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.

 

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.