Wednesday, 25 May 2011


As inhabitants of an island that sometimes seems slightly removed from Europe, it can be hard for young people in the UK to remember that we are not alone, and that some of the very same hardships and tough decisions regarding our future are often the very same in the rest of Europe.

Some of those issues – unemployment and access to higher education, for example – are the topic of debate by youngsters from all over Europe at European Youth Week, where policy recommendations that could make a real difference to British and European youth are hammered out with young people themselves.

A recent study carried out by the EU was designed to take a look at how easy it is to move around Europe when it comes to the two biggest growing issues surrounding young people today (and focuses of European Youth Week) – higher education and job availability. This survey was conducted by The Gallup Organization, Hungary, upon the request of European Commission’s Directorate General of Education and Culture, in January 2011.

The flash barometer covered a range of subjects including the appeal of higher education, the longevity of working abroad, and perceptions of difficulty in finding a job.

When asked about the attractiveness of vocational training in the UK, 82% of people believed it was a beneficial and realistic prospect, placing it in the top 20.

European Youth Week debates the issues

When asked about the appeal of higher education, surprisingly, 75% were in favour of higher education. This figure is surprising given the huge backlash in recent months after the coalition Government raised university tuition fees, allowing some universities to charge up to £9,000 per year. That said, UK are placed quite further down the table in comparison to our immediate neighbours, Ireland with 86% looking to enter higher education.

Prime Minister David Cameron has often defended the rises, offering the opinion that the UK has one of the best education systems in the world. The figures appear to reflect this as over 90% of UK residents would not go abroad to study. It will be interesting to see if in two years time, this figure would change.

Looking at the benefits of studying abroad, out of the 31 participating countries, 57% responded that it greatly improved their ability to communicate in a foreign language, whilst 40% cited that it greatly improved their awareness of a foreign culture. This result only differed when it came to Ireland, where the main reason given was better academic knowledge, 34%.

In contrast to this, 37% of all participants stated they were not interested in going abroad at all to work or further their education. 33% of the respondents said not having access to funding or finding it too expensive, prevented them from going abroad, with Cyprus, Greece and Poland having a majority of more than 50%.

Looking to the future, young Europeans were asked what their biggest concern was regarding searching for a job upon completion of their studies. 53% of them were concerned about job availability within their city or region, and 42% were concerned about the salary not being adequate for a reasonable standard of living.

With London, being one of the most expensive places to live in Europe and with an ongoing campaign to introduce the London Living Wage, this figure is concerning in comparison to the figures from the last question.

When asked if they would be willing to work in another European country, only 23% of UK youth consider this a permanent option. With only four other countries having a percentage lower than this, are we viewed by our international neighbours as resistant to change?

In any case, 40% of young people wishing to set up a business in the UK is a respectable figure, with only a 1% difference between each country.

Maybe, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

By Lem Leon

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