The Blog

Expats Move Up The Career Ladder In The UK

There are many dreams and aspirations expats hope to realise during their time abroad: improve their quality of life, pursue a new challenge or join a partner in their overseas adventure. Many also seek to boost their job prospects, and to find greater fulfilment in their careers. For these expat ambitions, the UK emerges as one of the top destinations with each British city offering something different.

HSBC's Expat Explorer latest annual report - Achieving ambitions abroad - reveals that Singapore, New Zealand and Canada are the top three expat destinations globally. With nearly 27,000 expats from 190 countries sharing their views on life abroad with us this year, the survey is the world's largest poll of expats.

While the UK ranks 22nd overall, the country stands out for the career opportunities on offer to expats living there. Nearly two thirds (62 percent) of those in the UK say it is a good place to progress their career, above the global average of 43 percent. In fact, over a third (35 percent) say the chance to improve their job prospects is the reason why they decided to embrace the British way of life. On top of that, 64 percent of expats think they have a greater chance to pick up new skills in the UK than in their home country.

Alongside career development come a number of appealing financial benefits: 46 percent of expats in the UK say they earn more here than back home, and 44 percent than they are able to put more money away.

With the UK emerging as career hotspot for expats, each British city has something great to offer. So whatever it is expats hope to achieve from their time here in the UK, there's a city to match every ambition.

London is the career and business hotspot

The British capital and global financial centre tends to appeal to the most ambitious expats. Two in five of those living in London moved there to improve their job prospects, and 71 percent of adopted Londoners agree that their time in the UK will give a significant boost to their future employment opportunities, be that back home or in a new destination. Foreign professionals in the city also praise its working culture, with 60 percent finding it better than in their home country. London also shines for its entrepreneurial culture, as 63 percent of expat entrepreneurs and business owners report they are viewed more positively there.

Bristol and Leeds stand out for quality of life

Bristol appears as the British city where expats are the most likely to find a good work/life balance: 60 percent report they have found better balance between work and play since they've moved to Bristol and 76 percent enjoy immersing themselves in the British culture (more than the average of 71 percent across the UK). The only city that can compete with Bristol is Leeds, where the majority of expats (52 percent) admit that their quality of life is better there than it was back home.

Birmingham: the up and coming business hub?

Birmingham rivals London as the UK's best destination for expat career progression. Indeed a majority (57 percent) of expats in Birmingham believe their experience in the UK will improve their job prospects, less than London but much higher than the global average of 46 percent. Finding meaningful professional lives is an added benefit for expats in the West-Midlands' city centre, with 58 percent of expats finding their work more fulfilling in Birmingham than they did in their home country.

Feeling at home in Edinburgh

The Scottish capital wins top marks for expat experience as friendliest place in the UK with 57 percent of those living there saying they found it easy to make new friends, which compares to less than half (48 percent) of all expats in the UK. This could be a reason why expats there settle in quite quickly: 40 percent of expats in Edinburgh feel at home within six months, a much higher proportion than across the UK as a whole (29 percent).

Who are the expats living in the UK?

In our survey, the top occupations for expats in the UK are Finance, IT and Media, Marketing and Creative industries. Nearly half are aged 18 to 34 years, and the top three countries of origin are the US, France and Romania.

The UK data is based on responses from 4,791 expats and has been collected in March and April 2016, before the outcome of the EU referendum.

Expats' ratings of 45 host countries are available to explore online through the Expat Explorer interactive tool: