Britain looking good to overseas talent, as quotas dropped after Brexit

UK moves up list of countries considered attractive to highly-skilled workers

Britain is increasingly seen as an attractive option for skilled workers. Getty Images
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The UK has bounded up the rankings of countries that are attractive to highly-skilled foreign workers, thanks to changes in migration rules after Brexit.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said that the UK has leapt up its list that ranks the relative "talent attractiveness" of countries.

Britain has bounced up the list at a faster rate than any other country since 2019, moving nine places higher to outrank the United States and Canada and entering the top 10 for the first time.

According to the Paris-based OECD, the UK started to climb up the ranks, after abolishing its previous quotas for highly skilled workers, and because these workers tended to do better in the UK's tight labour market.

According to official data, net immigration to the UK reached a record high of 504,000 in the year to June 2022, although this included refugees from Ukraine and Hong Kong, surging foreign student numbers and a drive by the NHS to hire more staff from abroad.

Entrepreneurial ease

The OECD also points out that Britain is becoming a better place for highly skilled entrepreneurial immigrants.

"The United Kingdom climbs several places in the ranking due to lower capital requirements for entrepreneurs, but also a favourable environment when considering most other aspects such as a strong skills environment and being welcoming to immigrants," the OECD said.

Overall, in 2023, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland and Australia remain the most attractive OECD countries for highly qualified workers, followed by Norway.

The most attractive OECD countries for entrepreneurs are Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, Norway, and New Zealand.

Sweden has favourable visa conditions for entrepreneurs with a fast track to permanent residency and no capital or job creation.

Canada lost its first place in the OECD rankings, following the end of its federal visa programme for entrepreneurs, which was replaced with a system of provincial visa programmes that often have capital requirements.

Meanwhile, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Australia are the top countries when it comes to attracting international students.

UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is expected to announce a plan to bring in more foreign workers in his Budget speech next week, in an effort to tackle chronic labour shortages in some sectors.

Construction workers are among those expected to be added to the government’s list of occupations that are in short supply of workers, which enables UK companies to hire overseas workers on salaries below normal minimum thresholds.

Updated: March 10, 2023, 10:03 AM