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Working and Living in London

posted on July 10, 2015
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Below is a short article on Working and Living in London by Mary Anne Thompson, founder and president of GoinGlobal, Inc.

Working and Living in London

Expat friendly but expensive, London proves a continued favorite among foreign jobseekers looking for comfortable environs and a diverse job market.

Working in London

According to Manpower’s most recent quarterly Employment Outlook report, the employment outlook in London is the brightest it’s been since 2007. The city’s workforce is predicted to grow by 4.5 this year, and then by 1.2 percent and 0.7 percent in the years following.

The current unemployment rate for all adults in London is 6.6 percent, slightly higher than the UK’s unemployment rate of 6 percent. Even higher is London’s unemployment rate for 16 to 24 year-olds – a high 19 percent, compared to 15.8 percent for the country as a whole.

According to recruitment firm Robert Half, overall demand in London is greatest for professional services, retail, FMCG (Fast-Moving Consumer Goods), oil and gas, real estate and technology.

Most of London’s future job gains are predicted to be in the private sector. Thirty-seven percent of organizations polled by Deloitte from the government and public sector have plans to reduce staff, and only 22 percent plan to increase their headcounts.

Skills London employers say what they will need the most over the next decade are creativity, management skills and technical expertise. Clerical and support, language and processing skills are predicted to be less in demand.

Deloitte reports that 73 percent of London businesses plan to increase staff over the next five years. Broken down by sector, 81 percent of technology, media and telecommunications companies; 78 percent of financial and business services firms; and 62 percent of retail companies plan to increase their payrolls.

London pays the highest salaries for full-time employees in the UK. Median earnings are 660 GBP per week.

Living in London

Housing

London housing costs are high. Thirty-eight percent of London businesses have expressed concern that London’s high housing costs were affecting recruitment and retention, and a new report from Deloitte warns that London could experience a significant “brain drain” if housing prices in London aren’t soon curtailed.

In London one can rent from a private landlord or through social housing. About a quarter of London households rent through the private market; there are more private rentals in the Center of London than in the outer boroughs.

The British government has recently created the London Rental Standard to protect renters from surprise fees and unsafe living conditions. The British government has also produced a renter’s guide called How to Rent: The Checklist for Renting in England that provides helpful tips for those looking to rent housing there.

Home purchasers in London should keep in mind that the capital region is really a collection of neighborhood pockets in which housing prices vary widely. London is divided into 32 boroughs and the City of London. In the boroughs of Newham, Barking and Bexley, and Croydon home prices are still down by 10 percent, while housing prices in Bromley, Hounslow and Greenwich are growing less quickly than in other parts of London. It is also important to keep in mind that properties near Tube stations are more expensive. It pays to shop around for housing near good bus routes or overground connections. 

Transportation

Londoners have some of the longest commute times in the world. London’s public transportation system is based on a hierarchy of fares with the lowest beginning in the center of London; the farther out one lives, the higher the cost. There is also a fare for those needing to change buses. In general, bus fare is cheaper in London – 1.45 GBP for a single-fare ticket, compared to 2.20 GPD to 8.90 GBP for the commuter rail.

The London Underground, or the subway, is known as the ‘Tube’ in London. It is fast and convenient (when there isn’t a breakdown or staff strike) and allows the commuter to move across the entire length of London without a care regarding the traffic (or weather). Most Londoners use the Tube, and it can be stiflingly crowded at peak times.

London’s bus network is one of the largest in the world. Approximately 8,500 red double-decker buses carry more than 6 million passengers each weekday on more than 700 bus routes through Greater London. 

It is neither recommended nor necessary to drive in London, as the city has a comprehensive and efficient transportation system. Congestion is a growing problem, especially around the city center, and parking spaces are often limited. Only 58 percent of London households own a car, down from 63 percent in 2001.

An expatriate possessing a valid driver’s license can drive small vehicles in the UK for 12 months from the time he or she becomes a resident. After a year, foreign residents are required to obtain a British driver’s license (spelled ‘licence’).

Conclusion

A favorite expat city, London’s continually improving economic and employment outlook will please foreign jobseekers looking for a change of scenery. Culturally diverse, heavy on modern amenities and capable of catering to a variety of incomes if the expat is flexible on living arrangements, the city, after years of struggle following the global recession, now offers a growing number of private sector job opportunities.