After the exams: Give youth a fair chance at finding a job

TENS of thousands of young people will be looking at their Leaving Certificate results today and planning for the future. Many of them will choose to go on to third-level education but a sizable proportion will instead seek permanent jobs and hope that they will be able to earn a decent living.

For far too many young people, that dream of earning a living wage will not become reality.

While the general rate of unemployment in Ireland continues to fall, the number of jobless youth remains stubbornly and worryingly high. The National Youth Council of Ireland puts the figure at 20% while other agencies say it is between 16% and 18%.

The NYCI, which represents youth organisations working with more than 380,000 young people nationwide, cited the latest data from the EU’s statistics agency, Eurostat, which shows the percentage of young people in Ireland aged between 20 to 24 who are exclusively in employment has plummeted from 54.6% in 2006 to 37.8% last year.

The figures also show that the number of young people not in education, employment or training was almost one fifth at 19.7% compared to 11.9% in 2006.

Whether the correct figure for Irish youth unemployment is 16%, 18%, or 20%, doesn’t really matter. Either of those figures is still far too high, and for a young man or woman without a job it is 100%.

The recession affected young people the most, but they have not enjoyed the so-called recovery in the same proportion. Youth unemployment rates rose considerably during the economic crisis, invoking fears of a ‘lost generation’.

Given this unacceptable situation, why is it that the Government, which is quick to point out that the economy is continuing to recover, is not doing more to ensure that our young people will stay in Ireland and have a future here?

Why is it that the cuts in funding for youth training and work experience put in place during the recession have not been reversed?

In its pre-budget submission, the NCYI wants €30m to be allocated to alleviating youth unemployment. Given the billions that Irish taxpayers have already been forced to give to bail out the banks, that does not seem to be an extravagant amount of money.

Indeed, it may be the best investment the Government could make. The youth of Ireland represent the future of the country. A report late last year by PwC showed that the Irish economy could be boosted by more than €8bn a year if the potential of our young people was proberly developed.

Ireland is near the bottom of the league of a group of 34 wealthy OECD countries, mainly because of our relatively high rate of youth unemployment.

At the same time, the Government is proposing that older people in employment be allowed to work beyond the normal retirement age of 65.

It is all very well to facilitate longer working lives but the priority should be to ensure that our youth have working lives to look forward to in the first place.

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