The Times reports that five hundred Britons are leaving the UK every day to live in the sun or find work abroad, according to the Office of National Statistics. A record 380,000 people left the country in 2005. More than half were British citizens leaving for more than a year. The top destinations are Australia, Spain, France and New Zealand.
Meanwhile 565,000 people arrived, (immigration has pushed up the British population by nearly one and half million in a decade) slightly down on the previous year, so the overall population rose by 185,000. Most came to work or study. According to the ONS, it is estimated that more than 100,000 new homes each year will be needed for the newcomers. Similar pressures are building on the Health Service, social services, transport and policing.
One in five Britons moving abroad headed for Australia. Large numbers also emigrated to Spain, where there is an established expatriate retirement community. Canada and South Africa are also very popular.
A point made in an earlier report was that we are now seeing an acceleration of the old "brain drain" effect, in that those emigrating are several times more likely to be more highly educated and skilled than those arriving to find work. As an example, very little Research & Development is now done by large international companies in the UK and so if your'e in this field, you are probably reading this on the West coast of the United States or the Pacific Rim. An old friend of mine now working for a US technology company, tells me that he's only staying in the UK because he doesn't want to take his children out of school and I've heard the same story from several people of my age.
Emigration on this level is now a source of real concern for the future of the UK economy, which has focused on attracting "cheap" labour, rather than skilling the workforce to compete in the 21st century. More interestingly perhaps, it also shows that the middle classes are fed-up with the mess they see around them and many are starting to vote with their feet.