I was looking at faculty jobs, and most of the jobs in UK publish the salary range and band, which (from my understanding) is essentially non-negotiable and adopted by most universities in the UK. It ends up being roughly 65k USD for an assistant professor / lecturer entry level position, even for top-tier universities in places like London, compared to places like NYC or Boston where beginner faculty salaries are easily upwards of 100k to start.
From reading a bit about this, and from looking at other posts on Academia.SE, people often say you can't compare these, or that the UK has other perks. But what exactly are these? The tax rate in the UK is 40% of what you make over 50k GBP (20% below), so even if you do get a good incremental raise, you lose almost half of it; and on top of this you pay 12% of your paycheck for National Insurance. UK universities do tend to have good pension matching (20%), but that's common in a lot of US universities too. They offer good leave (5 weeks) but many US jobs are only 9 mo contract, and still pay in the 80-100k range. So you can either take 12 weeks off per year, or, if needed, you work another up to three more months and have a higher salary supported by grants (which isn't possible in the UK scheme).
So... What am I missing? Are there hidden benefits? And otherwise how do good universities like Oxford, Imperial, UCL actually recruit good faculty?
I get that places vary a lot and some people can't move or they like one place more than another. But I'm not asking a hypothetical... I'm interested in specific reasons why you or someone you know has preferred the UK over a similarly ranked, better paying faculty job elsewhere in the world. I get that there are a lot of what ifs, like maybe the US uni has worse healthcare or childcare. But in my experience with R1 universities in the US, these perks are really really good, even for postdocs. The best answer so far is the non-tenure system in the UK, which does seem better.
For even more clarification, I'm asking this as someone that has never been to the UK, so I have no idea if I would like it more than the US. I don't care about less money – that's the whole point of my question. I'm happy to take less if there are other perks. But what I'm asking is what exactly are these perks? And ideally from the perspective of someone that has worked in academia in the UK vs elsewhere.