Three quarters of UK’s digital workforce could leave for work

06 June 2019 3 min. read

British companies will need to drastically up their game to attract new talent if they are to stave off a widening digital talent gap, with the country having fallen well behind the US and Germany as a preferred destination for tech-savvy job seekers. A new survey has meanwhile found that only one in four technology experts in the UK would not consider relocating beyond the nation’s borders in search of the ideal job.

With the unknown quantity of a never-ending Brexit still dangling above the UK economy, the Government and the country’s leading businesses remain united on one matter at least: digital technology will be key to the future prosperity of the country. The majority of UK businesses are therefore dedicating resources toward the up-skilling of their current workforce, and addressing a widening gap between the demand for digitally capable staff and the talent pool.

However, many such plans have undoubtedly been rocked by the assertion of Boston Consulting Group (BCG) that as much as a three quarters of the UK’s digital workforce may weigh up leaving the country for work.  According to a study forming part of the firm’s Decoding Global Talent series, the UK had one of the largest portions of digital talent willing to exit its borders in the coming years, putting it in the company of nations including Albania, Algeria, Belarus, El Salvador and Iran.

Willingness of Digital Experts to Move Abroad, by Country

In the first quarter of 2019, BCG polled 27,000 people in 180 countries with expert-level knowledge in such skills as programming and web development, mobile application development, artificial intelligence, and robotics and engineering. While the study found that the majority of Europe hosted workforces open to relocation (barring the exceptions of Croatia, Hungary and Slovakia), the UK was well above the average percentage of the region, or even the world.

Overall, 67% of digital experts were willing to move abroad for work, whereas the UK saw its figure hit 75%. This may well suggest that the nation will face a major skills shortage in years to come, and in one of the most important aspects of the economy for the future, to boot. Aside from the obvious links this may demonstrate to anxieties around the Government’s ailing Brexit plans, this may also be due to British workers having differing expectations from their international counterparts.

BCG’s paper found that the UK digital workforce value a healthy work-life balance most of all when looking for work, followed by good relationships with their peers and with their managers. The research shows workers are more concerned with well-being and human interaction at work, rather than financial compensation, which was deemed less important. At the same time, while overseas peers stated learning and development was the second most important factor to them, UK tech workers ranked it eighth, showing the UK sample place more value in the challenges and dynamics of their work.

Top Ten Most Attractive Countries for Digital Experts

The news also suggests that the UK cannot just rely on London’s reputation to attract more talent than the outgoing amount. While London was named as the most attractive city to work in as a tech expert by 24% of respondents, the UK ranks a distant fifth in terms of a national destination, some way behind the US, Germany, Canada and Australia.

Nick South, Partner & Managing Director at BCG said of the findings, “The digital workforce is highly skilled, highly mobile and in high demand. 75% of digital workers in the UK are willing to move abroad for work, which is more than other UK workers. Whilst it is good news that London remains the most attractive city in the world for tech workers globally, UK companies – and the country as a whole – have to think very smartly about how we attract and retain the best UK and global digital talent – or they will vote with their feet.”