Graduate prospects are rising, but for some it's too late. Photo: Christopher Furlong, Getty
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Graduate prospects are improving, but some may already have left Britain for good

The UK's graduate job market is getting better, but Britain may already have lost a selection of its most talented youth to foreign climes.

Finally some good news for British graduates: employers expect to hire 18 per cent more university leavers this year as the economy continues to strengthen.

The bullish prospects for the graduate job market were revealed in an annual report by employment researcher Incomes Data Services (IDS) and will come as a boost to recent university leavers and students sitting finals this summer.

For many of those who graduated in the depths of the recession over the past few years, however, the upturn has come far too late. Certainly many of my peers have given up on gunning for an elusive graduate job in Britain, deterred by relentless rejection. With more than 60 applications for every vacancy last year according to IDS, you can hardly blame them.

Abandoning a fruitless and demoralising job hunt in the UK rarely means neglecting the search altogether, however: the favoured solution for many graduates has been simply to hop abroad. Figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency last year reveal that one in ten British graduates emigrates for work.

The general trend towards emigration certainly appears to be on the rise in the UK. Statistics published by the Office for National Statistics last summer indicate that the number of UK citizens flocking abroad each year has increased by a fifth under the Coalition, to reach 154,000 a year. The trend for emigration among Brits is clearly an upwards one, and the brain drain appears strongest among recent graduates.

So where are young Brits relocating? As the economic powerhouse of Europe, Germany is a natural option for many British émigrés. Boasting a strong economy and a youth unemployment rate of just 7.7 per cent, according to the latest figures released by Eurostat last month, opportunities are far more plentiful than in the UK. The start up culture in Berlin, in modern times a thriving tech hub, holds a particularly strong draw for cyber savvy grads.

Even more enticing than that, however, is the comparatively cheap cost of living. Rental prices in London are a staggering 175 per cent more expensive than in Berlin, according to city price comparison site Numbeo. Eating out in London is 50 per cent more expensive, and groceries 30 per cent more costly, than in Berlin. The nub of it is that you can afford to have a much better time on a far lower wage in the German capital than in the British one.

That, in essence, seems to be the key to the British trend of graduate emigration: a better quality of life overseas for less money. The analogy does not only hold true for Berlin, where the rental market is especially cheap and the job market strong. Young Brits are also heading to southern European nations with weaker economies, because whether or not they can win better jobs, they can certainly live more pleasant lives in countless Mediterranean destinations.

With unemployment among 15 to 24 year olds higher than 50 per cent in Spain, according to Eurostat, promising career opportunities may look scarce, for example, but at least the rent and sangria are cheap in most Spanish cities (compared to the UK) and there is the glamour of sunshine and the excitement of new experiences.

Of course working behind a bar may not have been the dream while reading, say, anthropology at Durham, but at least doing it in an exotic new environment abroad beats being stuck in Blighty, having moved back in with your parents.

Start-up costs for a new life abroad can be as low as you are dare – no one could call it lavish to buy a one-way flight on a low-cost airline and book a stranger’s sofa via Couchsurfing. Europe's open border policies also make the bureaucratic element of moving abroad a doddle in most instances.

The emigration trend is unlikely to reverse soon, because young Brits do not appear to recognise that their career prospects are improving at home. According to a recent survey by Small Earth, a youth travel and work organisation, perception of the job market in Britain remains poor, with more than half (54 per cent) of young people deeming the UK job market “bad” and less than 30 per cent ranking it as “good”.

Almost all of my friends who have moved abroad are having a thrilling time, with few planning to return home anytime soon. It makes me wonder, will the generation of graduates who have sought their fortunes abroad end up returning to British shores at all?

 

Lucy Fisher writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2013. She tweets @LOS_Fisher.

 

Photo: Getty
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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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