'We're all competing for the same jobs': Life in Britain's Youngest City

When it comes to grim urban statistics in Britain, the city of Bradford tops many lists. Police statistics name Bradford as having the highest crime rates in West Yorkshire, while a 2014 YouGov poll named it Britain’s “most dangerous city”. Bradford also has one of the highest levels of youth unemployment in the UK: 26% of young people were out of work in 2015, up from 11.3% in 2004.

What makes these statistics particularly troubling, however, is the one that ties them all together. More than 30% of the population here are currently under the age of 20, and the city has the highest number of under-16s in the country, giving Bradford the unusual title of being the UK’s youngest city.

To Adam Mathers, 17, that means one thing: overcrowding.

“It’s too small and crowded here, people feel there’s no way out,” says Mathers, who was born and raised in the city and is now one of the 20,000 students at Bradford College. “Young people are always competing for the same jobs. There isn’t much ambition.”

With nearby Leeds a more attractive prospect for young jobseekers – it is the second largest employment centre outside of London, and home to the headquarters of global companies including Asda, Tetley and First Direct – those who stay in Bradford have limited options. After the closure of the city’s textile mills, its largest employer, the majority of jobs in Bradford now fall into skilled trades, retail and administrative sectors.

Read the feature in The Guardian.

[This piece was published on 05/02/18]