Tag Archives: Brexit

Study abroad loses sheen due to employment hurdles

 

Studying in foreign universities and building a suitable career abroad has long been the dream of the aspiring and ambitious middle class. A degree from a leading university in the US or UK has been seen as a sure shot ticket to a better life. But not so anymore.

It all started after the global financial crisis in 2008. Stories about lay-offs and hiring freezes had replaced news about strong economies and global workplaces. Recent world events such as a vote for Brexit and Donald trump’s election have indicated that many perceive increasing global mobility (of foreigners) as a threat.

Amid economic certainty about the future of UK in a post Brexit world, recruiters have been shying away from hiring people who require work sponsorship. College students reveal that whether one requires a work visa is a qualifying question for nearly all the companies they aspire to work for.

UK higher education Brexit Indian studentsMy brother-in-law who is pursuing a Masters’ degree from a prestigious London-based university recently interviewed for a global technology firm. Despite having a great work experience and strong grades, his discussion with the recruiter lasted all of three

minutes and ended abruptly when he mentioned he required visa sponsorship. Closure of post study work route since 2012 aimed at curbing the abuse of student visa category had already made it difficult to find jobs in UK after completing studies and last year’s Brexit vote has made things even more uncertain.

A one year degree from a university in England can cost up to Rs 50 lakh (including living expenses and tuition fees) and undergraduate would cost even more given the longer duration of the course. But for most Indian middle class families, spending on education is seen as an investment for securing a professionally successful life. According to a global survey published by HSBC Retail Banking and Wealth Management in 2015, most Indian parents ranked professional success for their children over being healthy or happy.

After investing substantial sums of money on a coveted higher education degree, hoping to work in the host country is not a totally unreasonable desire to have, but in an increasingly closed world, fulfilling that dream is likely to be more difficult. That said, all is not over.

These countries need skilled workers as much as the workers need jobs. It also helps to think beyond finding a job (difficult if you have a huge loan to repay) view studying abroad as an opportunity for cultural exchange and exposure.

It is also time to re-evaluate one’s choices and look for alternatives. For long we have focused only on building skills in IT to support the booming requirements of overseas firms. Perhaps it’s time to explore other subjects, build different skills and focus on working in India. Becoming an entrepreneur and creating jobs for others might also be the way to go.

UK varsities now more affordable for Indians

July 2016 jpg

Did you know that studying at a British university now has become more affordable to you than it was a month ago? Since many years, the UK has remained one of the top preferred higher education destinations for many aspiring Indian students. I remember frequenting the British Council in New Delhi as a high school student many years ago, in search of gathering more information about British universities, scholarship programmes and so on and so forth. In the English speaking world, Britain was not the only country with prestigious universities, but to be honest, no other name stuck a chord like Oxford and Cambridge, which remained the aspiration for many.

Official historical data on student numbers indicates that India has continued to be among the top 10 origin countries of students enrolled in British universities. During recent years, however, the number of higher education students coming to UK has declined. According to the UK-based Higher Education Statistics Authority, the number of Indian student numbers in 2014-15 were 46% lower than in 2008-9. Falling rupee combined with stricter visa rules and fewer post study work options for students have been cited as some of the main reasons for this shift. Recent turn of political events in the UK might make UK financially attractive to Indian students once again.

Brexit vote and the plummeting pound
In a historical vote held on 23 June 2015, a majority of the British public voted to leave the European Union, a membership of nearly 28 member states that the UK has enjoyed for over forty years. The results that were announced on the day following the election, shocked politicians and people not just in the UK but across the world as most had hoped for an outcome to remain in the EU. The ‘leave’ vote also hurt the value of the pound, plummeting it to a seven year low. Within a day, the value of the pound dropped from Rs 100 to Rs 88, a 12 per cent decline.

While the impact of Britain’s exit from the EU, or so called Brexit, on UK’s economy and future prospects remains uncertain at this moment, one thing is clear. The drop in pound value in the short term can be a boon for aspiring students wishing to study in the UK as they now have to pay fewer Indian rupees compared to what they would have paid a month ago. They would also have to spend less in rupee terms on their living expenses. For instance, for a one year Masters course at a London based university one would have to pay nearly £22,000 towards tuition fee and £12,000 on living expenses, a total of £34,000. Prior to Brexit vote, this would have meant spending roughly 34 lakh rupees. At today’s exchange rate, this amounts to nearly 30 lakh rupees. Applications for most courses are closed by this time of the year but it might be worth keeping an eye on the admission sites of your top choice universities.

 

We need cleaners and pizza delivery boys as much as high tax payers

Beata (name changed), my elderly Polish cleaner, does multiple jobs at hotels, restaurants and houses to pay for her council house and to meet other expenses. At the hotel, she is required to clean five rooms in an hour at national minimum wage of £7.20. She is efficient, and is thus very popular in my local area where legal, hourly rate cleaners are hard to find.

My friend’s babysitter Anezka from the Czech Republic works as an assistant at a leading fast food outlet and does extra jobs so that she can pay her share of rent for a private accommodation she shares with her friends.

On 23 June, the UK is going to vote whether it wants to remain in the EU or exit (Brexit) its membership of over four decades. Immigration is at the heart of UK’s EU referendum and I wonder what would happen to potential workers like Beata and Anezka who want to come to this country in the pursuit of a better pay.

Workers like Beata and Anezka engaged in low skilled play an important role. By doing the (paid) work they do using their skills and time, they allow people like me and my friend to focus on the tasks we can do with our abilities.

Migrants (not just European) are everywhere, at the supermarkets, workplaces, at the doctor’s clinic carrying out jobs ranging from low skilled to the very high skilled. My local taxi driver is a Pakistani, I myself am a first generation non-EU migrant living in the UK, and my husband’s colleagues at a leading consulting firm in London are from as many as 30 different nationalities including a significant number of EU nationals.

There are different rules of entry into the UK depending on a person’s nationality. EU nationals have a free right to live and work in the UK while non-EU persons are required to qualify an entry criteria for working in the UK, such as having a job that pays over £20,800 per annum.

As a first generation middle class non-EU migrant who often competes with EU workers for work, I feel tempted to vote out in the referendum and wish for a fairer system that assesses potential EU workers on the basis of their skills and income too. But then there are statistics that make me think.

According to a report published by Oxford based Migration Observatory, the largest number of EU born workers living in UK are employed in low paying occupations and industries and are unlikely to qualify for an income linked work permit. The distribution, hotel and restaurant sector was the largest employer of EU workers in 2015, and only 6 per cent of these workers earned a minimum of £20,000 per annum. Industries such as banking, finance and education, that educated migrants like myself fancy, already had a large share of highly skilled and well paid EU workers. This suggests that a Brexit followed by a skills and income based policy (if this happens) would mainly hit lower skilled workers like Beata and Anezka.

For society to function at its optimum, we are going to need pizza delivery boys and cleaners as much as we need millionaires and high tax payers. The key question is who should do these jobs and at what wages and conditions.