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Careers: is “reverse commuting” the future of living and working in London?

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Hollie Richardson
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More people are looking for work outside of London.

The pandemic is causing a wave of “reverse commuters” in London, but what does this mean for the future of living and renting in the capital city?

It was inevitable that the pandemic, along with the biggest recession on record, would cause long-term changes to the way we live and work in and around London

Spareroom recently told Stylist about one such change: as people continue to work from home, the site has seen “early signs of people shifting away from London and rents falling in the capital”.

But, sadly, many people aren’t able to work from home and a lot of people are losing their jobs. So what does the future of living and commuting in the capital mean for them?

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Well, new research by careers website Indeed shows there is a wave of “reverse commuters” – Londoners who are increasingly looking for jobs outside the capital as the city’s economy stalls.

As reported in The Guardian, the number of posts advertised in London last week dropped by 55% when compared to the same date in 2019. This means more job seekers living in London are now looking for work elsewhere while they continue to live in the city. 

In fact, the number of people looking outside London was up by 27% year on year in August, and by 30% compared with the start of the year.

Commuting in London
"Reverse commuting" is growing in London as more people look outside of the city for jobs.

So, where are people looking for jobs?

The most popular search locations were parts of the home counties: Essex is at the top of the list, followed by Kent and Surrey. 

The problem is, however, that London isn’t the only area that has seen a drastic fall in vacancies. Indeed looked at the areas recording the biggest fall in adverts and found that Scotland followed London with a 51% drop, and next on the list was the south-east of England with a similar-sized decline.

The roles being searched for were typically low-paid, with the top five being: cleaner, customer service representative, warehouse worker, retail assistant and sales assistant.

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Indeed’s UK economist, Jack Kennedy, said: “While London’s flagship financial and tech sectors are still recruiting, the types of job that Londoners are searching for most commonly outside London tend to be roles that were [long] abundant in the capital – from retail to cleaning work – but which are now scarcer.

“Most are looking for work in areas within commuting distance of London. This raises the prospect of a new type of worker: the ‘reverse commuter’ who lives in London but travels out of the capital for work.”

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We of course can’t predict if this will be a short-term or long-term way of living for so many people who have recently found themselves in this new position. 

But it is likely that, whatever happens next, we will continue to seriously re-evaluate how we continue to live and work in and around expensive cities that have traditionally provided people with jobs. 

If you are concerned about housing in London, please find information and help on the Shelter website. Anyone who is concerned about their job or has recently been made redundant can find guidance and advice on the government’s website, the Citizen’s Advice website, and MoneySavingExpert.com

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…