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Recession drives spike in gap years and sabbaticals

4th September 2010 Print

Britain has seen a 14-fold rise in the number of people taking gap years, sabbaticals and other lifestyle breaks since the 1970s, including a remarkable spike since the recession began in 2008. New research from Santander Credit Cards reveals that the number of people taking time out from work and education has risen from 270,000 in the 70s, to 4 million between 2000 and 2010. Interestingly, 1.2 million of these lifestyle breaks have taken place since the recession began in 2008.

Just over one in ten (12 per cent) UK adults has taken a lifestyle break in the past and a further 4 million (8 per cent) Brits are currently planning one for the future. While travel still remains the most common reason for taking time out, 415,000 Brits (including students and those in employment) say that a fiercely competitive job market is to blame. A quarter of a million (219,000) also say it’s because they were unable to secure a university place, echoing the problems of thousands of A-level students still without places this year.

Students have traditionally been the main candidates for lifestyle breaks and this trend continues with one in four students aged 18 and over saying they are currently planning a break.

Traditionally, lifestyle breaks have been referred to as a ‘Gap Year’ as the majority (59 per cent) of people to date, took between 6 – 24 months out. All this is likely to change however, as although the popularity of the lifestyle break is increasing, its duration looks set to reduce considerably. The majority (66 per cent) of those planning time out, now expect to take less than a year and one in four (23 per cent), plan to take 3 months or less.

Those planning time out, estimate that it will cost about £5,100, although men believe that it will cost almost twice as much (£6,800) as women, who expect to spend around £3,800. Previously, the lifestyle break has cost an average of £6,100, but was in many cases considerably longer.

Travel (47 per cent), rest (20 per cent) and the chance to work abroad (28 per cent) are the most popular plans for taking time out. 13 per cent also plan to use their time out for education and training.

Ian Coles, Director at Santander Cards, comments:  “Taking a break from work or education is becoming an increasingly appealing option for many Britons, as the job market becomes increasingly competitive and the demand for university places continues to soar. It’s a great opportunity to travel and to learn but unfortunately it doesn’t come cheap. With lifestyle breaks costing around £5,000 - £6,000 on average, it’s important that people weigh up the costs and the benefits, financially and otherwise.”

Ian Coles continues “For those looking to travel abroad during their time off, the Santander Zero Credit Card is one of the only cards on the market to offer fee-free foreign usage anywhere in the world, helping travellers to cut out unnecessary costs when going abroad.”

Looking regionally, Londoners appear to be keenest on the lifestyle break, with 14 per cent (830,000) already planning one. In Wales however, only 2 per cent have plans to take time out.