bbc.com / The precise date the UK will wave goodbye to the European Union for good has been lost in a fog of party politics for most people. While the politicians squabble many talented young workers have already made up their minds.
Whatever someone may think of US politics, it remains number one around the world because of its booming economy – Andrew Bailey
Britain has dropped out of the top six preferred places for Europeans to move to for work, according to a survey of more than 10,000 workers carried out by accountancy firm BDO, published in January, suggesting Brexit is already weighing on the UK economy’s future.
View image of Young Europeans protest Brexit at Berlin's March for Europe (Credit: Alamy)
Voting with their feet
In 2012, the UK ranked in joint second place but has since been overtaken by Canada, Australia, Germany, Switzerland and Spain. Compare this to the US, which retained the top spot despite declining international visitors, dubbed a ” Trump slump ” by those who attribute the drop to President Donald Trump’s policies, such as a crackdown on immigration and tighter visa rules for some countries.
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Almost a quarter of the European respondents ranked the US among their top three countries of choice to relocate for work, although it was marginally less popular than in previous years – a drop of 5% from 2012. Globally, the US still ranked first, although the proportion of people voting it to the top spot slipped to 30% from 34%.
“Whatever someone may think of US politics, it remains number one around the world because of its booming economy,” says Andrew Bailey, human capital services partner at BDO in London. “It is still seen as a land of opportunity.”
I plan to stay here, but I don’t know if it is going to be more difficult to live and work here as a foreigner in future – Banu Senyurt
Banu Senyurt, a German graduate who is completing an MBA in New York, agrees. “There are many more job opportunities in the US than in Germany,” she says. “You can achieve your goals faster. In Germany the length of time you are at a company counts for more than your personal skills when it comes to promotions.
“I see lots of protests and demonstrations,” says Senyurt. “But I haven’t so far been personally affected by Trump’s policies. I plan to stay here, but I don’t know if it is going to be more difficult to live and work here as a foreigner in future.”
(They) say “sentences like ‘I’m completely mobile as long as it is in the south of Munich’ again and again – Klaus Hansen
These themes could prove part of a broader trend – with young professionals in Europe less willing to relocate abroad than they were five years ago. “People in their late 20s to late 30s are much less open to moving abroad for their employer than they were,” says Klaus Hansen, a managing partner in Frankfurt at the international recruitment company Odgers Berndtson. “They set other priorities, such as buying a house, or, starting a family.” Hansen says his younger clients say “sentences like ‘I’m completely mobile as long as it is in the south of Munich’ again and again.”
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For Europeans deciding where to work abroad, salary is no longer the single most important factor, Bailey says. Instead, people are influenced by other factors such as a thriving economy, the availability and quality of housing, childcare and schools, favourable tax rates and high standards of healthcare.
From an economic perspective, Britain faces a number of Brexit-related challenges in the years ahead, the International Monetary Fund has warned . The referendum result has already weighed on domestic demand, a weakened pound has pushed up consumer prices and depressed purchasing power, and business investment has been slower than expected given a vibrant global economy. All this can have a negative impact on a country’s appeal to foreign workers.
Last year, global networking group InterNations published the fourth instalment of its Expat Insider survey , a ranking of 65 countries by measures such as quality of life, ease of settling in and working life. The UK sank 21 places to 54th position: while it rated highly for career prospects, a dissatisfaction with politics and the cost of living contributed to the low ranking.
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In the wake of the Brexit referendum, the expatriates surveyed already living in the UK rated the economic climate more negatively – a key factor influencing their decision over where to live. “There’s all this turmoil following the Brexit vote and insecurity about the future of the job market,” one Swiss survey respondent living in Britain commented.
What we do notice is uncertainty among applicants over whether they will be able to stay after Brexit- Marcel Schmutzler
Figures from the UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) tally with this sentiment. The most recent ONS migration figures show net migration fell from June 2016 to June 2017, with three quarters of the drop due to EU citizens. Though people coming to the UK to take up a “definite job” remained stable, fewer were coming to the UK to look for work. The ONS said although decisions to migrate are complex, the changes suggested Brexit was likely a factor in people’s decision to move to or from the UK.
Despite this, the German Federal Labour Agency says the UK remains a popular destination for young Germans seeking a move abroad, particularly for those wanting to improve their English. “But what we do notice is uncertainty among applicants over whether they will be able to stay after Brexit,” says Marcel Schmutzler, a spokesman for the agency’s international placement service.
“The US is attractive because of its size and its economic strength. Many parts of the US are familiar from television and films. Many of the IT companies and brands that are household names, and exercise increasing influence on our lives, come from the US. It has a particular appeal as a location for research and development,” he says.
Perhaps, in the end, the flow of young workers will all come down to something a little more intangible – whether the new arrivals feel welcome, or not, in their new home country.
“People want to go where they will feel welcome,” says Bailey at BDO. “The statements of politicians do have an impact. If Britain remains globally open, it remains attractive. But a country that shuts its doors is not going to be attractive.”
INGLES: Why the US is drawing in Europe’s expats post-Brexit
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