weeks being the average time taken to hire a new role, an increase of 2 weeks compared to the previous quarter (4.3 weeks).

Looking ahead to Q3, 50% of businesses are confident they will recruit the people they need; a dip compared to 54% in Q1.

According to Totaljobs’ latest Hiring Trends Index, skills shortages and staff retention remain the top two issues facing businesses heading into Q3, followed by labour shortages, and helping staff to manage workload.

UK workers consider opportunities abroad 

 These recruitment and retention challenges look set to remain as 13% of UK workers said they are considering moving abroad for work, while nearly a quarter (23%) would consider it as part of a job package.

Over 3.4 million UK working adults say moving outside of the UK is a long-term goal of theirs, while 3% admit they are actively planning to relocate either in the next year or the next two years – that equates to an immediate exodus of over 380,000 UK workers.

The percentage of those looking to move abroad rises substantially among UK adults aged between 18-24 that are not in retirement (30%), compared to 17% of those aged 25-34, 12% of 35-44 and 10% of 45-54.

The numbers are also particularly high among those living in London (23%) indicating a potential talent drain for the capital.

When asked about the reasons for considering a move abroad, the top four reasons given were; a better quality of life (64%), the cost of living in the UK (43%), a desire to travel more (43%), better career opportunities within their desired industry (20%).

Challenges of hiring from abroad

 Against this backdrop, half of businesses (52%) have stated that they are planning to hire from outside of the UK within the next year.

Almost a third have already increased their overseas hiring since Covid (March 2020).

However, the research highlights the various challenges businesses are facing when it comes to international hiring.

The first main challenges lie with practicalities and logistics of global hiring, with 39% stating that Visa flexibility and availability was an issue; almost a quarter of businesses have gone so far as to call on the government to ease visa restrictions when it comes to hiring.

Over a third (37%) have also highlighted the challenge of associated costs to the business.

The second major factor is the attractiveness and perception of the UK for international workers, with 39% saying that overseas workers being less willing to relocate to the UK for work.

Flexibility remains a key demand for workers

 Amidst the challenges facing recruitment and retention, the research found that workers are actively seeking greater flexibility with their working arrangements.

UK workers increasingly expect flexibility as a given, with some going so far as to say they’d be more likely to continue working for their employer if they were able to work overseas as part of their current job (18%). That same percentage would also like the option of working overseas for an extended period of time.

1 in 10 UK workers have already carried out their current job in a different location to where they are typically based this year. 1 in 10 would take a job where they could work from anywhere, even if that meant a lower salary.

These demands are being felt by employers, with 15% of businesses already receiving increased requests to work from anywhere, while 15% are getting questions about 4 day working weeks. 26% of businesses have reported an increase in questions regarding flexible working at interview stage.

Jon Wilson, CEO at Totaljobs, said: “Businesses continue to face a uniquely competitive recruitment landscape, with skills shortages and staff retention remaining top challenges.

“These trends look set to continue; particularly as younger people in particular are more likely to turn to opportunities overseas.

“Meanwhile, those who remain are expecting a greater degree of flexibility to work where they want.

“These challenges, compounded by the difficulties of hiring internationally, have the potential to exacerbate the critical drain on talent in the UK.”

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