It’s time for Brits to stop looking at their feet and to embrace the economic opportunities that sit just beyond our borders.
There is no way of silver-lining it, things are pretty bad in the UK at the moment. The average UK family is £1,350 worse off than when Cameron came to office as prices continue to rise faster than wages. That is for those who are in work. There are still 2.47 million people out of work and many more in insecure “flexible” contracts.
For those who consider dropping out of paid work to head back to education there are of course the £9,000 tuition fees to consider.
But, we don’t just live and work in the UK. We are also citizens of the EU and yes…also the world. All around us are opportunities if only we were capable of looking beyond our island’s borders.
To start, we are members of the EU. This gives us the right to go and work and study in any other member state (a basic right within the EU) – an opportunity that people have literally died trying to get.
Why shell out £9,000 a year tuition fees when you can study in Belgium for 835 euros a year or even in Sweden for free? At the very least why do so few UK students take advantage of the EU funded Erasmus student exchange scheme?
The British Council estimates that “just under 13,000 students in the UK took part in 2010/11, with between two and three times as many Spanish, French and German participants taking part every year”.
Equally with employment opportunities, why are more Brits not looking for jobs in Austria or Germany (with unemployment rates as low as 4.8% and 5.2 % respectively)?
I understand that this is not possible for some who have families and reasons to be geographically tied but I would be willing to bet that there also thousands who have just not even considered this as a possibility.
Take working in Brussels for example (where most of the work is undertaken in English). It is a 2 hour train journey from London (similar to Birmingham or Manchester) but few Brits consider looking for employment there for no other reason than it being “abroad”.
With massive youth unemployment, why are more graduates not looking to become a ‘stagiaire’ (paid traineeships) in Belgium?
And this is just for the EU. There is a whole world out there. I am currently enjoying the experience of living and working in Kampala, Uganda. My salary here is one of the worst I have ever earned but my quality of life is infinitely better than when I was living and working in London.
I am currently writing this in perfect sunshine and tonight I will be enjoying a beer for less than a quid. Why would more people not want to try this?
As a Brit you have huge visa benefits all around the world. We have opportunities others can only dream about but we don’t spot them because we are too busy staring at our feet.
I repeat that I understand that this geographical mobility is not possible for everyone but it is for many and we have to encourage and inspire these people to consider these opportunities.
We have become a country institutionalised to stare at our feet. We need to raise our heads up and look at the world of possibilities that sit just beyond our borders. We desperately need to be encouraging young people to raise their horizons and their expectations. If we fail to do this we are not only letting down ourselves but also the next generation.