Ryan Shorthouse: No country for young people... graduates from shires lose the battle for jobs

BACK home with the family for a few days in late summer. I'm a city dweller indulging in country living. You know, a bit of dog walking, climbing stiles and angering the farmer by veering off the public bridleway. Dodging cows, of course. And chatting to the neighbours: "How's London? I couldn't live there you know."

Rural living is slower, less crowded, friendlier. But, after three days, I remember why I'm not here permanently. No coffee shop to pop to. No cinema or theatre. No vibrant bars and clubs. I keep losing the dog, too, with fellow dog-walkers looking on in pity. Nice for a week, but for this impatient, impulsive twentysomething, any longer here and it would drive me up the wall.

So I feel for the graduates who now have to relocate permanently to their parents' house in the shires. And there are a lot of them. The recession has caused employers to freeze recruitment, meaning that the class of 2009 are finding it extremely difficult to enter the labour market. Ten per cent of all graduates – that's a whopping 40,000 – are predicted to still be unemployed by the winter.

It's a tough time to be a young graduate. But it's particularly problematic for those who live in rural areas away from major towns and cities. And it's not just because it doesn't provide the sort of hedonistic lifestyle we youngsters crave. It's very hard for graduates from the shires to access jobs for which they have actually trained and to which they aspire. As the number of graduates has mushroomed in recent years, the competition for employment has stiffened.

Doing unpaid internships is usually the way of standing out from the crowd to secure a paid position in law, politics, publishing, fashion, media, PR or accounting. Thanks to the recession, more and more employers are resorting to unpaid internships as the entry route into their company.

If you live close to where these jobs are located, fine, you could live at home and commute rather cheaply. But for rural folk, it's not so easy to travel to the cities where these jobs are, and can be incredibly expensive.

A lot of the industries to which graduates are drawn are based in London, which makes it harder for those who live in the Midlands, Yorkshire or further north. Relocating requires money. So, unless you have an account at the bank of mum and dad, or live nearby, it can be too costly to chase your dream in the profession in which you want to succeed. Friends I went to school with have thrown in the towel on the job they dreamed of as starry-eyed teenagers because it's just so expensive to chase it.

It's even hard to find stop-gap jobs – waiting on tables, stacking supermarket shelves – because there are fewer of these jobs in rural areas, particularly during the economic downturn.

If you haven't got regular use of a car, efficient transportation to the local town where jobs are may be non-existent. And forget relocation for a low-paid, temporary job in the nearest town – the majority of penniless graduates are in debt up to their eyeballs because of the student loan. So, especially during the recession, even finding a stop-gap job which could build general employment skills and help with savings for the internship needed to break into the dream career, is tougher for the rural youngster.

A record 419,627 students are going to university this year, up from 375,104 last year. Competition for graduates' jobs will get tougher and tougher each year, meaning it will be even more important for young people to seek alternative experiences, such as postgraduate degrees and unpaid internships.

These experiences are clearly not located in rural regions and the only way to get financial support for them seems to be affluent parents. Despite the stereotype, not all village people drive Range Rovers and have acres of land. Many parents living in countryside communities will simply not be able to pay for such expensive experiences, despite, no doubt, desperately wanting to do so.

For a young whipper-snapper, a village was a fantastic place to be: so many places to explore, and fewer dangers. But when it comes to making the transition to adulthood, rural Britain is not such a great place to be, especially for those from middle or low-income backgrounds.

Expensive and city-centred, even London-centred, routes of entry into the graduate labour market are making it increasingly difficult for graduates with parents who live in the countryside, to climb on to the career ladder.

Ryan Shorthouse is political secretary of the Bow Group, a leading Conservative think-tank.

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