We’ve all heard the promising news that the recession, after blanketing the nation for the last few years, is slowly losing its grip on Britain. More and more evidence is emerging to show that the economic situation is looking up, yet the pattern of recovery, centering almost exclusively on the capital, is a cause of concern for many.
Research into the economic turnaround has revealed evidence of a ‘brain-drain’: every year, thousands of young people leave home and settle in London, with many never returning. The vast majority of these young people are graduates, receiving impressive degrees from prestigious universities across the country (including York) and then moving to the capital to put their qualifications to the best use and secure professional, highly-paid jobs.
The statistics are shocking. In its annual report, the Centre for Cities revealed a major migration from other parts of the UK once students graduate from university, with one in three 22 to 30 year olds who change city heading for London. Eighty-thousand people within this age group moved to the capital between 2009 and 2013 alone.
On one hand, the influx of young workers to the capital has enabled further growth, securing London’s global reputation as an ‘economic powerhouse’. However, the benefits to London come at the expense of other UK cities. They are deprived of educated young professionals who are vitally needed to bring commerce to the regions, and consequently economic recovery.
However, it is not fair to blame graduates who migrate for the financial difficulties of their home cities. The poor economies of these areas are the reason that young people feel the need to leave. After studying hard for years to obtain strong qualifications, graduates do not want to be trapped working in menial or basic jobs. Instead, they want to achieve the best career they can. And today, many of those careers are based in London.
It is natural for all people, not just graduates or young people, to want the most rewarding and financially secure career, and therefore I cannot blame anyone for choosing to move to the capital. Instead, we must blame the cities themselves for not providing sufficient opportunities within business or enterprise to attract graduates or allow new industry to develop. And if these cities are unable to attract skilled workers, their possibility of an economic turnaround seems very slim.
Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, recently claimed that the capital is “becoming a giant suction machine, draining the life out of the rest of the country”. Condemning London’s success will not enable commerce to grow in other areas, or bring about a national recovery.
London and those who control its development are not to blame, in fact cities across the UK should be aspiring to be more like London. As Greg Clark, Minister for Cities, stated; “For Britain to prosper, our cities must prosper”. And that does not mean just the capital. For a true economic recovery to take place, other regions need to stop blaming London for stealing their best workers and instead provide opportunities and incentives to make them reconsider leaving. London should be an example, not an excuse.