Perpetually complex and sensitive, the topic of immigration never fails to evoke strong emotions. Worryingly, and historically unprecedented, teenagers are displaying more apprehension and disapproval towards immigration in comparison to those in their thirties. A recent poll by leading market research group, Ipsos MORI revealed that nearly three-quarters of young British people regard immigration as a problem. The root of the problem seems to stem from the heightened fear and uncertainty surrounding employment and high university fees and the perception that this is related in some way to immigration. So how did this thorny situation come about? And does it relate to immigration? Or is the problem to be found elsewhere? Let us first look at the two issues of concern: university fees and employment.The British Government has decided that from 2012, universities will be able to charge students up to £9000 per annum.
Recent UCAS figures also reflect the panic felt by many young Brits when there was a surge in the number of applications for 2011 university places. With an outlook like this, can any young person be blamed for worrying about their educational prospects? Well it seems, all is not lost. An income lottery is in full force and what is a less reported fact, is that there will still be financial assistance for those who are either on the threshold of poverty or those who come from a low earning income family. So nothing has changed in that area. Some universities will only charge £8000 per annum, but uninspiringly, the BBC reports this as representing a miniscule 8% of all universities.
Why is there unease regarding young Brits and employment? Conducted by the Office For National Statistics, the Labour Force 2010 Survey demonstrated that in 2008, unemployment for 16 to 24 year olds increased from 15% to 19% in 2009. 1993 was a doomsday era where many felt the repercussions of unemployment to some extent, but this was superseded by the recession of recent times. In 1993 unemployment rates reached 22.0% but in 2011 it reached a colossal 29.7%. The Labour Force 2010 Survey concluded that the increase in those attending university has contributed to the rise in youth inactivity.
The Ipos MORI poll discovered that nearly half of Brits aged 16 to 24 see migrants as a direct threat. With the underlying sentiment being that foreigners will take all of the few remaining jobs that are available.
Lack of employment and rising tuition fees are creating an intricate and vicious cycle where accountability appears to be blurred or ignorantly displaced. What is evident is that immigrants cannot be held accountable for extortionate tuition fees or for inadequate career opportunities. In fact the Home Office published figures which indicate that each year; foreign students boost the British economy by a healthy £8.5 billion.
Throughout history, financial crises have the habit of increasing social paranoia to some extent and xenophobes will always push the fear train whenever possible. Nevertheless, when it’s often the case that the majority of young people are contentedly tolerant of migration, it is a worry when the bearers of our future start reflecting some of the unfounded anxiety or intolerance towards migration that is usually displayed by some sectors of the media or right wing advocates. One should not be oblivious to the fact that since 2009, concerns about migration amongst those aged between 16 and 24 has slowly increased. These concerns must be addressed and cannot be simply brushed under the carpet.
Immigration has always been an essential and gluing component of the British economy and its eclectic melting pot. But the findings of the Ipsos MORI poll highlight the need to ensure that young people are educated with facts and not propaganda.
It is imperative that young people have enough options available to feel optimistic and not fearful about their futures. But equally crucial that the real reasons and responsibilities for soaring education costs and unemployment are known and immigrants do not became scapegoats for problems with root causes to be found elsewhere.