With the UK economy mocking the young, my daughter looks abroad

Photo by Laura Stewart

My eldest daughter is thinking of moving to Malta. She has a friend out there already and my wife has contacts there. My wife also spent time there in her early twenties and fell in love with the place. She returns often for holidays. I think she’s keen Isla moves there as some of sort proxy revisiting of her past. (In those heady exciting days before she got stuck with me!)

The reason Isla wants to head off to a Mediterranean island is more to do with opportunity than sun sand and sea. This contrasts with the lack of opportunity she sees in the UK at the moment. Many of her friends are in London and working for low pay and sharing pretty shitty houses for high rent. It’s not much of a life and while the Tories stay in power the prospects remain poor.

She has been working at the local cinema. Of the staff there, only two are not graduates and they are young and still at college. The job she does requires some training but it doesn’t require three years at university.

Isla got a 2:1 from a good university and now, two years on from graduation, she is working a zero-hour contract on minimum wage and living at home. Paying back her student debt will take a while. It’s only right then that she’s looking abroad. It’s worth taking any chance to move to the EU while the UK remains part of it.

At her age I was also abroad and spent a lot of time in Spain and France. In my case, however, I was escaping — me, mostly — whereas my daughter is looking to improve her prospects. When I finally returned to the UK and settled in London in the mid 80s, despite Thatcher’s best efforts it was still possible to find a job quite easily at a decent enough wage to live in a decent enough place in London itself. There was no sense then that London was a destination only for the rich or the desperate.

I worry for my children, obviously. It used to be a cliche that the previous generation would always accuse the younger generation of having things easier, of having better prospects and a being able to look forward to a better standard of living. No longer. Thanks to the neoliberal project started under Thatcher and continued through Blair and Cameron, we’re in the rather unique position of pitying our children rather than envying them.

Unless, I suppose, you’re one of the 1000 families that have increased their wealth hugely since the crash of 2008 and now own as much as 40% of the rest of the poorest in the country. You can feel quite smug then.