Community, Diaspora and Immigration

Job-hungry graduates moving to Africa in bid to avoid menial jobs in UK, new research reveals

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Ambitious graduates are increasingly moving to Africa in a bid to avoid menial jobs in Britain, new research reveals.

The number of university leavers seeking employment in Ghana and other English speaking African countries has almost doubled in the last three years.

While managerial salaries are generally lower than those in the UK, graduate positions in West Africa’s thriving financial and property markets are “significantly” more plentiful.

Competition is also less fierce, with African employers receiving an average of 15 applications for every graduate job, compared to around 85 in Britain.

This makes it an “obvious magnet” for ambitious young professionals looking to take their first step on the corporate ladder and to escape the UK’s saturated labour market.

The figures were disclosed following the 2013 Ghana Careers and Opportunities Fair, an annual event in London held in response to rising interest in West Africa among UK-based graduates and professionals.

Emmanuel Arthur, from the Ghanaian telecommunications company Rlg, was among 10 key business leaders and recruiters attending the fair.

He said increasing numbers of “graduates with wanderlust” are shunning traditional destinations like Australia, the US and Canada in favour of Africa’s West Coast where “sun, sea and sand abound”.

“We are certainly witnessing a growing trend among British graduates to apply for jobs in Ghana and other West African countries,” he added.

“Three years ago, we received practically no applications from British graduates, but since then we have seen a 40 to 45 per cent increase – primarily because the UK’s labour market is close to saturation point.

“This is generally regarded as a positive development for Ghanaian employers, who are keen to recruit British graduates because of their professional approach to work and communication skills.

“British graduates, in return, reap the rewards of employment in West Africa – the quality of life is generally considered to be better.”

West African countries like Ghana and Guinea are now among the top 10 fastest growing economies in the world, with growth being driven by a boom in oil production, construction, technology and agriculture.

Their rising prosperity, shored up by long-term political stability, is helping change British students' perceptions of Africa as an attractive place to work.

The sluggish state of the UK economy, meanwhile, is said to be giving new graduates further incentive to move overseas.

As many as six-out-of-10 students finished university in 2012 without a job, while the majority of those who found employment settled for ‘non-graduate’ roles like bar work, rubbish collecting and shelf stacking.

Graduates’ so-called ‘earnings advantage’ has also dropped by more than a fifth since 2003, according to a recent study.

And competition for openings is believed to be fiercer than ever, with up to 211 graduates chasing each vacancy.

Pearl Esuah-Mensah, deputy managing director of UT Bank Ghana, another recruiter at the Ghana Careers Fair, said: “While finding a job in the UK remains a very tough proposition, the thriving business environment in Ghana and West Africa is leading to the creation of jobs.

“Ghana is one of the stable democracies in the sub region and this makes the country attractive as an investment destination.

“The economy since the early 2000s has been growing above five per cent. The country currently has a lower middle income status and a burgeoning middle income population which creates more business opportunities.

“The Ghanaian perception is that foreign-educated and company-trained graduates have more expertise and technical know-how, and Britain is no exception to this.”

A spokesperson for non-profit organisation GUBA – co-organiser of the Ghana Careers Fair with the Network for Diaspora Professionals Ltd (NFDP) – said the average salary for managerial jobs in West Africa could be up to 25 per cent less than in the UK.

But they said the cheaper cost of living, coupled with a shorter working week, tropical climate and year-round sunshine, offset financial shortfalls.

The spokesperson added:  “British graduates are sick of putting up with fewer openings and intense competition. Given that West African businesses are crying out for young British talent, it's no surprise that Ghana and other nations are now firmly on their radar.”


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