As the Brexit countdown begins, workers eye relocation

47 per cent of highly-skilled EU workers plan to leave the UK by 2022, according to a Deloitte study. How will this impact the Great Britain?

EU workers plan to leave UK by 2022 illustrated by a photo of an English man carrying umbrella in a storm with UK flag in the background
More than a million expat workers in Britain - most of them from the European Union - are considering leaving the country over the next five years, according to a study published on Tuesday by Deloitte.The global accountancy and business advisory company found that 36 per cent of 3.4 million non-British workers currently in the UK are contemplating moving out of the country by 2022, with 26 per cent preparing to do so by 2020.

47 percent of highly-skilled EU workers contemplate leaving UK by 2020

Among highly qualified and skilled workers from EU countries, the proportion is even greater with 47 per cent contemplating relocating over the next five years. The survey - conducted before the government announced its plans on Monday to guarantee the right to remain of EU nationals living in the country for five years or more - found that a third of skilled workers would change their minds about leaving if they heard more positive statements on their status from the government.Yet the survey, 'Power Up - The UK Workplace', which also questioned workers based outside Britain, found that the UK still rated as the most desirable place in the world for people seeking to work abroad.

UK employers face a potential skills shortage

But Deloitte added: "The UK could be faced with a potential skills shortage - high-skill workers are most mobile and, therefore, in the short term there is likely to be a greater pressure to fill these vacancies."David Sproul, senior partner and chief executive of Deloitte NW Europe, said: "Overseas workers, especially those from the EU, tell us they are more likely to leave the UK than before."That points to a short-to-medium term skills deficit that can be met in part by upskilling our domestic workforce but which would also benefit from an immigration system that is attuned to the needs of the economy."
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Angus Knowles-Cutler, vice chairman and London senior partner at Deloitte, added: "The uncertainty started ticking a year ago, at the time of the EU referendum result. "At times of uncertainty, skilled workers are quickest to get their CVs out. You can't necessarily expect all the best and brightest to wait around for another few years of uncertainty."Faced with the potential loss of so many migrant workers, the survey suggests employers will struggle to fill the skills gap. Some 48 per cent of migrant workers in the UK see the country as being less attractive as a result of Brexit, with highly skilled workers reporting the largest drop in the attractiveness of the UK.

Automation of lower-skill positions could address UK skills gap

However, increased use of automation could be one way of avoiding a longer-term skills gap and presents a "golden opportunity", according to Deloitte."Automation is beginning to transform the world of work," said Mr Knowles-Cutler. "Brexit does not change the fundamental factors shaping this but has altered calculations on how to drive change for best advantage.
"If immigration and upskilling can help fill higher skill roles, automation can help to reduce reliance in lower skill positions. There is a golden opportunity for UK workers and UK productivity if we get it right."Employers can also take comfort in the fact that, among workers abroad, the UK retains its appeal as a place to live and work, with job opportunities and diversity are seen as key strengths.The survey, which questioned 2,242 EU and non-EU workers - half working in the UK and half living outside - found that 89 per cent still regarded Britain as a quite or highly attractive destination. Indeed, among respondents outside the UK, the country ranked ahead of the US, Australia and Canada."Despite political and economic uncertainties, more people are attracted to live and work in the UK than anywhere else in the world," said Mr Sproul.

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