Hiring and firing: the EU referendum and jobs

Decisions, decisions: Will you have more job options after a vote to remain in or leave the EU?

In our final article on teenagers’ concerns and the EU, we look at employment. If you are considering your career options, or just want a Saturday job, which side should you support?

Britain will trade with businesses around the world, freed from a huge number of EU rules. Alternatively, worthwhile jobs will disappear and an academic ‘brain drain’ will take place.

These are two visions of the UK after a ‘Leave’ vote in the EU referendum. Your job prospects may depend on which one voters believe in.

The Remain campaign says 3m jobs are linked to trade within the EU’s single market. Leaving would trigger the flight of business and a recession. The UK’s status as a global financial hub would come under threat.

Leavers say recent problems in the eurozone make a Remain vote risky. And the think tank Open Europe says GDP could rise by 1.6% after a vote to leave if the UK negotiated a free trade deal and pursued ‘very ambitious deregulation’.

Remain supporters also warn that employers could pay less and strip away conditions (such as holiday allowances) if the UK leaves. But leavers say freedom from EU regulation would allow businesses to create jobs and the government could choose how much protection workers needed.

Leave campaigners also say the free movement of people in the EU puts pressure on jobs, as employers can undercut wages. Remain say the rules encourage trade and bring in people who make Britain wealthier. The right to move also allows you to take a job, perhaps on a short-term basis, in another EU country – for example, you could teach English as a foreign language.

Will you be able to get the qualifications you need for work? In one poll, 83% of university lecturers were in favour of EU membership. One estimate suggests British universities receive £1.2 billion of EU grants each year.

This week physicist Stephen Hawking warned the UK will become ‘culturally isolated and insular’ if it leaves. ‘The exchange of people enables skills to transfer more quickly, and brings new people with different ideas,’ he said. Students can also study abroad within the EU.

Leavers say if the UK got back the money it pays as a net contributor to the EU, it could spend more on research.

Jobseekers allowed

The weight of evidence is with us, say Remain supporters. Millions of stable jobs would be at risk from leaving. Leavers have no convincing alternative vision and foreign leaders have warned that trade will be lost. Co-operation within the EU has enriched its members both economically and intellectually.

Have faith in the UK, respond leavers – it is the second biggest economy in the EU. Other countries will want to trade with it. There are plenty of jobs available in the USA, Canada and China; none of them are EU members. If the UK frees itself from EU regulation, it will be able to create whatever jobs, and fund whatever research, it chooses.

You Decide

  1. Will getting a good job be your most important concern as you get older?
  2. Will you have a better chance of getting a good job after a vote to remain in or leave the EU?


  1. List five questions you would like to ask an employer who offers you a job. Discuss in pairs: why do these matter to you? What could politicians do to address your concerns? Would there be any drawbacks if they took action?
  2. Think of an industry you would like to work in. Contact someone who works in it and ask them what they think of the EU vote and why. Feed your findings back as a class.

Some People Say...

“A society succeeds or fails with its employment rate.”

What do you think?

Q & A

I’m not thinking about a career yet — only a casual job while I’m at school. Is this referendum relevant?
Casual workers are affected by the same forces as permanent ones. If people feel confident, they spend money; more people are then hired, including short-term or part-time workers. Another shop may open in your town, for example, and need someone to work on a Saturday. And when the economy struggles, casual workers are often the first to go.
I don’t live in the UK. Will this affect my job prospects?
Your country may have a close trading relationship with the UK — for example, the German car industry sells heavily to the UK — or it may be planning to create one after the referendum. Consider which vote would make it easier for your country to sell to the UK — or other EU nations.

Word Watch

Single market
Goods, services and people may move freely within the EU (and some affiliated countries). See Become An Expert.
A period when the economy shrinks. Trade is reduced, leading to job losses.
Financial hub
A 2015 survey by the Z/Yen Group rated London as the world’s leading financial centre, overtaking New York.
The total value produced by a country. Higher GDP means more available to spend, so potentially more jobs.
Removal of rules governing business.
According to the scientific journal Nature .
By Universities UK.
The EU provides almost a quarter of the funding for competitive grants for research at Cambridge University and about a fifth at Oxford.
Study abroad
EU citizens can apply for university anywhere in the EU. The Erasmus scheme is one well-known example of a programme which UK students frequently use to study elsewhere in Europe.
Net contributor
The House of Commons Briefing Paper (April 2016) gives the estimated UK figures for 2015 in £ billion: total contribution after rebate 12.9; public sector receipts 4.4.

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