OPINION12 July 2017

Tired of London, tired of life (or just struggling to pay the rent)?

x Sponsored content on Research Live and in Impact magazine is editorially independent.
Find out more about advertising and sponsorship.

Features Impact Opinion UK

Every year, people at the first stage of their career flock to London. Why? The answers are quite simple. More opportunities, more employers, higher salaries and great diversity. London is one of the world’s greatest cities and, with so much to offer, it’s the perfect place to start a working life. 


Unfortunately, the streets aren’t paved with gold, and what starts off all rosy and shiny can soon turn into a struggle for some. For the market research industry, it’s very much a practical problem. London is becoming increasingly expensive with unaffordable housing and sky-high travel costs, not to mention striking railways on the daily commute; yet, interestingly, most of the UK market research graduate schemes are offered by London-based agencies. 

As a recruiter, we are now seeing that London is becoming unrealistic for many graduates or entry level researchers who don’t have family within a commutable distance. In the past six weeks alone, we have seen several people in the early stages of their career looking for a move beyond the M25. 

Calculating their rent, travel costs, general living and – most likely – a student loan, it’s unlikely a graduate on an average entry level salary of say £22,000 would be able to survive in the city. The ‘out of London move’ has always been a common trend for those in their 30s, who are settling down and wanting more for their money, but not so much for those in their 20s, who are just starting out in their career. But what we are starting to witness is the possibility of our young, emerging talent – our next generation of leaders – leaving the capital because of the increasing financial pressures of living there.

Salaries within the market research industry are simply not competitive with the other professional services and so – with no sign of London-living financial pressures easing – it makes working in the sector increasingly unattractive. It’s becoming a real concern and, as recruiters, we are now seeing highly talented junior researchers actively seeking a move out of London so they can live comfortably elsewhere while pursuing their careers. This is obviously great news for the many brilliant agencies throughout the UK, but not so great for the agencies within the M25. 

My fear is that if we don’t address the very real problems being faced by our young talent, the industry will suffer. Not today, perhaps not tomorrow, but the knock-on effect will be felt in the years to come, with the real possibility of London suffering the much talked about ‘brain drain’ and having an impact on the industry overall.

What are the answers? Well, on an issue of this magnitude, frankly we don’t have them all, but we do absolutely recognise the need for an industry-wide conversation. 

Do we need to increase the starter salary to compete with other top professional services? Do we consider bringing back good old-fashioned London weighting, perhaps offer to pay travel expenses and agree to annual bonuses or tailored packages that can help support starters and attract them back into a career in market research in this wonderful, global city? 

There’s no definitive answer – no one-size-fits-all – but the problem isn’t going away, so let’s talk about how we can help those who want to pursue their research career in London.

Sinead Hasson is founder and managing director of recruitment consultancy Hasson Associates.