Private Members’ Business – Youth unemployment

PaulConnaughton-2-150x150

Dáil Éireann 20 November 2013

 

Thank you for the opportunity to speak on this motion.

 

The scale and rapidity of the implosion of jobs in Ireland after the economic crash is simply staggering.  When one considers that in March 2011, there were three hundred thousand people less working in Ireland than there were in 2008, it’s hard to comprehend the difficulty and misery that lies behind that number.  In a reducing jobs market, there is always going to be an oversupply of talented, experienced people to take the few available jobs that do come up, shutting off the job opportunities for new talented people emerging on to the jobs market.

 

By 2009 there were 80,000 young people under 25 out of work. Thankfully this figure has now dropped to 60,000, which is a significant drop, but behind that particular statistic there lies 60,000 individual stories and this Government has focused sharply on reducing that stark number as quickly as possible, to ensure that these people’s lives are not blighted by a lack of opportunity which resulted from an economic crash beyond their control.

 

At 38 percent, the seasonally adjusted rate of unemployment for young people is still much too high and that is why this Government must continue to stimulate employment creation and prioritise youth unemployment, at European, national and regional level.

 

I believe that one area that this Government can and should examine further is offering those long-term unemployed people the opportunity to upskill in areas where we know that there are job opportunities waiting.  When one considers the cost of providing a third level grant to someone who is studying softwear engineering or biotechnology versus the cost of providing unemployment assistance, I believe that it would be money extremely well spent.  I know that such courses would not suit everyone who is unemployed, but even if 5,000 young people were targeted for such upskilling, it would represent one in 12 of those under 25 who are currently unemployed.

 

Research is needed into college drop-out levels and the reasons behind such decisions. For example, was the decision made for education, health or income reasons? It is a tragedy that young people are having to drop out of college because their families simply cannot support them and that is happening at an alarming rate, according to the stories I hear weekly from distressed constituents.

 

I know that families whose only income is social welfare will qualify for the special rate of grant, but in my clinics in County Galway, the difficult stories I hear relate to parents who may have one day’s work per week, work that is needed to keep a family afloat, but this puts them over the income for the special rate, halves the grant available and makes the work uneconomical and puts college out of reach for their adult children.

 

It is only through rising employment levels all across the economy, which I believe is underway, that youth unemployment can be reduced.  Far too many parents are waving goodbye to their children, fearful that their grandchildren will grow up in far-away continents.

 

We must live up to the promise of the Youth Guarantee Scheme and ensure that those young unemployed people are offered real opportunities to progress into employment or continued education.