European employees are the most pessimistic in the world about the career opportunities open to them. However, a two-track European labour market is emerging with Britons improving dramatically in confidence whilst the French, Italians and Spaniards remain negative.

The findings of recent research by member-based advisory company CEB, who surveys people on how they perceive the availability and quality of employment opportunities in their location, industry and function. The stand-out finding is that there is a definitive pick-up in confidence amongst British employees.

UK optimism contrasts sharply with the situation in France, Italy and Spain where any improvement in employee sentiment is noticeably absent. In these countries, weak labour markets could become a self-fulfilling prophecy as lack of candidate confidence hampers recovery. However they are exception rather than rule.

Although Europeans are still more negative than their international colleagues about prospects, sentiment is improving slowly. The European employment outlook is the best it has been in over a year.

This is in line with economic improvements. The global economy is returning to growth and companies are hiring. HR executives surveyed by CEB point to a global hiring hike over the next 12 months, as 47% of HR Heads expect an increase in overall hiring volumes.

Clare Moncrieff, senior director at CEB, believes UK employers could be the ones to reap the benefits of a two-track Europe:“The economic troubles of France, Italy and Spain are well documented, so it is understandable that employees in those countries are not optimistic about their prospects. However, the pick-up in positive sentiment in the UK is clear evidence of improving confidence about a possible return to growth.

“UK employers could be the ones to benefit most. London is already France’s sixth biggest city thanks to its large and growing French population. Talented multilingual, mobile Italians and Spaniards are likely to take note of opportunities in London too – which perhaps look even more attractive when contrasted with negative economic messages at home. Local employers will need to work harder to promote the development opportunities on offer and keep the best people.”

CEB’s findings are based on data from the company’s Global Labour Market Survey, which polls approximately 18,000 employees from 28 countries during the first month of each quarter.