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UK Youth Votes With Feet?

by afew Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 11:14:25 AM EST

Look, I'd better say this from the start : I'm not out to start another impassioned (and often anecdotal) wrangle over whether or not young French jobseekers flock to London in droves, why they do that, or whether it has any deep significance. I take it that France is the largest adjacent (one short Eurostar hop) labour pool to an attractive capital and financial centre with a tight labour market, and that it would be surprising not to see this flow. I also do not dispute for a second that France has serious employment problems.

No, what I'm interested in -- as usual -- is the way this phenomenon has been picked up by the pundits and used as yet further proof of the hopelessness of resisting globalisation-and-free-market blah blah by attempting to keep alive a sclerotic European blah blah. We heard a lot of noise of this kind during the anti-CPE movement in France last spring, from The Economist, predictably enough, but also from The Guardian:

As the Guardian revealed on Saturday, the French model has so excluded many young French people that they have come across the channel in huge numbers in recent years looking for work in an economy that has created 2.5 million jobs over the past decade.

Ashley Seager, The French go marching into the past

Ashley Seager will no doubt be in a hurry now to pile it on in similar terms, but in the opposite direction, having noticed this FT article on Tuesday:


Our borders are being overwhelmed by migration on an unprecedented scale. Many of these migrants are failing to integrate with their host communities. Some do not even bother learning the local language. Local services are struggling to cope with the influx. Worse still, the UK government seems to know little about the scale or impact of this migration.


While these may be well-rehearsed descriptions of immigration into the UK, they may better describe what happens when Britons move abroad. Emigration from the UK is rocketing but few people seem to be considering the demographic or economic implications.

Britons have a long tradition of moving around the world. Between 1966 and 1996 the UK actually lost more people through emigration than it gained through immigration. More recently, lured by a better quality of life, encouraged by popular television shows about "a place in the sun" and sometimes actively recruited by other countries, record numbers of British nationals -- about 200,000 in 2004 -- are leaving the UK on a permanent or long-term basis each year. The result, according to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, is that there are currently 4.5m British passport holders living overseas. In other words, there are more UK nationals living overseas than there are foreign nationals living in the UK. In global terms, the size of the UK's diaspora is thought to be the second largest of any country in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development -- behind Mexico.

UK must look at that other group of migrants, by Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah

So this is a story of Brits retiring to Spain, France, Italy? Only partly. Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah (assistant director of IPPR, the Labour-leaning thunk tonk), speaks of an ICM opinion poll commissioned by the BBC. (See More Britons consider move abroad).

The data set of the ICM poll can be found here (pdf!). Let's take a look at some of it (disclaimer: these are necessarily cherry-pickings from a 62-page set of complex tables, and the additions in colours are mine):

Here's the big news. The number of those saying they plan to emigrate soon is highest among the young, with 25% of 18-24 year-olds choosing this option. (The percentages go down from there on: 8% of 55-64 year-olds, for example).

So is this a regional phenomenon? Youngsters from South-East England, where the labour market's hot, will want to stay, while others from less job-rich parts (former industrial regions, for example), will be itching to leave?

Hmm. And hmm again. Doesn't seem to be quite the picture, does it? The South-East scores quite well on the "will emigrate soon" line. And look at the arrows representing the trend on the two other questions. "Might emigrate" scores highest in the prosperous South-East, and goes down gradually through the Midlands to the North and the Celtic Fringe.

What about educational level? It's possible young people with a low level of skills may think they have a better chance elsewhere.

Erm, no, it's the opposite. The higher the qualifications, the higher the percentage of those who may think of emigrating or hope to emigrate soon.

So why do they say they want to leave the country (question asked of all those who said they would consider emigration) ?

The youngest demographic seems to set sunny weather above "quality of life", while the 25-34s perhaps dream less of the beach. Conflating those two first lines, we have a very solid third of respondents who said they were looking for -- one way or another -- a better quality of life. But note that the "young" group (18-24 + 25-34) place considerably more importance than the total sample in :

  • UK cost of living too high
  • new job
  • new experience

Where do they want to go? (Top seven)

No surprise, the English-language countries are way ahead, with a strong lead for Australia. But Spain, France, and Italy seem reasonably attractive to the young demographic -- not just the old fogeys on their way to genteel retirement. In fact, in the overall sample (my reckoning, any mistakes mine), the 528 respondents who were asked to choose countries (multiple choice possible), gave a score of:

  • 594 to the English-speaking countries (including Ireland, 15 hits)
  • 444 to the EU minus Ireland

What kind of conclusions can we draw? First, obviously, it's tempting to point out that the marketista pundits don't appear to have grounds for, precisely, drawing overblown conclusions about entire socio-economic "models" based on emigration, and youth emigration in particular. And it's true they're keeping quiet about this, while they were 99 decibels about French youth "voting with their feet" just a few months ago.

More broadly, is it so surprising to find that young people today (all the more that they have high qualifications as a passport) see the world as their oyster? Wouldn't we expect to see more people moving from country to country in search of more congenial conditions and useful experience?

So is there any big bad propaganda to be got out of this? I'll leave you to judge...

(ICM poll for BBC, sample 1002, 30 July 2006. Where percentages do not add up to 100, mutiple answers were possible).

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Excellent article... thanks!!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 11:19:31 AM EST
The BBC's "Have Your Say" section had an area for this the other day.  Britons who had moved to France, the US or Australia generally seemed happy about the move.  Feelings in Spain were mixed, if I remember correctly.  Apparently there are a bunch of scandals revolving around new housing developments there, or something like that.

I think Britons who move will discover that sunny weather is not the gift from God they might imagine.  At least the rain keeps the summer bearable.  A lot of Brits have come to Florida in recent years -- tens of thousands in the last five years, apparently.  Several are neighbors of mine.  They seem happy enough.  The beaches are great, if you're into that sort of thing.  The cost of living would be very low compared with most of Britain, if not for the enormous jump in housing demand we've seen over the last decade here.  But they certainly recognize that Florida is oven-like in the summer, and there is that little problem with hurricanes relocating people's houses now and then.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 11:45:02 AM EST
If i remember right, theres a law in spain that if a developer builds a new shopping centre or some such at the end of your track, they can compulsorarily purchase part of your land, for acees roads, then tarmac the road and charge you part of the cost of upgrading the facilities.

Of course this might just be typical anti-european propaganda.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 04:02:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The UK is generally a rather crap place to live.

I wish it weren't so - I'm hugely attached to the part of the UK I live in - but culturally and socially the UK's trend towards US-lite is a big hit with workaholic alcoholics, and less so for everyone else.

Britain is tired. Our politicians have been mediocre idiots for too long, an unholy link-up between the civil service and the City has created an alienating stranglehold on policy and public discourse, vital infrastructure like healthcare and transport is imploding, and generally there's too much aggressive hustle here and not enough relaxed enjoyment.

There's only so much 'Your call is important to us, which is why we pay so few people that you're going to stay on hold for 20 minutes clocking up charges on a national rate number' that rational people can take before wondering if there's a better alternative elsewhere on the planet.

It shouldn't be a surprise that well-educated and intelligent younger people can see the reality for what it is, and want to get out before it sucks them dry.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 12:09:11 PM EST
That is something that puzzled me: The national calling rates.  The trend here in the states, thanks to companies like Vonage, has been towards flat (and quite low) monthly bills for calling across the country and even across the Atlantic now, in the case of Vonage.  Most cell phone plans work this way, too, on nationwide coverage.  I haven't, as of now, seen the same trend developing in England, except, of course, at Vonage, but even Vonage is more expensive and offers less.  Getting broadband from one company and telephone service from another also seems to be a pain in the ass.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 12:22:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, you see, in the UK we have the rhetoric of the free market, with the reality of oligopolies. I wouldn't go so far as to say US "anti-monopoly" authorities do a better job in total, but they've caught some of the more outstandingly bad issues and the rest are aided by the geographical size of the market.

The UK's small geographical size has led to a lot of consolidations that militate against the comsumer getting a good deal. The joy for you is that in experiencing this, you get a preview of the way the US will go as new technologies make distance less of a retarding factor in "oligopolising" by large companies.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 01:36:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But are these oligopoly markets the result of barriers to entry through regulation?  What struck me as odd in the phone service example was the fact that Vonage is, for whatever reason, able to offer more in the US than in Britain, and at a lower price.  The competition seems to be much more intense in that sector here in the states, and the kind of service Vonage is providing hasn't even become very competitve yet.  I suspect the company is able to set prices higher than it should, because the standard landline phone service costs so much more -- about $25 compared with about $35.

The US anti-trust authorities are a mixed bag.  The people handling the regulation of monopolies, like utilities, perform about as well as can be expected here in Florida.  But, aside from those sorts of examples, competition in most sectors is quite fierce in the states, which is great.  Remember that oligopolies don't necessarily translate to higher prices.  Only a few companies compete in the automobile industry, but there is a lot of competition.  The cost of buying a car, in real terms, seems to be falling at a fairly steady pace.

Now what Britain does seem to be much more accomplished at is providing electricity at much lower rates than in the US, if I'm read this correctly.  £216 is, roughly, what I paid for two months of electricity in Tallahassee, but this suggests £216 for the entire year on average, which is incredibly low and suggests, to me, that America is missing out on something that could significantly raise living standards.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 04:20:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It varies: don't forget that the whole net neutrality debate makes no sense in a lot of European markets because the sort of monopoly enjoyed by some of those operators simply doesn't exist.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 04:22:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
yes; i agree england is a crap place to live; unless you-re in the top two percent:

also about the hustle; and americalite.

a nation of ebay shopkeepers?

that said, it has the best tv on earth...what else to do when it's raining?

italy is a fun place even when poor. 300 sunny days a year sure helps, as does the food, landscape and love and respect for art.

not easy economy by any means right now, but if you don't need too much, it's great, relatively.

having grown up in england, i couldn't get far enough fast enough.

after 35 years expatted, i do miss a few irreplaceably english phenomena....

then i get a grip again

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 07:39:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's my day for quoting movies:
"... in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."
-Harry Lime, The Third Man


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sapere aude
by Number 6 on Thu Aug 10th, 2006 at 08:00:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you're spot on afew.

a) We should expect young people to be interested in the experience of living abroad.

b) Likewise, the marketista propaganda about migrations is mostly rubbish, failing to account for (a).

c) I'm actually one of these people I guess, although I'm back in the UK now. Propaganda is a tricky one. After all, the marketista's will point to "free-market US and AU" attracting attention, whilst trying not to mention the language issue. At the same time, the vast majority of these surveys are answered from a position of ignorance. Even a couple of holidays doesn't tell you enough about a society to really be making the decision on grounds about "socio-economic models."

d) I'm not one of the sun-chasers, but for those of you living in "continental climates" you cannot comprehend what it means to get away from a "maritime" one like the UK. Most of the places that attract the UK sun-chasers are warmer, it is true, but the key factor is the reliability of the weather. As an example of how this affects life here, the first thing I thought about in connection with the London Meet was "rain backup plan" because that's how life is here. There is no real "street life" because everyone knows how it can rain any hour now. It's funny, I went to live in Boston, MA and the students from around the US told me how unreliable the weather in Boston was, but compared to the UK it was like clockwork. I'm not expressing this very well, but if you get the gist of it you may have a sense of the essential problem British people have with the British weather.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 01:55:10 PM EST
When I say "those people," I mean migratory souls, rather than marketistas.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 01:56:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As one who knows the British climate well, I'm not underestimating its importance.

It seemed to me there were some other reasons put forward in the poll, though, like the high cost of living in Britain, and also an indication that, though the respondents mostly had a job, they weren't exactly thrilled, either with the job, or their career and life prospects, since they were ready to leave to look for another job, another experience of life or in life...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 04:12:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh I know you know all about the drizzle and the ensuing rain. I was just rambling for the benefit of those who don't. After all, otherwise, you look at the notion of "better weather" and it seems a bit weird how prominent it is, at least to me. ;-)
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 04:25:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think there's a diary in this somewhere. Think of what Drew says about Florida, where now there are even retired Brits along with half the US's retired people -- and everyone wants the palm trees and the climate, which Drew, who knows it well, would happily swap for England. And even just a regular climate can get on your nerves, by which I suppose I mean that variety is the spice of life...

As to the poll, no, I don't think "better weather" is such a serious response as all that. Maybe a kind of British joke, understood as such above all by the youngest group. Which is why I wanted to conflate it with "better quality of life" as an all-round category.

"Better quality of life", btw, doesn't include "better quality of people", which was another possible response that got almost no favourable reactions. Apparently Brits don't expect to find a better quality of person anywhere outside Britain.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 04:48:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm only happy to trade it because of the fact that hot weather, beaches, margaritas, and palm trees are not my cup of tea.  Anything above 70F is too hot for me.  I love cold weather.  I find palm trees and stuccoed buildings to be hideous.  I like my dark, boring, trashy clothes and hate Hawaiian shirts and short-shorts.  I'm not wild about hurricanes either.

England is, however, miserable during heat waves.  (I thought I was going to pass out when I was on the Underground, but that was partly the result of carrying two pieces of luggage and sitting next to a man who wasn't wearing deodorant.)  Obviously, many structures -- perhaps most -- don't have air conditioning, so the heat and humidity can be nasty (at least until you open the windows for a bit).  But that's the exception rather than the rule in English weather.  It's the unbreakable rule in Florida.  We have two seasons here: Summer and Summer-er.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Aug 10th, 2006 at 12:15:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, my point about climate was that there are suppositions, or a consensus, about ideal weather, but that in reality people may not necessarily get on with it all that well, just as you don't with the Florida climate. The British climate has its downside(s), but it's varied and temperate, and in fact that's quite good.

I remember a time here, about ten years ago, when the sky was blue for three straight months. Not a single cloud, just blue, blue, blue. Before the end it was getting on people's nerves. I think there was a physical effect, a lack of change in air pressure and humidity and light.

In other words, changeable English weather's not that bad!

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Aug 10th, 2006 at 12:39:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Completely agree.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Aug 10th, 2006 at 09:36:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You nailed it.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 04:23:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the run-up to D-Day (beginning of summer) Eisenhowwer was heard to rant "What's up with this country ? Everywhere else has a climate, all you have is this god-damned weather !!"

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Aug 11th, 2006 at 06:47:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It sounds like a cross Chanel exchange of continental hustlers for laid back Brits. The interesting question would be whether or not the numbers are roughly equal.
by Richard Lyon (rllyon@gmail.com) on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 02:14:07 PM EST
Pity your comment got rudely leeched on to by a troll, because this response will come further downthread now.

There's an important distinction to be made between those (older) Brits who envisage moving abroad because they have property to sell on a bubble-inflated market, and will thus be able to buy something nice elsewhere and have spare change -- and this will tend to make anyone "laid-back", I should think -- and those I focussed on, younger people who don't have houses to sell but are thinking of changing countries to sell their skills on the job market. I'm not sure the latter qualify for the "laid-back" category...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 04:21:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I now see the offending subthread was toggled away by gnomish powers, thanks, Colman, if 'twas thee.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 04:37:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you are refering to my earlier comment. I was also referring entirely to young people. Retirees looking for lower cost of living is certainly a different matter.

Like all stereotypes and generalizations, they don't hold up too well if you push them too far. However, there is much talk about the Anglo-Saxon neoliberal order vs the continental social protection order. These are certainly poles of a long standing dialectic and do have some basis in reality.

It would be really interesting to see how much a particular position on such values has motivated the young Brits seeking oportunity elsewhere. It is fairly easy to make some assumptions about people who go looking for jobs on Lombard or Wall St. You'd need to know more about where those on the other side of the equation are going and what they are doing.

by Richard Lyon (rllyon@gmail.com) on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 05:16:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Troll rated for the 'hustlers'.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 06:44:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hustling, eh?  Finished with the Americans and the Spaniards, so you're expanding the empire to Britain? ;)

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sat Aug 12th, 2006 at 11:51:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This thread has become thoroughly psychotic.
by Richard Lyon (rllyon@gmail.com) on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 06:47:20 PM EST
It is unfortunate when someone has put a lot of thought and time into writing an article, and then it gets hi-jacked by someone with another agenda. In fact, it can cause serious frustration and ill feelings...

But...I'd also caution us to try and not react towards each other too harshly, while we try and deal with the disruption effectively, and get back on the discussion back on track.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Thu Aug 10th, 2006 at 09:31:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Very interesting. Thanks.


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sapere aude
by Number 6 on Thu Aug 10th, 2006 at 08:03:17 AM EST


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