‘Long-term solution’ to tackle youth unemployment

The Government has been urged to abandon “short-term ‘emergency’ corrective measures” to address youth unemployment and adopt longer-term ‘preventative’ measures.

The Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI) made the call as it voiced significant concerns about the Government’s JobBridge scheme pointing out that:

  • Some employers use the scheme for free labour for work that might be undertaken by workers at full pay;
  • Some trainees derive very limited benefit from the experience in terms of relevant experience, confidence and employability;
  • There is a lack of adequate monitoring to ensure that exploitation is not taking place and that the scheme is operating as it is meant to;
  • There is a lack of accreditation and transition to quality employment upon completion of the training.

Tom Healy, NERI director, said that in 2014, nearly one in five people aged 18-24 were classed as NEET — not in employment, education or training. “Up to now the response of public policy has been ‘corrective’, as distinct from ‘preventative’,” he said.

“It has involved emergency measures to ‘activate’ unemployed persons by means of training or subsidies to employers — carrots; and penalties for non-compliance with training measures by lack of proof of job search — sticks.”

Mr Healy said the experience in relation to schemes such as JobBridge had been “mixed to say the least” even though he said it may be claimed that unemployed people “are better doing something” and gaining “useful work experience” while continuing to look for employment while also receiving a dole payment plus a top-up of €50 per week.

“It is clear that even if JobBridge is closed tomorrow that the use of unpaid internships has replaced traditional entry routes into many sectors and that a culture of unpaid internships is now a norm for many young Irish people,” he said. “There is a strong case for reviewing and radically changing interventions such as JobBridge.

“We need to move beyond short-term ‘emergency’ corrective measures to invest in longer-term ‘preventative’ measures before the next recession arrives.”

He said an effective preventive strategy should encapsulate the benefits of a structured, accredited and adequately monitored “dual training” approach to education and training.

“In other words, participants would benefit from a quality training experience encompassing ‘on-the-job’ and ‘off-the-job’ training in an environment that builds on their initial skills and aptitudes,” he said.

“It is no accident that among the European Member States with the lowest level of ‘NEETS’ are those with well developed ‘dual training’ arrangements. Unless we want long-term structural unemployment and under-employment among young people we need to plan and invest in training targeted at young people and linked to newly emerging areas in the economy from hospitality to IT.”

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