More Britons consider move abroad

Roy and Myra Pryce, two Britons who have moved to Florida

More British people than ever before want to turn dreams of a foreign life into reality, a poll for the BBC suggests.

About 1,000 people were questioned for the survey and a majority said they had considered emigrating, little change from a similar 2003 poll.

However, the number hoping to move in the near future has almost doubled.

The BBC is appealing for information on Britons abroad as part of a major project to count expats accurately.

According to the national poll, more than half of British people have considered emigrating in their life time.


But when asked about whether they would actually ever go, 13% said they were hoping to in the near future, almost twice the number asked the question in 2003.

Young people were the most likely to want to leave, with a quarter saying they were hoping to live abroad.

When asked why they would go, the most important reasons were a better quality of life, better weather and a feeling that the UK is too expensive.

Some 12% said they did not like what the UK had become while one in 10 said they already had friends or family overseas.

The opinion poll results reflect trends in the limited national statistics on emigration. According to official figures, record numbers of people have been emigrating with 350,000 having left in 2004 - up a third on ten years.

Six-month project

The Institute of Public Policy Research, a think tank, is trying to count as many expats as possible in a project running through 2006.

The figures are due to be available in depth for the public on the BBC News website at the end of the year and in the meantime it is appealing for readers to contribute with stories and experiences.

The aim is to reveal the untold themes, issues and tales about British life abroad that do not appear in official research sources.

Danny Sriskandarajah, associate director of IPPR, said he believed the UK's apparent fondness for emigration was the "neglected side" of the migration debate.

"Emigration from the UK has important policy implications that have not received enough attention," he said.

"We need to understand more about what will happen as more young people head off on overseas adventures, more skilled people are lured away by other countries, and more pensioners retire to all corners of the map.

"Britain has developed a particularly global outlook thanks to centuries of flows in and out.

"The challenge for British policymakers will be to harness the economic and political potential of one of the largest diasporas in the world."

The Foreign Office has funded the IPPR's research. Minister Lord Triesman said that government needed to know not only where people have gone - but also what this tells us about how people migrate in a globalised world.

"It's clear that more British people are going to live abroad," said Lord Triesman.

"Up to 14 million Britons live overseas for at least part of the year. To deliver the consular services and assistance to which British residents overseas are entitled, we need more accurate information on how many there are, and where they are going. Recent events in Lebanon highlighted the importance of this."

Taking part

Over the coming months, the BBC News website wants to hear your stories of life abroad as people who have left the UK behind - and what it means to you.

We are also appealing for you to send your pictures and, where possible, video.

The information you send will help us to build a global picture of expat life, whether you are someone who has recently emigrated, or someone who has not been back for 40 years. See the links above to find out more.

ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 1002 adults aged 18+ by telephone between 28 and 30 July 2006. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. See internet links.

August 2006