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London Loves Business Non-nationals Survey

A survey of London business leaders on behalf of London Loves Business.

Date Published: 11 Jun 2012

Categories: Economy | Professionals | UK


Managers feel non-UK candidates have better work ethic

At a time when one in 10 Londoners is unemployed, the stereotype of the foreign employee who has a better work ethic than a British national has become a painful cliché. wanted to find out the truth behind the stereotype. Sadly, we are today unable to refute it.

We have exclusively surveyed more than 200 business leaders in partnership with ComRes. We found that, of the three-quarters of London managers that employ non-British nationals, 24 per cent do so because they think their foreign staff have a better work ethic.

A further 17 per cent employ foreign staff because they are “more productive” than their UK-national counterparts, while 14 per cent said “they have better skills or experience than British nationals”.
One in three of those who employed foreign workers said they did so because they couldn’t find a British candidate with the skillset they required for the role they were looking to fill.
An alarming trend

One in three Londoners was born overseas, so it’s little surprise that there are so many non-UK-national employees in London companies. We at believe that our cosmopolitan workforce is one of our city’s greatest strengths.

London’s immense intellectual capital is powered by the mix of people whose non-UK backgrounds have given them different approaches to problem-solving, different educational learnings, and hugely valuable different perspectives from those born and bred in this country. The diversity of London’s social fabric has made us the open-minded, innovative and hugely multi-talented society that we are.

But the findings of our survey are worrying nonetheless, because they indicate that UK nationals are missing out on job opportunities, at a time when UK employment is the highest it’s been for almost two decades. And it’s not just down to a lack of job opportunities any more: it’s down to skillset and work ethic.

These are personal attributes that could so easily be remedied. A poor work ethic is unforgiveable, yet I suspect it is as much down to pride as any kind of laziness. There is a widespread feeling, particularly among graduates, that basic and manual jobs are somehow beneath them. Perhaps they are over-qualified, but to miss out on a job you have applied for because you don’t come across as keen and hard-working enough in the interview is just foolish.

It is a stereotype to say that Brits work less hard than other nations, and in many cases it is grossly unfair. But our research proves that in some instances it is the truth. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to support this too. Just as one example, I recently spoke to the marketing manager of a blue-chip company who said he simply couldn’t find UK candidates with enough passion for business to impress him. So, reluctantly, he had to take European candidates in their place.

And therein lies another problem – many Brits simply aren’t passionate about business. And it is all too often glaringly obvious in interviews.

This is a cultural problem whose roots are tangled and wide-reaching. But our education system doesn’t do much to help and is one obvious place we could look to improve things.

Currently, our schools are geared towards pushing as many young people into university as possible, thanks in no small part to New Labour’s ridiculous target of getting one in two kids to uni. Resultantly we are left with a young workforce with proudly high expectations of the type of first job they should take, and a dearth of workers with vocational and manual skills.

Perhaps this is part of the reason our survey found that a lack of the right skills was one of the main reasons non-UK-nationals failed to get the job over a foreign worker.

Of course, our survey was by no means centred around jobs for young people. A lack of the right skills is clearly a problem among the older generations too. London’s workforce needs to keep itself flexible: to learn how to master digital technology, how to operate in a changing world, how to pick up a new language conversationally.

There are plenty of hugely talented Brits in London who cruelly can’t find work simply because of circumstance and bad luck. But the findings of our survey indicate there is also a large number who are failing to find work because they don’t have the skills and attitude for today’s workplace.

Those are both things that any individual can fix for themselves with enough hard work. Let’s hope that they do, for the state of our economy and for Londoners themselves.

ComRes surveyed 203 London business leaders online in March 2012. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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