Europe's talent is moving to continent's second cities, employers are following

Workers are packing up their belongings and turning their backs on the constant grind of Europe’s most intense capital cities, like London, Amsterdam, and Berlin.

Instead, they are choosing “second cities” across the continent in an attempt to improve their quality of life and cut down their outgoings.

More talent is moving to places like the northern English city of Leeds, the Dutch port of Rotterdam, and the southern German hub of Stuttgart, according to the latest Innovation Geographies report from real estate services group Jones Lang LaSalle. 

Each of those cities saw an increase in their “talent concentration scores” last year thanks to an influx of skilled workers, as did other smaller European cities like Cologne, Birmingham, and Oslo.

Leeds, home to around 800,000 people, was second only to Tel Aviv in registering the biggest increase in its talent concentration score last year.

European talent hits the road

Interest in cheaper cities has ballooned since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as workers proved they were able to work from anywhere, beginning a great recalibration in the work-life balance tradeoff.

Major cities across the globe are dealing with seemingly insurmountable housing crises, added to other cost-of-living pressures stoked by generationally high inflation.

That has helped push workers to find cheaper accommodation away from the crowded bustle of their capitals, and according to JLL, investors are now following suit.

“In recent years, talent shortages, rising home prices and regulatory pressures have catalysed expansion into lower-cost markets, aided by more flexible working patterns and technology,” the authors of the JLL report wrote.

The moves from Europeans mimic trends seen in the U.S.

In recent years, Americans have walked away from pricey States like New York and California in favor of places like Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina. 

RTO mandates 

There is likely to be a reckoning though, as more and more companies renege on their fully remote working pledges, and order staffers back to the office either full-time or in a hybrid model.

Recent data from LinkedIn found remote job postings had plummeted by around 20% in major European countries including Ireland, Germany, and France. They had fallen 13% in the U.K.

Applications for remote postings, meanwhile, have stayed relatively flat, suggesting employers offering remote work options will have their pick of the best talent.

However, it now seems that developers and employers are responding to those shifting movements by bringing jobs to those workers, rather than embracing a remote work culture concentrated in London. 

Mid-sized European cities enjoyed some of the biggest rises in innovation last year, as property developers and companies eyed up new locations for growth thanks to a growing demand for housing and an increased supply of workers.

The two European cities that JLL earmarked as “ones to watch” were the northwestern English city of Manchester due to its young talent and relative affordability, and Lisbon, which has become a sunny paradise for digital nomads working remote jobs.  

“Many of the “most-improved” markets referred to in our research are lower-cost, mid-sized and lifestyle-focused cities, such as Lisbon, Manchester and Toulouse,” said JLL’s director of city futures and global insight, Phil Ryan.

“All these cities offer cultural amenities, shorter commutes, and access to nature, making them particularly attractive to talent.”

Europe’s major cities continue to come up trumps in terms of overall talent concentration, with cities like London, Berlin, and Stockholm still commanding the best workers.

But there may be hope for workers who fled for a quieter life during the COVID-19 pandemic that their careers need not suffer by upping sticks. They just need developers’ and employers’ money to follow them.

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