“The outcome of the EU referendum made many nervous that we would see a mass exodus of businesses relocating from London. Indeed, some sceptics predicted 100,000 finance and business services jobs would be likely to flee to the continent, and only recently, HSBC and UBS confirmed that they would start transferring staff within the next two years, and Barclays said it would move around 150 jobs to Dublin,” said Guy Douetil, Managing Director, EMEA Corporate Solutions.

“Relocation on the scale of 100,000 jobs is not possible to achieve in such a short space of time. No single city in Europe has the capacity to absorb 100,000 jobs at short notice, from a talent perspective. These jobs would need to be distributed across a range of target cities possessing the latent capacity and skills to absorb these jobs. Even then, this would absorb the available skilled workforce of cities such as Dublin, Frankfurt and Amsterdam. However, although a relocation of jobs on this scale would not be possible, it would be feasible to re-distribute 10,000 jobs across a range of skilled cities. This could generate cost savings from a real estate perspective, of up to €70 million per year, but this would need to be offset against relocation costs.”

Colliers’ Cities of Influence report features a ‘TLC’ index in which 20 major individual economic cities are ranked in terms of talent, location and cost. These factors have been categorised based on the size and orientation of economic output and the workforce; the capacity and skill-set of the latent and emerging talent pool; the cost and affordability of the city - as a place to live and save, and in terms of the cost of labour and total cost of office occupation; and finally the country risk associated with the market, and the inherent risk/challenges presented by labour laws.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Throughout the analysis, London and Paris hold the top two spots, primarily as a result of their size.
  • Paris is the leading market when it comes to output/orientation, future skills and capacity and affordability/cost. Paris scores particularly strongly when it comes to the size/experience of the latent talent pool, driven by higher levels of short-term unemployment than those available in London. Yet when it comes to the final results, factoring in market risk, London takes the reins.
  • The UK’s labour laws are far more relaxed in London than in Paris, which has been a major driver of businesses location decisions in favour of London.  
  • Outside of the big two markets, Manchester, Stockholm and Dublin are the three cities which feature most highly at 3rd, 4th and 5th place, respectively.
  • Manchester jumps up the rankings to get into 3rd spot, having occupied 6th place until the country risk/labour market factors are accounted for. After the first stage: ‘Output and Orientation’, Manchester was as low as 17th, but the combination of high scores for its strong latent talent/future skills pool, high affordability and low cost combine to move the market up the rankings, which is good news for the Northern Powerhouse.
  • Stockholm comes in at number four, as a steady strong performer throughout all sectors. The current orientation of the economy and the skills/experience of the inherent workforce put the market at the forefront when it comes to building a digitally sophisticated economy.
  • Dublin also does very well, for very similar reasons. Strong English language skills and proficiency are also a clear advantage for these cities over other European locations, as are the more liberal, transparent labour markets in situ. Dublin actually has a higher English language proficiency ratio than multi-cultural London, second only to Manchester.
  • Madrid and Barcelona both have strong affordability/cost scores, and high latent talent pools, but suffer from a high country/labour market risk factor. This knocks Madrid from 3rd to 8th, and Barcelona from 7th to 16th.
  • Munich only hit the top five once but cost/affordability and future talent factors prevent it from staying in this position.
  • Most surprising is the continual low score of Berlin, but an examination of the workforce/economic orientation of the city highlights an over-dependence on the public sector, despite all the positive growth surrounding the development of tech, media and telecoms operators in the city.
  • Frankfurt suffers primarily from a lack of capacity, and being relatively expensive, compared to other European cities.
  • The bottom ranking markets features Milan, Budapest and Brussels. Both Brussels and Milan are hindered by high relative costs, and high country market risk. Brussels (Belgium) has the weakest score of all countries from a labour market regulation perspective, and post the Italian referendum, this position is not much better for Milan. The Budapest score is also hindered by high country risk, but limited economic output/market orientation and future skills/ capacity also play a role.

Damian Harrington, Director Head of EMEA Research at Colliers International adds, “With the recent announcement by the UK Prime Minister, that the UK will be seeking a clean exit from the EU single market, and the upcoming elections in the Netherlands, France and Germany, there is clearly a lot of country risk impacting both the UK and the European Union. 

“Some occupiers will be more focused or interested in one component over another and thus the overall weightings and scores could change according to these preferences. For example, occupiers driven by cost may see the southern European and CEE markets as more attractive than their northern and western European counterparts. Alternatively, occupiers focused on a digitally sophisticated workforce will be more tempted by Stockholm and Prague than Barcelona or Brussels.
“London may be one of the most expensive cities from a real estate standpoint but when taking all factors into consideration, and the ability of the city to re-invent and evolve, it is superior to all other major European cities in this study. Recent announcements at the end of 2016 by global tech giants such including Apple, Google, Facebook and IBM re-affirmed their commitment to the future of the London and UK economies. With Trumps latest immigration policy, this could be even more reason for talent to move to London. The ability to hold on to its workforce and continue developing its talent base, will be critical to ensure the UK’s capital remains a primary attractor of corporate activity.”