Every weekday morning, hundreds of Wales’ best and brightest board trains for London and Manchester, or drive to Bristol or Birmingham. There, they earn good incomes, admittedly most of which is spent in Wales. Their rail fares and fuel costs go elsewhere, but that is small beer. They also add substantially to the GVA/capita of the areas where they work and produce. But not to that of Wales.
Our daily brain drain is probably our most significant export, yet Wales receives little return for it. The Barnett formula does not account for it. Overall, it is a large net loss. But we cannot condemn them for choosing to work in England. There are insufficient high-quality jobs in Wales currently to support the talented and innovative, whether graduates from Welsh universities or otherwise. They have made the choice to seek better prospects across the border. Who can blame them for making such a rational decision? Will Wales ever provide sufficient quality work to retain those people and their skillsets here? In part, the answer will be driven by external forces. Climate change is continuing to drive up energy costs. Commuting – already a waste of time, money and energy – is likely to become increasingly, even prohibitively, expensive and less frequent. Deployment of ultra-speed broadband throughout Wales could facilitate much more home-working, and consequently higher local productivity.