Britons prefer to stay at home

Jan 31 2006 by Brian Amble Print This Article

In the aftermath of urban riots in Britain's inner cities in1981, the-then Employment minister, Norman Tebbit, was famously misquoted as telling the millions of unemployed in Britain to "get on your bike and look for work."

"I grew up in the 1930s with an unemployed father," Tebbit actually said. "He did not riot. He got on his bike and looked for work, and he went on looking until he found it."

But it seems that British workers are now less likely than ever to relocate and increasingly view their home lives and ties to the community in which they live as taking priority over their career development.

Research carried out by The Centre for Business Research at Manchester Business School for Telewest Business suggests that many people living in the north of England and Scotland are content to stay in their own region and do not view the perceived higher earning opportunities of the south as sufficient incentive to move.

The study, North/South Collide, examined the attitudes of more than 1,000 employees throughout the UK and reveals that the perceived career divide between the north and south of Britain is narrowing.

For today's British workforce, it suggests, the culture and attitude of employers is now more important than salary, with half citing it as a primary factor in their job decisions.

Meanwhile, commuting distance has become a critical factor in residential decisions, emerging as the top barrier to relocation for two-thirds of those questioned. By way of comparison, not wanting to cut ties with schools or family was a barrier to relocation for half (54 per cent) of those surveyed.

Similarly, the prospect of having a commute of less than 30 minutes was a positive spur to relocation, emerging as almost as big a stimulus as getting a benefits package.

"The north/south divide has become the north/south collide when it comes to employment drivers," said Stephen Beynon, MD of Telewest Business.

"As travel continues to be a frustration in many parts of the country and business communications services continue to improve, location has become less of a factor than at any time in history.

"While email, mobile phones and the internet began this shift, new communications services have the ability to completely change working patterns and this will further liberate people's employment choices," he added.

The study also found that communications skills are ranked as the most important work skill, both when people leave education and as they progress through their career.

However, whilst academic qualifications are ranked second when leaving education, they become less significant as people's careers progress and on-the-job experience becomes much more important, with a ranking of second place.

Prof Margaret Bruce, Director of the Centre for Business Research at Manchester Business School, said: "For several decades many British employees have felt compelled to relocate around the country to further their careers, and in many cases that has meant people from the north seeking to move to the south.

"This study indicates that divide is narrowing rapidly as more people seek to remain in their preferred region. Employers need to be aware that the workforce feels strongly about this and take the point on board when considering how best to attract and retain staff."