Twenty-six months ago I wrote a post on the start of the Brexit talent drain and the potential impact this would have on a post Brexit skills shortage. We have been living in an age of uncertainty ever since the June 2016 referendum. As everyone knows, uncertainty and instability are not good for business. So I’m sad to report that this trend has continued. In 2016 the CIPD reported that in general, 44% of working adults said they felt pessimistic about the future, as a result of the UK’s vote to leave the EU. 20% felt their job is less secure. Today only 25% feel the economy works for them.
Research from the job site Indeed suggests that in the run up to Brexit, there has been a sharp decrease in job seeker interest in the UK. This is notable from Irish candidates (a drop of 44%) as well as other parts of Europe, with Polish interest in the UK job market reducing by 26%. Ironically after centuries of emigration, Ireland is now a top job seeker destination. The conclusion from Indeed is “The specific effects on the UK’s workforce will depend on what type of Brexit is finally settled upon, but our analysis, which includes Norway and Canada as non-EU countries, suggests that leaving the EU will likely impact the UK supply of labour for the long-term.”
Brand Britain taking a hit
Sectors such as finance and roles requiring languages are reported to be remaining positive, at least for now. Many candidates I have spoken to express concern about the climate of uncertainty and specifically an increase in hate crime which has risen by 30% since the Referendum. One Polish connection told me “many cases are not covered in the UK press or even reported to the police, but they do get picked up by Polish media. Obviously experiences filter back home in the usual ways especially via social media.” A Spanish woman was recently brutally attacked for speaking Spanish on a London train.
Senior post Brexit skills shortage
However, research from the Open University published in September 2018 indicates that senior roles are proving the most challenging. 56% of survey participants indicate difficulties filling management positions. Lack of clarity around future visa arrangements and the “right to remain” for EU citizens leaves many companies concerned about international talent and how it can play a role in their organisations. 48% expect further restrictions to come into force and 53% expect the post Brexit skill shortage to deteriorate further. In the tech sector there are 600000 open vacancies.
Brain drain underway
I re-contacted the people I spoke to two years ago to find out what was going on for them today.These are personal stories, but it’s clear that the Brexit talent drain is well under way. My contacts are all highly educated multi-lingual professionals, for whom the transition was easier than it would be for many. But the decisions were not made lightly and impacted their families in may ways.
These stories are only a small slice of a much bigger pattern. Net EU migration has continued to decline from a peak of 189000 in 2016 seeing both a reduction in EU immigration numbers and an increase in EU nationals moving out. I am also seeing an increase in British nationals enquiring about a move to Europe. Berlin is a top choice destination. There is always the long-standing problem of Brits not learning languages, but even those who are bi-lingual or multi-lingual, EU countries are starting to announce specific conditions for the rights of British nationals to work in their geographies. Much will depend on how the UK treats EU nationals I think and many are watching anxiously. Me included!
The ultimate irony is that foreign nationals are even being recruited for the British Army.
Post Brexit skills shortage – personalised
Here are the updates from the people I spoke to two years ago. My experience is a micro one, but reflects what colleagues are sharing in my network.
Spanish Commodities Analyst
- 2016 – Uncertainty: “the U.K. is showing a post Brexit slow down. Uncertainty and a lack of confidence are damaging for everyone in the short-term. For my career, it would be better to move to another European financial services centre. I speak German and French so could move to Paris or Frankfurt. Dublin would also be a possibility. It’s anticipated that some Banks will move their whole operations so I may wait a while and see what happens , but I have sent my CV out. The current atmosphere is depressing and gloomy.”
- 2018 – left UK: “Frankfurt has been the top destination post Brexit and 10 foreign banks have chosen to move operations and staff from London to Frankfurt. Because of my language skills I actually had 3 offers which was great. I moved in the summer of 2017. Frankfurt isn’t London in terms of buzz and culture but economically and for my career its sound. My wife doesn’t speak German so can’t work yet but she is taking classes. I’m 35 and have two small kids now I can’t afford to take risks and play a waiting game to see what happens.”
French Strategy Manager Global Logistics Company
- 2016 Xenophobia: “there is definite backlash against foreigners now, which was whipped up hysterically before the vote and is being fuelled even now by a partisan press. I can handle it fine, but the kids are being targeted in school for their French accents and that’s not O.K. It’s not just against low paid Poles.”
- 2018 left UK: I relocated to The Hague at the end of 2017. The whole family is learning Dutch. My oldest daughter didn’t want to move and has taken out dual nationality. After 15 years as expats in the US and UK, it’s been challenging, but we feel we are in a more buoyant political and social environment. Brexit is damaging the British badly.
German Account Manager
- 2016 Abusive comments: and being told to “go home.” This is apparently rife.
- 2018 Left UK: I moved to Dublin in 2017 with my husband who is American. The US wasn’t an option for us. He is self- employed and can work from anywhere. It was a hard move, but feeling uncomfortable every day gets you down. In contrast Dublin is a very vibrant, welcoming and cosmopolitan city.You feel the change in atmosphere immediately.
Dutch Business Development Director
- 2016 Fear of housing market collapse: others who have bought property in the U.K. particularly the South East at premium prices are concerned about a possible fall in house prices, leaving them in a negative equity situation, especially as the pound has fallen to the lowest it’s been in years. They see an early departure as vital.
- 2018 Left UK – We had invested in remodelling our house in the Midlands but it was clear that prices were going to fall. I risked not being able to cover my investment. Those fears have been realised. In April 2017 I tested the market with a local estate agent and had a cash offer within days. My family and I moved into rented accommodation temporarily and we transferred back to Amsterdam this summer. We were sad. It meant leaving friends behind. We felt very settled, but that changed.”
Swedish Marketing Director
- 2016 Concern about reduced conditions: indicated concerns about employment conditions deteriorating “The only way the U.K can offer advantages to international organisations is to offer greater tax breaks (already happening) and greater flexibility with employment conditions. This will work in favour of the employer. I anticipate a loss of employment protection similar to the type of systems in place in the U.S. which would be negotiated with a T.T.I.P. deal. We could see a shift to very exploitive employment practises I fear.”
- 2018 Left UK: My organisation closed the London office and relocated to Paris. My husband doesn’t speak French so it would have been a difficult transition for him so we returned to Stockholm. I come from one of the best cultures in Europe and even though it has challenges too, the toxic atmosphere in the UK it not good for people or business. I hope Sweden learns from the British.
Belgian Institutional Relationship Manager Financial Services
- 2016 Citizenship: with the question of the right to work under investigation, perhaps requiring British citizenship or special permits the uncertainty around this issue is a concern for some. They would want to maintain dual citizenship so they could work in the U.K. and Europe.
- 2018 Leaving UK: After the Home Office’s confusing announcements about the right of EU citizens to work, my financée and I are actively trying to relocate to Brussels or Luxembourg. The political tension and uncertainty here is unpleasant.
As we see the countdown to the final deadline tick slowly away, it is clear that no one has a real handle on what the potential outcomes will be. Or a plan.
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