It’s a no-brainer for many people in their 30s and 40s looking to start or grow a family. Do you stay in London, trying to make ends meet in a cramped two-bed flat on the fringes of the city, with a long journey to work on a sweaty tube? Or do you up sticks and go somewhere you can afford a family house with a garden for the same price?
This is the reality for many candidates, with City Hall statistics showing 93,300 people leaving London for elsewhere in the UK in the year to June 2016 – nearly 20,000 more than the previous year. Research by estate agent Savills shows the highest proportion of these are in their 30s, with 34,540 people aged between 30-39 leaving the capital.
Birmingham was the most popular destination for Londoners, with 6,529 people landing in the year to 2016. Bristol and Brighton are close behind – all great cities with good train links to London. This mirrors an expanding employment market, with a recent Centre for Cities report highlighting jobs growth in Birmingham rising by 30% from 1998-2015, and Bristol at 41%.
The cost of housing was a big factor, with mid-2016 average London house prices at £484,716 – more than double those in the rest of the UK at £232,885. The more relaxed lifestyles and culture of smaller cities are also a draw.
So what does this mean for recruiters?
As people move away from London it opens up a talent pool of candidates in areas where people may previously have been reluctant to work – we’d be delighted to see more procurement talent in places like Bristol. Moving away doesn’t have to mean giving up work in the capital, however.
To tempt candidates back into the city, a small number of our clients have started to offer a flexible home-based contract or contracts from regional hubs, meaning employees can work remotely and expense travel if they go into London, or commute two or three days a week.
New technology such as video conferencing, plus better broadband in rural areas, has made it easier than ever for employees to connect remotely.
We’re not finding it harder to fill London-based roles – there will always be a strong market in the capital. What is clear is while commute times increase (3.7m UK workers faced a two-hour plus daily commute in 2015 compared to 2.8m in 2010), the effect on job satisfaction is severe. A 2017 University of the West of England report found a 20-minute increase in commute time is as bad as a 19% pay cut for job satisfaction.
In order to adapt and help employers with staff retention, I think recruiters need to sell the benefits of genuinely flexible or remote working to clients and candidates – a 2017 survey by Timewise showed that 87% of full-time workers either work flexibly or would like to. So we might suggest that a client tempt the ideal candidate from outside London by offering a season ticket loan for a two-day commute coupled with home working.
In many ways it’s positive if the jobs market becomes less London-centric, with an influx of candidates helping cities beyond the capital flourish. I’m settled in London but I see the appeal of weekends on Bristol Harbourside with a couple of days commuting to the capital. Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it?
This article was originally published in Recruiter Magazine: https://www.recruiter.co.uk/opinion/2018/04/leaving-london-are-workers-really-abandoning-capital
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