More senior executives are leaving the UK, France and Germany than are being attracted to work there, according to new figures, as talented individuals become keener to carve out careers in foreign climes.
A new study by recruitment website Experteer has revealed a dramatic turn-around in the fortunes of the UK, with eight per cent more executives leaving the country in the 12 months to April 2008 than were attracted from abroad.
The figures mark a dramatic volte-face for the UK, which has long been considered a "talent magnet" for mobile international high-flyers.
But with the credit crunch biting, bills soaring, house prices collapsing, taxes rising and an unpopular government lurching from one crisis to another, executives -= as well as many large companies – are leaving the UK in droves.
With up to two million people emigrating from Britain in the past decade and big corporate names such as Boots, Yahoo! and Procter & Gamble quitting its shores, the UK's reputation as an international centre for business is looking distinctly tarnished.
It isn't just the UK that is seeing an exodus, however. According to Experteer's figures, which are based on data from more than 13,000 executives, Germany saw a 12 per cent next outflow in the year to April 2008 while the figure for France was 14 per cent.
As to the obvious question - where are they all going? - the answer seems to be Switzerland, which saw a 42 per cent increase in the number of executives moving there.
And little wonder. A survey by consultancy Mercer in June ranked Zurich, Vienna and Geneva as the best cities to live in for quality of life. London only came in at 38. Meanwhile, low levels of corporation and personal tax are also attracting business to Switzerland.
Torsten Muth, the UK managing director of Experteer, said: "It is clear that the credit crunch has hit the UK hard. We see increasing numbers of footloose, highly talented individuals willing to relocate in Europe."
Grace Borrelli, London-based Managing Partner at executive search firm CTPartners, said that the trend was accelerating, with changes to corporation tax by the UK government as well as a tougher tax regime for rich "non-domiciles" both key catalysts in encouraging the exodus.
"Bills have been going up at an unprecedented rate and then there are all the tax changes. The only thing really keeping a lot of people here is their desire to educate their children in this country," she said.
"Employers should have an articulated reason for keeping senior people in the UK whether it is access to market or simply more cost effective to do so," she added.
"In the current climate, they need to be asking some fundamental questions about the best location for their top talent."