Is London losing the battle for talent against the regions and other global cities?


Long before the Brexit vote, Londoners had been deserting the capital for the Home Counties and other parts of the UK. Last summer, the Financial Times reported that “In the year to June 2014, the latest for which data is available, 68,500 more people left the capital than moved in – an 83 per cent increase on 2009, when a net 37,500 abandoned the city”.

In 2016, the number of Londoners leaving the capital reached a nine-year high with 74,000 households making the move. In fact, The Evening Standard recently reported that a staggering two-thirds of Londoners want to quit the capital in search of a better quality of life. Interestingly, most want to move to the Home Counties.

While in the past this internal migration of people may have been explained as mainly confined to those in their thirties and forties with children in search of bigger houses, open spaces and better schools, today this mass movement of people is affecting a larger demographic. And for most, it’s no longer a matter of choice but necessity as soaring house prices and cost of commuting become unaffordable not only for those starting out in their career or those defined as ‘key workers’ but also for those earning well above the average London salary.

And now, post Brexit vote, cities around the globe are actively trying to lure away Londoners. Paris was first off the block with its "Tired of the fog? Try the frogs!" campaign at London Heathrow Airport and St Pancras train station.

Closer to home, Dorset Healthcare kicked off 2017 with a recruitment drive squarely aimed at persuading Londoners to swap the stresses of the capital for the quality of life on the south coast, resulting in a surge in applications to three times their normal rate.

January 2017 also saw Italy announcing its intention to set up a task force to lure banks and businesses from the capital to Milan. Dublin too is dangling its credentials in front of London workers and businesses to entice them away to a new quality of life and an attractive business environment.

In fact, cities across Europe including Berlin, Copenhagen and Stockholm are lining up to tempt people and businesses away from the capital.

Is this just an opportunistic attempt from cities trying to capitalise from the uncertainties emerging from the Brexit vote? Or is London genuinely facing a more long term battle to attract and retain talent as Home Counties and other global cities showcase career opportunities that come with a better work-life balance?

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