Work Abroad: Is the “Great Relocation” on the Horizon?

Written by Calvin Bowers

There are studies which show up to 4.5 Million Brits are considering uprooting their lives to work abroad in what is being called “The Great Relocation”. That is a remarkable number from a population of around 68.5 Million and amounts to around 13.1% of the working-age population. There are many factors that are feeding into this desire to disperse around the globe and find new places to live and work, and we have examined some of these below.

Work Abroad: Factors Making This More Attractive

Relative Weakness of the Pound

One of the factors that are making the decision to move and work abroad more attractive is the relative weakness of the Pound Sterling when compared to other currencies. The pound has been taking a beating this year in the financial markets and this is a continuation of a longer-term trend. 

Because of this, it isn’t surprising that people are looking at moving to other countries where they can be paid in Euros or Dollars instead of in Pounds and live life to a better standard as a result.   

UK Cost of Living Crisis

With the UK cost of living crisis set to cost people thousands of pounds in electricity and gas charges to heat their homes this winter, it is clear why moving somewhere warmer would be attractive right now. Being able to avoid the cold weather as well as the costs of heating a house in the UK could actually be a financially sound move. 

The cost of food in the UK is also increasing rapidly with inflation pushing prices of everyday food items up faster than in most of Europe or the rest of the world. People are now paying more for food while the quality is actually decreasing. Import problems have meant that there isn’t the same level of choice as pre-Brexit and what is making it to the UK is now being priced higher. Britain is now facing the highest inflation in 40 years and there is no sign that this will go back down in the near future. 

It is clear that by moving somewhere else, people can live more cheaply and not be subject to the same price rises that we are being subjected to in the UK. It is easy to see why this would be an attractive option.

Ease of Remote Working

The Covid-19 pandemic was the proving ground for the viability of long-term remote work. Many people who found that they flourished when being able to work from home have realised that they don’t feel like the time has come to return to the office. The freedom that being able to work remotely gives is something that seems to have taken root in the public consciousness and is something that doesn’t seem to be going to abate any time soon. 

The ease of being able to conduct many jobs from anywhere has made many of the old arguments in favour of having purely office-based jobs obsolete. Many employees are now looking at things like workations or the chance of taking a remote year as real possibilities and have no intention of surrendering these new-found freedoms.

It’s What Gen Z Wants

The pandemic solidified the idea in many people’s minds that they were missing out on the potential for travel and this hit home with nobody harder than Generation Z. This particular age group which will be the predominant group of new workers for the next decade looks to have decided that travel is in their future. 

This means that in order to even think about addressing the massive UK skills gap which has opened up because of a combination between Covid-19 and Brexit, employers will need to consider the desires and demands of this age group very carefully going forward if they want to have happy staff or indeed a healthy level of staff retention.

General Standard of Living

It has been widely acknowledged that the standard of living in the UK has been falling in recent years and confidence for recovery in the immediate future isn’t very high. This is leading many people, especially those who are in the younger demographics, to look abroad as a way of achieving a better general standard of living. 

There is a feeling that the UK has been in decline for some time and since Brexit, this has accelerated, with the economic problems for import and export businesses, the cost of living crisis and inflation all causing problems for many households. 

There are many who feel that the situation is unsustainable so they are looking into freelance and remote-based work and are trying to figure out how best to plan their own UK exit. It has always been the dream for many in the UK to retire to warmer climes and now many younger people are contemplating making their lives outside the UK as well. 

Potential Problems if too many Work Abroad

If too many UK taxpayers opt to work abroad and take up positions that don’t pay any UK tax, this will have a huge impact on the ability of the UK to provide the most basic services to citizens. Young people pay a disproportionate amount of tax and if a large part of this (for example, a third) were to be lost to the tax base, it would have a catastrophic effect on the infrastructure of the UK, effectively deepening any economic spiral and causing problems for what would then be an elderly and rapidly ageing population.

This is something that the UK Government desperately doesn’t want to happen so there may be a further tightening of the rules for UK nationals living and working abroad in the near future if the trend toward working abroad continues to look like coming to fruition. 

It may be that they take on the US model, where all citizens are required to pay taxes, no matter where they live, though this can cause problems with double taxation for ex-pats.

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