British Brain-Drain: Highly Skilled Professionals Fleeing UK

on November 07 2012 12:12 PM
Seventy million passengers travelled through Heathrow Airport in the past year - an all-time high
Seventy million passengers travelled through Heathrow Airport in the past year - an all-time high. Border Force, the agency responsible for operating border posts in the UK, rejected claims it was unprepared for this summer's Olympics. Reuters

On the heels of an academic survey indicating that the overwhelming majority of middle-class Britons want to leave the United Kingdom, another report warned that significant numbers of the country's white-collar professionals have already fled.

The Home Office reported that nearly half of all Britons who emigrate are managers and highly skilled workers, indicating the country is facing a massive "brain drain" of sorts.

 

Last year, almost 150,000 British people departed – about 4.7 million Britons now live overseas (the eighth-largest such group of expats in the world).

 

Doctors, engineers, pharmacists and scientists have been fleeing Britain for the past 20 years.

 

The report noted that these departures are motivated by better career opportunities elsewhere, as well as a desire for warmer climes and more pleasant lifestyle.

 

The most popular destinations are the U.S., Australia, Canada, Spain. France, Germany and New Zealand

 

“A large and increasing proportion of British citizens emigrating from the UK are those from professional or managerial occupations,” the report stated.

 

“This may have implications for the availability of skills in the UK.”

 

Many stay overseas for an extended period of time.

 

For example, the report noted that British scientists emigrating to Boston, Mass., to work in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries stayed in the U.S. for an average of 12 years.

 

The Daily Mail reported that 1,500 middle-class managers are quitting Britain every week, while a total of 75,000 fled the country in 2010.

 

The report also warned that the government’s plan to hike university tuition fees may force prospective college students to move abroad for cheaper degrees.

 

Business figures particularly blamed high income-tax rates and a fragile economy for this exodus of Britain's best and brightest.

 

“These are disturbing figures,” said John Cridland, the director-general of the business lobbying group CBI, according to the Daily Telegraph.

 

“There is no doubt that the spike in recent years was due in part to high personal tax rates, which the Chancellor [George Osborne] is now tackling.”

 

Britain has among the world's highest tax rates.

 

Osborne plans to reduce the 50 percent rate to 45 percent next April, but that would still be higher than most other advanced nations.

 

On the other side of the migration ledger, immigrants who move to the UK from poorer nations –particularly from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan – are likely to stay in Britain for the long haul, while EU migrants leave more quickly.

 

“These [poor people] are exactly the migrants that the government has the powers to control and they must do so,” said Sir Andrew Green.

 

“Otherwise our population will continue to grow at an unacceptable pace.”

 

In a statement, the Home Office declared: “We encourage the brightest and the best migrants and the UK remains an attractive destination. But to continue competing in a global race, businesses must invest in the skills of UK workers, and retain our own highly skilled workforce.”

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