The United Kingdom has consistently remained a coveted destination for individuals of various age groups and nationalities. However, when the decision to depart from the European Union was announced by Great Britain, it instilled a sense of unease and concern among foreign workers residing in the country. Consequently, a considerable number of these individuals opted to relocate and establish themselves elsewhere.
In the wake of the initial uncertainties, the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, severely disrupting international travel to and from numerous countries, including the United Kingdom. Consequently, businesses, including the National Health Service (NHS), faced substantial challenges in maintaining an adequate workforce. The NHS, in particular, continues to grapple with the daunting task of attracting highly skilled and experienced professionals amidst the ongoing struggles.
The introduction of the global business mobility visa in 2022 marked a pivotal shift in the overall landscape. However, this transformation was accompanied by a certain degree of uncertainty stemming from the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union in 2020. In this article, we will delve into the impact of Brexit on the retention of young talent in the UK, examining the changes and challenges that have emerged as a result.
Opening Up Opportunities
In 2021, the UK Government introduced its post-Brexit immigration system, which entails the issuance of various visas to both EU and non-EU citizens, granting them the opportunity to reside and work in the UK. These visa schemes encompass:
- Skilled Worker Visa: This visa is designed for individuals with in-demand skills and expertise, enabling them to contribute to the UK workforce.
- Graduate Visa: Aimed at recent graduates from UK universities, this visa allows them to remain in the UK and seek employment or start their own ventures.
- Global Business Mobility Visa: Facilitating international business endeavours, this visa permits professionals to engage in activities such as meetings, conferences, and consultations in the UK.
- Entrepreneur Visa: Catering to aspiring entrepreneurs, this visa provides an avenue for individuals to establish and operate their own businesses in the UK.
Although the implementation of these visas has undoubtedly facilitated the return of talent to the UK, it is important to note that each visa category entails specific eligibility criteria that must be met for successful application approval. These criteria can, at times, present challenges and act as barriers for individuals lacking a certain level of skill and experience.
Migration to the UK
Although the COVID-19 pandemic initially hindered migration to the UK, there is now a notable increase in momentum. In 2022, a significant influx of 1.1 million individuals relocated to the UK from various parts of the world, with many opting for the visas mentioned earlier as the means to facilitate their entry.
In response to the persistent staffing challenges faced by businesses, the UK Government made a significant commitment last year to bolster the economy by attracting a greater number of migrant workers. Central to this initiative is the visa immigration scheme, which serves as a key component of the government’s plan to attract and retain talented individuals.
The second facet of this plan involves leveraging the UK Innovation Strategy, which outlines its mission in the following four pillars:
- Unleashing Business: The government aims to provide the necessary support and resources to fuel businesses that aspire to innovate. By fostering an environment conducive to innovation, the UK seeks to empower companies to push boundaries and drive progress.
- People: The objective is to establish the UK as the most captivating hub for innovative talent. Recognizing the importance of skilled individuals in driving innovation, the government seeks to attract and retain exceptional talent, creating an environment that nurtures creativity and encourages groundbreaking ideas.
- Institutions and Places: The focus is on ensuring that research, development, and innovation institutions effectively cater to the needs of businesses and various regions across the UK.
- Missions and Technologies: The government endeavours to stimulate innovation by tackling major challenges faced not only by the UK but also by the world at large. By addressing these challenges and driving progress in key technologies, the UK seeks to enhance its capabilities and remain at the forefront of global innovation.
While the measures outlined in the UK’s Innovation Strategy are commendable, individuals seeking to relocate to the UK in 2023 encounter several new challenges. Similar to numerous other countries, the United Kingdom is currently grappling with energy-related issues and a soaring cost of living. These crises have created significant hardships, making it increasingly difficult for many individuals to meet their basic needs and maintain financial stability.
Adding to the challenges, recent announcements revealed that London, a major attraction for individuals considering a move to the UK, has now reached an alarming level where average rents in certain boroughs have soared to £2,600 per month. Such exorbitant rental prices further compound the difficulties faced by prospective workers contemplating relocation to Great Britain, potentially dissuading a significant number of individuals from pursuing such a move in the near future.
Hiring from Overseas with Remote Work Arrangement
One potential silver lining for employers is the growing popularity of the work-from-home model. This flexible approach to work, combined with certain immigration visas, provides an opportunity for UK businesses to hire overseas employees without the need for them to be physically present in the office.
Thanks to technological advancements, such as video meetings, facilitating remote work arrangements has become increasingly feasible. Although it may not be the ideal scenario, some employers are opting for this temporary measure as it enables them to hire and retain the highly skilled talent they require.
This temporary remote work arrangement not only meets the immediate talent requirements of employers but also presents an opportunity for global professionals to contribute to the UK workforce and potentially establish themselves in the country in the future.
Brexit: A Complex Blend of Benefits and Challenges
As we navigate the transition into a post-Brexit and post-pandemic world, it is highly likely that talented workers will once again be drawn to establish their lives in the UK. Despite the current challenges, Great Britain remains an immensely appealing destination for migrant workers. Under the skilled worker visa scheme, migrants have the opportunity to reside in the UK for up to five years, with the option to extend their stay by renewing their visa.
In recent months, government initiatives aimed at attracting workers back to the UK have started to yield positive results. According to figures published in April, the UK employment rate during the period from December 2022 to February 2023 reached 75.8%. This rate represents a 0.2% increase compared to the previous quarter in 2022. This upward trend serves as a promising sign that the UK is making progress in terms of recruitment and regaining its momentum.