Unemployment among the under-25s has now reached a million, with 17.5 per cent of graduates out of work, and almost 50 per cent of the country would emigrate if they had the opportunity, it was reported recently. From where I'm sitting, flicking through my telephone book, it looks as if those who can have already gone, and those who have not are planning their departures.
None of my friends who have left the country, or who are about to, have gone abroad to do anything particularly glamorous. All university educated and in the their mid-twenties, they imagined great prospects but have been disappointed. So they left, rather than sit around watching videos and bemoaning their fate.
Most of them left because Britain had worn them down with its depressing outlook and warped priorities. I remember Martin's stall at a Saturday market when he sold off his past life: 50p for a dressing gown, and pounds 5 for a pair of shoes. Like some strange catharsis, he purged himself of his past, to spend the future in India. He said he was never coming back, and so far he has kept his word.
Pete, Ben and Simon could not find jobs in Britain. Fed up with searching, they opted to find jobs overseas. After all, it is much easier to tend a bar or teach English abroad than in your own country. No one asks you when you are going to get a 'proper job' and you can always kid yourself that it is only temporary. They talk of coming back when the recession is over. They have been back for short periods of time to test the water but have always used the return half of their tickets.
Others, such as Chris, Rupert and his mate, found that no one was willing to invest in their youth. They all wanted to get into films and after short stints working in the British film industry they found that being young was not an asset but a hindrance. Employers would not take them seriously and they encountered that old Catch-22 - no one would employ them because they lacked experience, yet no one was prepared to give them that experience.
Rupert did have a successful career at the age of 25, producing television commercials. He doubled his salary every year. But he claims other people in the industry resented his drive and ambition, or found it too threatening and spent most of their time either waiting for him to fail, trying to make him fail. The English hate success, he used to say, and they hate it even more when it is a young person. So he went to America, where, after a lot of hard graft, he is doing well. He has no wish to come home.
Chris is back at the moment. He has been trying to shoot a film that he wrote and directed. But he cannot find the money to finish it, so he is planning to leave again in the near future.
Some have traded Eighties materialism for Nineties idealism, chucking in high-paid, high-pressure jobs to go and do something 'worthwhile'. John gave up advertising to join the aid programme he is working for in northern Kenya. He had had enough of working in a superficial environment so inward looking that it meant nothing once you left its confines. He wanted to do something that actually made a difference. As did another friend who drove a lorryload of supplies out to the former Yugoslavia and then stayed to work in the refugee camps.
'What's there to come back to?' she replied, when I asked her when she was coming home.
She was one of the few women I know who were brave enough to chuck in a boring job here and take off. I do have a few girlfriends who are doing phenomenally well, but they are driven by a deeper determination to prove themselves than the boys.
All these people are of the same background and age group. University educated, they are surely the sort of people whom Britain does not want to lose, especially having spent so much taxpayers' money educating them in the first place.
This country has created a disenchanted, disaffected youth whose talents are not being used, and who feel that they owe nothing to their country of origin. It is no longer cool to be patriotic, in fact, being rude about Britain and its general greyness and uselessness has become a standing joke.
If there are not any jobs to be had, or even if you do manage to get one, people do their best to make life difficult, then there isn't much point in hanging around, is there? All I know is that more of my friends are packing their bags. When I sit by the phone wondering whom to call, I realise there isn't anyone left.Reuse content