Corporate executives and highly skilled workers across the world rate London as the best place to be based. So says the Global Power City Index 2021. And the UK’s government and financial and professional services businesses are committed to ensuring it remains that way.
Adapting to global change
The UK, and London in particular, is a leading financial centre and talent is key to its success. An effective visa system for highly skilled workers is critical as it directly affects how easily firms can find and employ the best people.
Our Global Offer to Business report 2022 benchmarks the UK against other financial centres. It shows that the UK continues to attract highly skilled professionals from overseas.
But two game-changers have disrupted the status quo – the end of freedom of movement in 2020 and the pandemic.
Leaving the EU is thought to have triggered the most significant change to immigration policy in the UK in recent decades. At the same time, the pandemic has affected business travel and immigration across all countries. It brought international travel to a halt and ushered in widespread homeworking in many sectors.
A year after the end of freedom of movement, and following two years of pandemic restrictions, how are UK businesses attracting global talent?
Strong pipeline of talent
The UK and London already have an impressive international workforce, making London one of the most globally connected financial centres in the world.
With 38% of its population foreign born – more than any other global financial centre – the UK attracts people from all over the world. Businesses can hire from a multitude of backgrounds, helping relationships with global clients and partners. In 2020, 15% of workers in the City of London came from the European Economic Area. A further 25% came from elsewhere in the world.
Students from abroad continue to contribute to the UK’s international talent base. The UK offers some of the world’s best universities. And a growing number of students are graduating in courses directly related to financial and professional services. That means UK-based firms have their pick of a world-leading pool of highly qualified entry-level talent.
Top-rated MBA programmes, an international workforce and a rich cultural scene make London and the UK an attractive destination for talent from all over the world.
The universities of the UK and the US are unmatched. Businesses in these markets benefit from pools of skilled graduates and world-leading research and innovation capabilities. In 2022, the University of Oxford was named best university in the world for the sixth year in a row.
But these strengths are at risk and the UK knows it must work hard to remain competitive.
No economy’s attractiveness has declined as much as the UK’s between 2016 and 2020, according to executives. The perception of the UK as a welcoming business environment for international talent dropped by 21% in this period.
The government knows what businesses need: better access to talent to complement the UK workforce and an easy-to-navigate immigration system. Measures have been planned, and some are already in motion, to rise to these challenges.