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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

UK: Good Quality Education and Job Opportunities at a High Price

The United Kingdom offers work opportunities in a politically stable country, but the cost of living is high.
  • Learning English a must to live there
  • Well over half unhappy with British weather
  • Healthcare affordable, but quality questionable
  • Widespread satisfaction with career prospects and job security
  • High cost of living and expensive housing

Expat Statistics 2016

Expat Statistics for the United Kingdom — infographic

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The Importance of Speaking English

Many people moving to the UK are motivated by the desire to learn the language. In fact, 3% of the respondents go so far as to say this was the main reason for their relocation, compared to the global average of 1%. Also, almost four-fifths of the respondents (79%) claim that learning the local language is easy. However, as the Expat Insider 2016 survey was conducted in English, this point is somewhat biased. What is more, while English is considered easy to learn, two-fifths of the respondents claim that without speaking the local language it is very difficult to live in this country.

Having Fun While It Rains

One thing is sure: expats moving to the UK are not relocating there because of the good weather. In fact, a stereotypical 61% of the respondents are not happy with this factor and it is also regarded as the number one potential disadvantage by 60% before moving to the UK, with just 20% of respondents worldwide sharing this opinion.

Even if the weather is not ideal, at least the available leisure activities are not lacking, as 80% of the expats surveyed rate them positively. Additionally, the UK seems to offer plenty of traveling opportunities, with only 2% of the respondents rating this factor badly as opposed to the global average of 9%.

Disappointing Healthcare in a Stable Country

The quality of medical care is not considered to be the best, seeing as only slightly more than half of the surveyed expats in the UK (54%) think positively about it, compared to the global average of 62%. However, around two-thirds of the respondents (66%) consider healthcare to be overall affordable in the UK. The quality of healthcare might not be excellent, but at least the UK appears to offer satisfactory political stability and fewer reasons for concern in regard to one’s personal safety: 77% rate the former factor positively — 16 percentage points more than the global average — while less than 0.5% regard the latter as very bad against an overall 2%.

Many Work Opportunities in a Flourishing Economy

The economy and the labor market are considered one of the top potential benefits by expats before moving to the UK (64%), and rightly so. Close to three-quarters of the surveyed expats (73%) rate the career prospects positively, in face of a global average of 55%. The country also ranks 16th out of 67 in the Job Security subcategory, with 77% of the respondents overall happy about the state of the British economy, which is a significantly higher percentage than the average of 56%. Thanks to these various factors, the UK lands on a solid 14th place in the Working Abroad Index.

“There are plenty of choices and the professional opportunities are very good.”

Expensive United Kingdom

Despite the apparent positive job prospects, personal finances seem to be affected negatively in the United Kingdom. Only 4% of the respondents there claim that their disposable household income is a lot more than enough to cover their daily needs, compared to the global average of 10%. In fact, the majority of the surveyed expats (54%) confirms that the cost of living in general is high, while the global average is 22 percentage points less. Consequently, the UK ranks 53rd in the Cost of Living Index.

“The weather and expensive house prices are challenging. Also, I don’t think the government health service is easily accessible.”

Not only does the UK rank 47th in the Personal Finance Index; finding affordable housing seems particularly challenging, according to almost two-thirds of the respondents (65%). However, it is important to note that 41% of the respondents in the UK who answered the optional question regarding their city of residence live in London, where prices tend to be higher than in the rest of the country.

A Happy Family Life?

For expat parents, high costs do not end with accommodation, either: 35% consider childcare to be very expensive, with three in five expat parents generally not agreeing with the statement that it is easily affordable. The global averages are 11% and 34%, respectively. Education, at least, is considered overall affordable by the majority of expat parents (55%).

Another positive thing about education in the UK is that the quality is generally high, as rated by almost three-quarters of parents (74%). Indeed, the UK ranks 16th out of 45 countries in the Quality of Education subcategory.

In general, over four-fifths of expat parents (81%) feel positively about the attitude towards families with children in the UK, and children’s safety is regarded as less than ideal by just 4%, with not one parent rating it very bad or quite bad. Lastly, there seems to be a lot of fun to experience for children in the UK: merely 5% of the expat parents consider available leisure activities to be insufficient, opposed to the global average of 18%.

Further Reading

On a general note: The Expat Insider 2016 survey was conducted in February/March 2016 and thus before the Brexit referendum in June 2016.