The perception of the UK as a country where overseas workers can thrive has taken a major hit, according to a newly released survey.
The Lausanne, Switzerland-based Institute for Management Development publishes a ranking of countries according to their attractiveness to people who potentially would like to work abroad each year.
In this year’s table the UK has fallen seven places, to 28th out of 63 countries, ranking behind countries such as Latvia, Cyprus, Estonia and Slovenia.
The report concluded that the UK is failing to develop a skilled and globally desirable workforce, with domestic talent increasingly less attractive to overseas businesses, according to a new survey of international executives.
More than 5,000 executives took part in the survey, with the majority inclined to view the UK as no longer being a particularly favourable destination for international professionals.
Professor Arturo Bris, director of the IMD world competitiveness centre, said that the UK was increasingly being avoided by overseas workers because of “concerns about the quality of life in the country, fed by political fragmentation and economic problems, brought on in part by Brexit”.
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The UK was ranked as 35th out of the 63 economies for quality of life, and according to the survey it was perceived to be lower than Slovenia and China.
This, combined with the nation’s rising cost of living (higher in only nine countries) and declining health and education systems, was fuelling the UK’s decline in labour competitiveness, according to the IMD.
Prof Bris said professionals abroad increasingly viewed the UK’s education system as on the wane; it now ranked lower than countries such as Luxembourg and the Czech Republic. “This is a concerning situation for the UK with no quick fix,” he said. The nation’s primary and secondary education was ranked 28th out of the 63 countries surveyed, contributing to its overall fall in international labour market competitiveness.
Further concerns expressed by respondents highlighted a lack of economic and political stability in the UK in recent months alongside doubts over the UK’s ability to develop and retain its workforce.
Northern European countries were felt by respondents to be most attractive to the international labour market, with Switzerland claiming the top spot for the sixth consecutive year, closely followed by Sweden and Iceland.
Prof Bris added: “Until the UK is able to deal with the turmoil in its politics and markets which has dominated recent years and take action to revamp its domestic situation, it will be unable to attract or retain the talent that it needs to restart growth and drive innovation.”
Last month, the Office for National Statistics in the UK announced that immigration into the country had hit a new high. But relatively few workers were from EU countries; the majority coming from Asia and Africa.
For Chetal Patel, immigration partner at City law firm Bates Wells, although the survey identifies businesses’ and skilled professionals’ perception of problems within the UK, the UK’s improving visa system can help offset these. She said: “Brexit will have undoubtedly affected the attractiveness of the UK as a top destination but the reality is that we have a number of immigration options that afford options to overseas workers.
“The most recent statistics on why people come to the UK to work confirm that 11% of all work-related visas to main applicants from EEA and Swiss nationals were issued in the year ending September 2022 and nearly a fifth of Global Talent grants were issued to EEA nationalities. These figures reflect that the UK remains an attractive destination.
“There is potentially more leeway in our immigration system as we do have levers to make it more attractive and accessible. It remains to be seen if anything substantial will change.”