No place like home?

Image credit: Kuster & Wildhaber Photography

Figures recently released by the ONS show that graduates are increasingly leaving Britain for jobs in better economic climates. This is an issue that affects us all, argues Ashley Chhibber.

There is no denying that leaving one’s home and starting a new life somewhere different and exciting is a very attractive thought. For many of us, moving to Cambridge was one such journey. Even if the starting point is still only a few hours away by train, travelling can still be an integral part of growing up and gaining independence, not to mention providing a breath of fresh air after years in the same place.

Yet Cambridge is often not enough: whether searching for adventure, a better quality of life, or simply better job-prospects, an increasing number of graduates are leaving Britain altogether. I’ve often thought, especially with the recent weather, how wonderful it would be to move to Canada or Sweden (I’m a big fan of the snow). Both countries also offer impressive welfare systems, as well as the chance to pick up a new language and experience a new culture. Of course it would be somewhat shallow to base one’s future solely on meteorology. The weather should be a key factor in making travel plans but the holiday has to end at some point.

Employment plays an important role in emigration. According to the Office for National Statistics, “127,000 [emigrants] left the UK for a definite job in the year ending March 2012.” This was a 17.5% increase on the previous year. If the government were to incentivise job creation, not an easy task by any means, then the emigration rate would most probably fall. The retention of graduates would provide an added boost to the economy, further ensuring the long term feasibility of such a programme. And whilst it would be ridiculous to give up a “definite job” overseas for the mere possibility of a job at home, I would suggest that there moral reasons to stay in the UK long-term.

Each of us owes a great deal of our character to the circumstances, both good and bad, which shaped our upbringing. It is not only our immediate families but also people, popular culture and public institutions which make us who we are. Not everybody owes their health to the NHS, their entertainment to the BBC, their place in Cambridge to a state education. But everyone who has grown up in Great Britain, perhaps particularly those studying at one of the world’s finest academic institutions, is indebted to this country for enabling us to grow and flourish in relative peace and prosperity.

Many of us will be in a position to give something back to society. Refusing to do so is to deprive future generations of the security provided by a strong economy and a healthy public sector. These are aspects of society which rely on a principle of future reciprocity. American bond house Pimco has described the economy as a “Ponzi scheme”; yet there are very few equally effective alternatives.

Graduate emigration is damaging to the very country which enabled those emigrants to become successful graduates (£9k tuition fees aside). Consider by way of comparison the actions of certain multi-nationals which, although they depend on British custom for their profits, pay very little by way of tax.

Life in Britain presents many problems aside from rain, such as unemployment or the increasing privatisation of public services. But while we remain British citizens we retain the capacity to correct these concerns.

By all means, we should always be open to new opportunities, of which working abroad is one of the most exciting. Misplaced patriotism is no reason to reject the possibility of broadening our horizons. But we should not dismiss our patrimony outright. However long the post-graduation ‘year out’ ends up being, remember: there’s no place like home.

Ashley Chhibber is a first-year Classics student from King’s.

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