Half of young people in the UK do not regard themselves as European and many travel abroad much less than their counterparts in other countries, new research has found.
Overall exposure to different nationalities is low among 18 to 30-year-olds, only half believe that they have a European identity and one in five do not identify with being British, the survey commissioned by the British Council also shows.
Just 13% of this age group have ever having worked abroad and just one in three are proficient enough to speak Spanish, French or any other foreign language at a simple level and they are less well travelled than reports on student gap years would imply.
Only one in 10 travelled abroad for three months, with just 11% saying they had ever campaigned to raise funds for an overseas cause.
‘Living, working and studying abroad offers clear benefits for young people, helping them to secure better jobs, as well as building confidence and intercultural understanding,’ said Ian Wybron, head of social policy at think tank Demos which carried out the research.
‘But our research found that a substantial number of young adults are currently being excluded from these opportunities, particularly those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds,’ he explained.
With the UK in the process of leaving the European Union, Wybron said the British Government needs to address the issue if the country is going to be able to become more globalist, seeking bilateral trade deals around the world.
‘Government, employers, and civil society must do their part in opening up these valuable opportunities to a much larger number of Britons. The aspirations for a global Britain will ring hollow unless is its benefits and opportunities are better shared,’ he added.
A breakdown of the research shows that those that did feel British seemed to tally with the parts of the country that voted in favour of Brexit and feelings of Britishness were strongest in the north east of England where 93% said they felt ‘to some extent’ or ‘to a great extent’ British.
In Northern Ireland, where 55.8% voted to remain in the EU, Britishness dropped to 62%, while in Scotland, which also voted to remain, just 59% said that they feel British. Feeling European is strongest in London at 59%, but weakest in Wales with just 35% saying they felt European. Some 52.5% of people in Wales voted to leave the EU.
The study found that the attitudes differed across the classes, with young adults in lower socioeconomic groups likely to be more negative about their global place and there was also a north/south divide, with positive attitudes to internationalism more likely to be held in the latter.
The research also revealed that the National Health Service was cited by more than half as one of the top three things that made them feel most proud to be British, followed by history, culture and arts, British business and then British sports teams.