Quarter of UK workforce willing to move abroad for better job, GfK survey finds


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As many as 7.6 million British workers are willing to move overseas to improve their job prospects, recent research by leading employee engagement researchers, GfK NOP Engage, reveals.

The GfK International Employee Engagement Study reveals the extent of the brain drain facing Britain, as it struggles to emerge from recession. More than a quarter (27%) of British workers are willing to move country to find a better job, possibly driven by a desire to escape the UK's soaring cost of living and static wages.

And it is Britain's young, qualified employees who are most likely to feel this workplace wanderlust: well over two-thirds (36%) of workers aged 18-29 agreed they are willing to move countries to find a better job, while that figure is one in three (31%) for degree-holders and nearly two in five (38%) for people with postgraduate qualifications. This is compared to just a fifth (23%) of employees educated to secondary school level.

In news that further displays the levels of dissatisfaction felt by many UK workers, almost 6.5 million (23%) are looking to change employer in the next year.

Sukhi Ghataore, director at GfK NOP Engage, said: "Our findings indicate Britain has a risk of 'brain drain' in the coming year, posing significant problems for companies looking to recover from the downturn. Both blue collar and white collar workers in the UK show a quarter (27% and 26% respectively) of their number are willing to look overseas for work - and that figure rises for the higher educated workers. Even if only a fraction of these people actually make the move abroad, UK businesses will face a significant loss of talent, just at the time they most need it."

Internationally, more than a quarter (27%) of the workforce in countries questioned is willing to move to another country to find better employment.

Unsurprisingly, the findings show that Central and Southern America look set to be the hardest hit of the markets covered. Nearly six in 10 (57%) Mexican employees, half of Colombia's workforce (52%) and two-fifths of staff in Brazil and Peru (41% and 38% respectively) are ready to look across borders for better careers.

But the trend is not limited to developing markets. Other markets coming in at the top of the 17 countries asked about willingness to move countries to find a better job include: Turkey in 3rd place with 46%, Hungary in 7th place (33%), followed by Russia (29%), and then Portugal and the UK coming in 9th equal with 27% each.

Even the US and Canada - countries traditionally stereotyped for their relative disinterest in living abroad - face a fifth of their workers saying that they are ready to move countries to find a better job, at 21% and 20% respectively.

As well as countries needing to guard against brain drain across borders, there is a warning for companies too, with more than one in four workers in the international study saying they intend to leave their current employer within 12 months.

Of those, one in three (35%) is already actively looking for a new job right now and one in five (18%) is looking to move in the next six months. Just 8% of employees intend to wait until the economy is more secure.

The situation looks particularly worrying for Colombia and the US, where 39% and 23% respectively intend to leave in the next year and, of those, around half are actively looking to move jobs now. At the other end of the scale, Belgium faces a far more stable retention environment, with only 19% intending to leave in the next 12 months and 15% of those looking to change employers immediately.

Ghataore added: "The findings highlight just how globalised and fluid the labour market has become in many countries. The truth remains that, for many employees, moving country is no more daunting than moving company. Companies looking to recruit, engage and retain the best staff need to compete, not just against rivals in their own nations and markets, but from right around the world.

"The research also reveals that employees in multinational organisations are those most likely to look elsewhere. This suggests that allowing employees to work overseas is not just a perk but a valuable retention tool."


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