British Millennials and Generation Z want to work abroad, confirms British Council and Demos report

British Airways jet taking off

These are anxious times, especially for younger people. Not only is the world pulling in different directions, we now have missiles flying over Hokkaido.

In Britain, its Brexit looming over the country rather than a long-range missile, albeit hanging like smog. It’s toxic, we know it’s there, but we can’t make out its features and what to with it. Even the government is seemingly flummoxed.

A new report, Next Generation UK Survey, produced by think tank Demos for the British Council in September 2017 shows that young people in the UK are worried about Britain’s position in the world, and what it means for their future, revealing that:

  • 68% of young people believe international experience and a global outlook are essential for their personal goals
  • 57% are positive about the effects of globalisation on their own lives
  • 13% have worked abroad, but 56% are ambitious to do so
  • 10% have studied abroad

The report recommended protecting and securing opportunities for young adults travelling, working and studying abroad:

in order to enable all young adults to achieve their potential, opportunities for young adults to engage internationally need to be protected in the Brexit negotiations. Furthermore, due attention must be paid to increasing opportunities so that those who do not typically benefit can participate in them….

These objectives are given weight by evidence that interacting with other countries can be beneficial in a number of respects (though research is fairly limited to the higher education context). For example, research has shown that students who undertake a year abroad during their undergraduate degree are more likely to pursue postgraduate study, secure better paid jobs and have higher incomes; and are less likely to experience unemployment. In addition to making an individual more committed to their degree and enhancing their CV, studying abroad can have a marked impact on personal development, improving independence, confidence, communication skills and other intercultural skills – with often greater benefits ensuing when the cultural difference between the home country is wider. Young adults who study internationally often become more cosmopolitan, taking more of an interest in international affairs; they travel more and are more likely to live in another country later in life.

These are sound recommendations. Studying abroad worked for me: I was an Erasmus student in Madrid during more fortunate times, though I later headed East to Asia, rather than to continental Europe, to live.

The aspirations of young people also echoed words made by Sir Martin Sorrell, who encouraged young Brits to acquire work experience in China.

It’s clear that young people are concerned about what’s coming next,  but are nonetheless eager to explore new horizons. This should be given priority in Brexit discussions, rather than trivial considerations like the colour of the new British passport (which is beyond stupid).

The Next Generation UK Survey is part of the British Council’s Next Generation series, which focuses on the attitudes and aspirations of young people, and uses data gathered to inform policy.

The survey’s data came from almost 2,000 18-30 year olds polled by Ipsos Mori, focus groups with 80 young adults across the UK, analysis of young adults’ use of social  media, and a policy roundtable with stakeholders focused on youth engagement.