Britain’s Brain Drain: Where Are They Going?

At the end of this post I’m going to give you a link to an article that appeared in the Telegraph in the UK about a month ago. The article has so many facts, figures, percentages, numbers, comparisons and quotes that it quite frankly gave me a headache.

Never mind brain drain, my brain was actually hurting!

Causes Brain DamageSo I’ve decided to massively dilute the message here to save you all from having to grab the paracetamol. Let’s see if we can quickly get straight to the bottom line and tell you exactly what it’s all about.

Clever peeps are leaving Britain

Yes, and there’s more.

They are being replaced with not so clever people.

Okay, so that’s what’s happening in Britain, but this website is about life in Australia. So, why should we be interested? The clue is in the second part of the title of this post.

Where are they going?

It’s what we love best here on this website, it’s a top 10 list.

The top destinations for British nationals living abroad are:

  1. Australia – 1,208,000
  2. United States – 701,000
  3. Canada – 675,000
  4. Spain – 411,000
  5. Ireland 397,000
  6. New Zealand – 268,000
  7. France – 173,000
  8. Germany – 155,000
  9. Netherlands – 46,000
  10. Philippines – 42,000

Yes, the top destination for Britain’s brainy people is Australia and as you can see, around 1.2 million have headed to this country. This is exactly the same as the number of people living here at the moment whose country of birth was the UK.

So somehow or another it appears that this report has managed to calculate that everybody who moves from the UK to Australia is brainy, which I suppose must include me. They must’ve heard about my “O level” in maths then.

Whilst the article didn’t say exactly how they came to the conclusion that all these people leaving were brainy, they did say that the report was based on information from the 2011 Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIIAC) from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Yes, the OECD again, the people who also brought you:

And so much more.

Key facts and figures

Let’s take a look at just five of those key facts and figures, an easily manageable amount of information guaranteed not to drain your brain.

  • Down the DrainThe country’s most highly skilled workers are emigrating because they can earn more money and enjoy better standards of living overseas.
  • There are now an estimated 4.7 million Britons living abroad and, on average, more than 300,000 a year leave the UK.
  • Between 1964 and 2011 some 684,000 “highly numerate individuals” left the UK. (There you go, told you so, that’s my maths “O level”.)
  • Britons who have emigrated are more likely to earn more money and enjoy a healthier lifestyle than those remaining in the UK.
  • Average earnings for emigrants to America, Canada and Australia in 2011 stood at the equivalent of around £2,580 a month compared with just over £2,000 for those in the UK.

That last point, about earnings, really does backup what I’ve suggested in my posts on the subject, for example in Australian and UK Salaries Compared: Part Two 2012.


Some jolly good reasons to move abroad as far as I can see; who doesn’t want more money, a better standard of living or a healthier lifestyle?

If you want more reasons though, more stats, more figures, more percentages, more quotes and maybe that headache, head over to The Telegraph for the full article.

Visa Assessment Service
{ 9 comments… add one }
  • karen louisa andrews April 28, 2015, 5:32 am |

    Hello ,
    we have only just recently signed up to your site . my Husband ha s been to oz a couple of times so has more insight then i do ! I would like to thank you so much for all your time and wisdom i have learnt so much from your blog

    • BobinOz April 28, 2015, 11:12 pm |

      Thanks very much Karen, glad to have been of help. Good luck in your journey, Bob

  • Claire Pepper-Rogers April 1, 2015, 8:08 pm |

    Good luck with the visa! We are all set and getting ready to go – flights are booked, shipping arranged, the cat’s got her flight and quarantine sorted (in fairness she contributed very little to the organisation herself) and off to Aus in September. We did the whole 189 visa ourselves and didn’t use a migration agent – it wasn’t hard but did take a long time and required meticulous attention. Bring on the sunshine and bye bye OFSTED! (both teachers in case you wondered…)

    • djmcbell April 1, 2015, 8:45 pm |

      We’re 99% sure we’ll use a visa company, simply because we don’t want to get anything wrong and have to do it again. We’ve heard that it definitely makes things easier (though one person said it made it harder).

      Good luck on your move!

      • BobinOz April 1, 2015, 9:25 pm |

        I thought you would get there in the end, I suspect it was that last holiday that decided it for you. And getting back to the rain and the traffic. Good luck with your visa application, and if you change your mind about the agent you are thinking of using, then maybe you might want to consider my agent.

        It starts with a Visa Assessment which isn’t free, but he does deduct the cost from your other expenses if you go on to use him.

        He’s a really nice bloke, honest, knows his stuff and he won’t mess you about. He is, of course, MARA registered as well. Just thought I’d mention that, it would be bad form if I didn’t 🙂

        Whoever you use though, I hope it goes well and you end up clutching your visas and heading to Australia on a one-way ticket.

  • pete taylor April 1, 2015, 5:23 am |

    djmcbell I wish you the best of luck, with a lot of hard work and the right frame of mind you will be set up for life.
    In 1975 I along with my wife and four little ones went to South Africa, we had four
    suitcases, and three wooden crates [They got there 3 months later ]
    We got Four beds and a table with chairs { kept some cash in reserve }
    For the first six months I worked 12 hours a day seven days a week with one weekend off a month. As we got better off I cut my hours down to a normal working week along with a little overtime We had a good standard of living.
    We stayed i South Africa for 14 years only left due to changes in the country,
    I don’t regret going to South Africa it’s a great country but we should have moved at Australia [Now you know why I read “Bob in Oz
    All the best to you and all that go to Australia
    Pete Taylor

  • djmcbell March 31, 2015, 9:49 pm |

    Well, soon those figures may be adding another two highly numerate people (plus a toddler who loves to chase birds).

    We’re fed up of the UK – the glum faces, the drinking, not daring to go to the park because of the weather, the crowded streets, general attitudes to certain people, and more besides.

    I want to be more active. My ideal hobby would be cycling but I dare not cycle round here because I fear I’d get very little opportunity with the weather, I’d probably get knocked off my bike, or I’d have my bike stolen or vandalised. In my local city people who lock their bikes up either get them nicked or, if they can’t steal them, severely broken (it’s always hilarious to see the locked bikes the council put up, advising people to get locks, with their wheels mangled and seats missing).

    When we last visited Australia however, it was brilliant. It wasn’t sunny all the time but it was quieter at least. Even Melbourne seemed comparatively empty compared to my local city centre. And people seemed happy! There were beaches and playparks galore, and nobody going round swigging cans of beer at 9 in the morning. Traffic, even on the motorways in the Gold Coast (when we visited there) was easy. And the houses! To build a new home, with four bedrooms, a double garage, alfresco area, two bathrooms, dining/living room, media room and so on cost the same as our substantially smaller three-bed terrace in a rubbish neighbourhood. Admittedly we have to buy the land too though…

    The money – I’m paid just under £20k in an IT role. Looking online, just *one* part of my job was advertised for $70k, near where my parents live (which is where we’re looking at moving). A fair whack more. Our shopping – having done a mock online shop – comes to about the same as it does in the UK. My sisters both live out there and their husbands each earn about $60k to $70k a year – enough for them both not to need to work (and they’ve each got kids). Childcare seems a lot better – we’re heavily discounted and only doing two days childcare a week, but still have to pay £25 a day – even when we’re not there in order to keep the space (this is nothing though compared to a friend of mine who pays £12,000 a year in childcare fees).

    When we got back to the UK we were utterly depressed – from the hour-long wait at immigration (complete with queue-jumpers), another hour for baggage, then waiting for father-in-law to pick us up as they wouldn’t let him just get us at the entrance, he had to go and park and pay money, then the traffic jam for miles on the motorway, in the pouring rain, getting in and thinking “God everything’s so small”, finding out the boiler wasn’t working and ringing the boiler company up, then being told we’re not a priority (despite having a 1-year-old – apparently only babies under 1 and the elderly are priorities)…

    So we’re pretty much set on moving, and starting the process in the next few days. We’ve got details and quotes from a few Visa companies and have pretty much decided on which one to go with. It’ll be expensive and the first year will be difficult but we think it’ll be for the best, for everyone. I don’t envy my wife leaving her family at all though, who have been nothing if not terrific to us all.

    Wish us luck!

  • Claire Pepper-Rogers March 30, 2015, 9:47 pm |

    Only highly educated, graduate-type brains are capable of filling in all the skills assessment and visa forms!

    • BobinOz March 31, 2015, 4:44 pm |

      Ha ha, yes, that’s true, maybe that’s why the application form is more than 80 pages long 🙂 it’s really a brain check.

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