London is the HR centre of opportunity in the UK

Despite the government’s push for more regional autonomy across the UK, London remains the powerhouse of the British economy, worth more than £162bn annually.

The city boasts some of the most impressive business figures in Europe, managing almost half of the continent’s equity capital and attracting investment from 13,510 overseas companies.

Last month, the European Union’s statistical office, Eurostat, identified inner London as the richest district in the EU, with a per capita income more than three times the EU average.

With a population of around 7.3 million people, London is highly attractive to businesses keen to tap into the high skills levels of its 3.6 million-strong workforce. It is supplemented further by workers from the South East and surrounding areas, although with such demand for staff, skills shortages are a continuing problem.

However, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that employment is falling, with the number of people in work significantly lower than 12 months ago.

Figures released last December show the employment rate in London stands at 69%, a reduction of 1.6% in a year, although the unemployment rate only increased slightly – growing by 0.3% to 7.1%.

In real terms, 3.49 million people are employed in London, down by 63,000 on the same period last year. According to the Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, employers in the capital are showing only modest hiring intentions for the quarter with a rating of +5%, compared with a national average of +14%.

This is a slight downturn on the previous quarter, but it represents a 10-point drop over the past year. Only 17% of companies expect to recruit new staff, while 12% anticipate cutbacks.

The London Development Agency states the region is home to the headquarters of 108 of Europe’s 500 largest firms, making it a centre for HR employment and excellence.

London’s gross domestic product per head is 23% higher than the national average, and 17% of all workplaces in the UK are in the capital. This means that HR roles and people management are particularly in demand, especially as part of head office functions.

It has a huge and varied economy, but is particularly powerful when it comes to financial services. Companies in this sector employ 1.3 million people, with 25% of the world’s biggest financial institutions making London their main European base.

Other notable sectors include the creative industries, which employ 525,000 people and generate more than £21bn. Tourism is also a major employer in London, with around 350,000 people working in the sector.

However, despite the huge economic and professional advantages the capital offers, it does face significant challenges in terms of lifestyle, transport, crime and overcrowding.

The London Development Agency believes that London is facing huge demographic problems and is expecting population growth the equivalent to a city the size of Leeds in the coming decade.

Although London is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world, it also has many social problems. It holds some of the wealthiest communities in the UK, living alongside some of the most deprived in Europe.

Earnings at a glance

Average earnings across London

Per hour: £14.00

Per week: £540.80

Per annum: £28,494

Source: Office if National Statistics

Generalist HR salaries across Central London

HR administration/assistant: £21,000

HR adviser/officer: £27,000

Senior HR officer:£32,000

HR manager: £37,000

HR director: £60,000

HR salaries for various roles across Greater London

HR administration/assistant: £18,000

HR manager:£35,000

HR director: £55,000

Training manager: £35,000

Recruitment manager: £38,000

Organisational development manager: £45,000

Employment law specialist:£38,000

Employee relations officer: £32,000

Source: Hays

Living in the region


There are more than 300,000 students in higher education across the capital at any time. London also attracts graduates, with 20% of all those in the UK based in the capital. This gives London-based employers access to the UK’s best-qualified workforce – more than one-third of staff have a degree.


London has a wide range of choices for getting around. The London Underground spans the city, linking all the major train stations and places of interest. And its extensive bus network is receiving large-scale investment. The train network, although often subject to delays, is vast. Drivers in the centre of town are subject to a congestion charge of 5 per day between 7am and 6.30pm, Monday to Friday. Heathrow and Gatwick are the major international airports in London, and there is a City airport for internal and European flights.


There is something for almost everyone with world-class museums, art galleries, theatres, cinemas and landmarks around the capital. It is a melting pot of many cultures and one of the most exciting cities in Europe. It is also bidding for the 2012 Olympics.


London’s house prices are among the highest in the world. According to the Land Registry, the average price of a home in the capital is £287,470. A detached house will cost around 570,342 while the average semi-detached home will cost £327,576. The average price of a flat is £241,347. A new housing scheme is expected to help up to 80,000 first-time buyers and essential workers as part of a huge construction programme.

HR contacts and local information

CIPD London branches:

North London

Central London

South London

South-west London

West London

London government:

Official London:

Transport for London:

Regional Development Agency: 

Company profile

Mitt limited

Name: Tony Sweeney

Based: Croydon

Tony Sweeney is a self-employed lecturer and HR training consultant at MITT Limited, and has always worked in London. He has lived there for more than 53 years and is currently the chair of the South London branch of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

He cites the variety of work and the superb professional networks as the key benefits of working in the capital. The South London CIPD branch alone has 2,800 members and is one of the capital’s six branches.

He also says that London offers a range of HR opportunities that most other UK cities would find hard to rival. However, he advises people coming into the profession to think carefully before moving to the capital.

“I would not recommend London for a first job unless you are already in a company and hoping to change roles,” he says.

Junior HR staff should also try to join a large firm and think very carefully about the costs of moving to London. Sweeney points out that travel, housing costs and crime can all be problematic.

“It still has the largest density of HR jobs in the country, but the quality of life and the increasing competition make it difficult to get started,” he says. “I am astonished that people still think a qualification alone will open doors. This has never been the case.”

Move here for…


Urban, spirited, lively, exciting and at the heart of UK culture.


With the best HR networks in the country and some of the world’s biggest companies, your career will have a better chance of taking off.


The capital has hundreds of theatres, bars, nightclubs and sports facilities.

But beware of…

City life

Dirty, smelly, over-populated and don’t forget the house prices. Like Dick Whittington, you too will find the streets are not paved with gold.


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