Stefano Bianchi is fed up.
The broker has been in London for 20 years and has been working in the City of London, the heart of the financial industry, for 15 years.
The Italian, in his early 40s, who does not want to reveal his real name out of consideration for his employer, has made a career in the insurance industry.
He goes in and out of the Lloyd's Building, the striking office tower designed by the architect Richard Rogers.
But on January 28th it will be over.
Then comes the moving van, Bianchi moves back to northern Italy with his wife and two children.
“London is an exciting place, a cosmopolitan city.
But the pandemic has changed everything, the city is orphaned.
And it will stay that way for a while.
Much of our working life will no longer be the same as it used to be, ”he explains the decision.
Even the big bosses in his company have been working from home for months.
"The pandemic has shown that business is also decentralized, that we can sit anywhere, not just in London."
"Anyone who works in gastronomy is long gone"
Like Bianchi, many people are currently doing in the British capital.
"A lot of my Greek friends have left London in the past few months, and they also tell me about a lot of acquaintances who have taken the same step," says Dino Costopoulos, who works as an auditor in the city.
"Especially those who have worked in gastronomy or in retail are long gone."
Spanish families, an Australian podiatrist, a Lithuanian cook and his partner: Newcomers from London who have turned their backs on the city to return home have been everywhere for months.
A recent study by the Economic Statistics Center of Excellence, a think tank for economic statistics, suggests that these observations are more than the usual comings and goings in a metropolis with a population of millions.
According to the calculations of the authors Michael O'Connor and Jonathan Portes, 700,000 foreigners could have left the city in the past twelve months.
The lockdown discussion
That would correspond to an eight percent drop in the population.
1.3 million foreign-born residents turned their backs on the entire country during the first ten months of the pandemic.
The scientists emphasize that these figures are only estimates that are “approximate and illustrative and certainly not exact.” However, they are much more plausible than the official labor market statistics.
It shows an increase in domestic, i.e. British-born workers in the capital by more than a quarter of a million for 2020, despite the pandemic that hit the British economy particularly hard.
London, with its numerous jobs related to tourism, entertainment and gastronomy, suffers doubly.
Britain is vaccinating against the spread of the mutation
In Great Britain, the pressure on the health system from the corona mutation is enormous.
More corona patients are currently being treated than ever before.
WELT correspondent Stefanie Bolzen reports from London on the tense situation.
Source: WELT / Stefanie Bolzen
The drastic difference in the number of inhabitants can be explained by the data collection.
The labor market statistics are updated mainly on the basis of previous job numbers.
If fewer people can be reached in survey samples, they are given greater weight in the figures.
Information on immigration and emigration is not directly reflected in the figures.
The latter could only be collected to a limited extent at airports and other transport hubs due to the restrictions caused by the pandemic last year.
Their calculations should therefore not be understood as a criticism of the ONS statistical office, the scientists emphasize, but rather as an indication to consider additional aspects in the future.
Other data also do not suggest an increase in UK workers in the capital.
The number of taxable employees fell by around 140,000.
On the other hand, applications for Universal Credit, UK welfare, have more than doubled.
The calculations are about much more than statistical nuances.
“It looks like the burden of job losses during the pandemic has largely not hit UK workers;
It has expressed itself in immigration instead of unemployment, ”says Portes, a full-time professor of economics at King's College in London.
The population decline is also likely to distort the trend in unemployment.
According to the latest figures from October, it is 4.9 percent.
That was 1.2 percentage points more than in the previous year.
The lower than expected increase has so far been explained by economists mostly with the short-time working models that will run until spring.
The first lockdown took a particularly long time in Great Britain
The pandemic is not the only reason for Bianchi to return to Italy with his family.
“London is no longer what it was.
Because of Brexit and because of Covid, ”he says.
Even with many other migrants, the plan for change has matured for a long time.
It is obvious that Brexit effects are in the migration data, confirms Portes.
But this clear development "is new, sudden and very strong, and it will begin in the April to June 2020 quarter".
After the first lockdown began later than in the rest of Europe, it took a particularly long time in Great Britain.
Retail companies were able to reopen after 15 weeks in mid-June, restaurants from the beginning of July.
They have been closed repeatedly in large parts of the country since October.
Many immigrants were faced with the question of paying for a relatively expensive living and high rents in the city with no or a significantly lower income.
Or go back to their families, with lower costs and, for the most part, a significantly lower risk of Covid infection.
“Not a difficult choice,” says Portes.
He assumes that young immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe in particular made this decision.
Churn is already having an impact on the London rental market.
While house prices in Great Britain rose by an average of 7.9 percent last year, it has become difficult to find tenants, especially in the capital's central districts.
As a result, rents fell by an average of 6.9 percent by the end of October.
Islington, Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea even recorded declines of around ten percent.
With reference to the pandemic and the loss of countless jobs, the PwC consultancy had already warned at the beginning of January that the population in London is likely to decline for the first time since the late 1980s in 2021.
By then, the population had fallen steadily by almost two million from a high of 8.6 million in 1939.
Among other things, the liberalization of the financial industry had led to a trend reversal from 1988, which recently even surpassed the pre-war record of the inhabitants.
Only when the health situation has relaxed will it become clear how great the attraction of London will be in the future.
A problem for many of the migrants from the EU: Brexit and the new migration rules make their return much more difficult if they have not lived on the island for five years.
Bianchi definitely has no plans to come back.
“The quality of life on the continent is simply much better.
In northern Italy you can ski in winter, in summer you can be on the beach in a few hours. ”And he also has 30 percent more money at his disposal because life is nowhere near as expensive as in London.
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