The Covid-19 pandemic accelerates migration out of London

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New research from Totaljobs highlights that the Covid-19 pandemic has driven more people, particularly young workers, to consider moving out of London and other UK cities. For businesses able to embrace remote working, this opens up broader talent pools where location is no longer a barrier

With the pandemic and government restrictions causing many to reconsider their careers, and assess what they need in their work and personal life, 38% of Londoners are now reconsidering where they live as a result of Covid-19.

Even before the impact of the pandemic, net migration out of London was already increasing. Totaljobs research in March 2020 showed the capital loses 83 workers every day, with net outbound migration at 30,000 adults.

This indicated the beginnings of the reversal of the brain drain – the migration trend that sees one in three graduates move to London in pursuit of jobs – as more people look to move out of the capital.

The historic brain drain

Research from their sister company and graduate site Milkround shows that 77% of recent graduates feel there’s more job opportunities for those able to afford the cost of moving to a big city, one driver of the brain drain from other regions of the UK to the capital.

Better job opportunities (36%), a job offer (30%) and the London lifestyle (27%) were top factors for people moving to the city, according to Totaljobs research prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Remote work means more mobility

Before lockdown, only 27% of Londoners intended to live in the London for the rest of their lives. Following the pandemic, this desire has dropped further, to 20%.

In fact, 26% of Londoners now want to move out of their city earlier than they had originally planned, as a result of Covid-19. With offices across the UK sitting empty with many workers swapped the daily commute for home-based offices, remote working has meant 1.6m Londoners (26%) who have worked outside of the city during lockdown want to continue doing so.

A third of people say that long-term flexible working would encourage them to move, rising to 37% of 18-24 year olds nationally. For Londoners, this is even more of a gamechanger. 43% state that if their London-based employer offered them flexible or remote working, they’d be encouraged to move out of the capital. Moving plans have previously been put on hold for 38% of Londoners, due to job commitments.

More broadly across the UK, 27% of people living in urban locations have been working from home since the outbreak, and don’t want to return to working in their city office. 18-24 year olds across the UK are the most likely age bracket to be reconsidering where they want to live (32%), with 25-34 (31%) year olds following closely behind.

With the Government cutting announcing a Stamp Duty holiday and subsidised jobs for young people across the UK to aid economic recovery following the pandemic, there’s potential for these accelerating migration trends to reduce the North-South divide, as well as benefit workers and employers across the UK.

Steps employers can take

Totaljob’s March 2020 research highlighted the opportunity for regional businesses to attract talent looking to move out of London. Now, widespread homeworking during the pandemic has inspired many workers in jobs that can be done remotely, to fast-forward plans to move.

For businesses able to utilise flexible and remote opportunities long-term, employees who intend to move out of big cities including London can now be retained. Plus, across the UK, businesses can hire people from outside their local talent pool as location becomes less of a restriction for some roles.

Of course, not all jobs can be done remotely. Key workers in health and social care, logistics and food retail, plus the millions of people who were on furlough during lockdown, might well be among those who want to relocate.

For businesses looking to attract people to fill these roles, the relocation allowance is a tax break which means relocation costs up to the value of £8000 are exempt from national insurance and income tax. This could help to retain and support staff who are looking to move.

Totaljobs’s research also shows that those considering relocating can be persuaded to remain with their existing employer. 42% of millennials say salary benchmarking could encourage them to stay in London, while 28% would need support with travel costs, to enable them to still move out of the capital but stay with their employer. Greater childcare support would mean 22% of under 35s would be less driven to move further afield.

 

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