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UK talent and labour

From culture, sport and entertainment to food, design and technology, the impact of our talent and entrepreneurial spirit is felt in every corner of the globe.

Understand the UK's talent and labour market, the labour costs and how to employ the right staff for your business.

Last updated 04 February 2020

Contents

Key benefits

  • 3rd in the world for attracting global talent
  • 4 top ten universities and the most leading MBA institutions in Europe
  • Around 75% employment rate against a European average of 68.5%
  • Competitive labour costs – lower than Italy, France or Germany
  • 78 Nobel Prize winners – more than any other country besides the USA

A market made for success

With a labour force of 32 million and an employment rate of around 75% (against a 69% European average), the UK is one of the top European economies for attracting, cultivating and retaining global talent, according to the Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2018.

With such a mobile labour force in a geographical area half the size of France, businesses can access the skills they need from anywhere in the UK.

The UK is the only country whose labour force is expected to grow over the next 15 years. Conversely, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy are all projected to experience a contraction of labour supply.

Flexible labour laws that support growth

The UK’s flexible labour laws help businesses hire staff in a way that suits their needs. Contract options vary from full-time, part-time and agency staff to freelancers, consultants and contractors. Freedom to recruit quickly and for as long as needed, helps companies to react to changing circumstances.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) scores the UK highly in attracting and retaining talent. According to WEF, UK businesses:

  • get more flexibility to determine wages than any other country in Western Europe and every country in the G7 apart from Japan
  • experience a more straightforward process for recruiting and downsizing than in Germany, the Netherlands and France
  • face lower redundancy costs in the UK than in the Netherlands, Switzerland, France and Germany.

The UK is deemed better than Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and France for ease of recruiting, downsizing and changing staff working hours according to the World Bank’s Rigidity Employment Index.

High employment at low costs

The UK operates a National Minimum Wage and a National Living Wage, encouraging people to work and prevent businesses from competing unfairly. Yet, average UK labour costs are still the most competitive in Western Europe.

Low labour costs are more important than ever as many parts of the world face shortages in labour supply. The Boston Consulting Group estimates that Western Europe will need to increase its workforce by 45 million over the next 15 years – equivalent to the current working population of Germany.

The brightest talent

A highly-skilled workforce is the foundation of a strong, dynamic economy. That’s why skills are one of the five central themes of the UK’s Industrial Strategy. The UK’s Industrial Strategy is a whole-of-government approach to supporting economic growth by backing businesses to create good jobs.

The UK is home to four of the world’s top ten universities; Oxford, Cambridge, University College London and Imperial College London. It’s also home to 11 of the top 100 full-time MBA ranking institutions. The Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) rates the UK 2nd in the world for the quality of its universities, and 3rd for its pool of global knowledge skills.

With the highest proportion of adults in Western Europe educated beyond high school level, UK businesses have access to the sorts of transferable, critical thinking skills that drive innovation and business growth.

Bringing costs down with apprenticeships

An apprenticeship is a job with training that lets someone earn while they learn. Apprentices get the training and qualifications they need to become fully competent in their chosen occupation.

Apprenticeships enable businesses to grow talent and are available in hundreds of occupations across all sectors of the economy. The UK government supports employers with some of the costs for apprentices in England.

Find out more about hiring apprentices in the UK

Find the right staff for your business

If you’re looking for professional help with staffing, our Investment Support Directory helps you find UK professionals experienced in helping overseas businesses make the right decisions. You’ll find employment advisors, recruitment agencies and many other private sector businesses.

A nation of entrepreneurs

Around 590,000 new businesses were started in 2017, giving an indication of the country’s entrepreneurial spirit, highly-skilled workforce and thriving talent market.

Additionally, the UK government has created the Global Entrepreneur Programme (GEP), to encourage ambitious founders to expand their enterprises from the UK.

Find out more about our Global Entrepreneur Programme

EU Exit

Work out if you need a visa using our online visas and immigration tool.

External links

Government support for recruiting and training apprentices

Rules around employing people in the UK

EU Exit: EU Settlement Scheme: employer toolkit