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Youth job insecurity mirrors 1965, says top economist

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Dr Tom Healy, director of the Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI), says being young today is "the same and not the same" as 50 years ago. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Dr Tom Healy, director of the Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI), says being young today is "the same and not the same" as 50 years ago. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Dr Tom Healy, director of the Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI), says being young today is "the same and not the same" as 50 years ago. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Taoiseach pledges that 5,000 more emigrants will return home for work than will leave next year

They were promised endless opportunity, education and open borders for international travel, but today young Irish people feel the same sense of job insecurity as people did in 1965, a top economist has claimed.

Dr Tom Healy, director of the Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI), says being young today is "the same and not the same" as 50 years ago.

"The evidence is clear that standards and levels of education, housing, health and income are a lot better today for the vast majority of people living in this part of the world than they were in 1965.

"At the same time, it is an open question if people are any happier or economically more secure," he said.

According to Dr Healy, security can be measured by people's confidence in their current position, hopes for the future and their ability to put "a decent roof" over their head.

The prospect of having a pension when they retire is another important measure of security for the young.

Security can also be based on receiving necessary medical and family care when they are sick, old, or out of work.

Although Dr Healy says life was "always precarious" for most people - especially in terms of income, health and care - an insecure age is emerging within a specific age group.

"There seems to be an increase in precariousness among large sections of the population, especially those born in the 1980s or 1990s, who were the biggest losers in the great recession of 2008-2009," he said.

Their chief anxieties include: lack of job, income and pension security; reduced chances of buying or renting a home; and pressure to cover costs of feeding, housing, minding, educating and supporting the next generation.

Other global insecurities include the challenge of environmental degradation; climate change; and terrorism.

"The great paradox of modern living is that under the promise of freedom, choice and removal of many areas of market regulation, people have been left less secure," he said, adding that employers are generally more cautious about taking people on in a recovery sensitive market.

"Is insecurity the price of higher standards of living and personal opportunity?" he asks.

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Despite vast social and economic advancements, Dr Healy believes young people will experience greater levels of precariousness in job profiles throughout their working lives, will work longer hours than previous generations, and will work well into their 60s with fewer benefits.

Although the number of people on the live register continues to fall - a decrease of 2,200 (0.7pc) to 330,000 was recorded last month compared to October - youth unemployment and the quality of new jobs is also worrying.

"The relative absence of concern about the extent of under-employment compared to previous recessions and recoveries is remarkable," said Dr Healy. "I'm not saying that there wasn't an awful lot of precariousness 50 years ago but if you look at traditional areas - the banks, the civil service, the ESB - these were regarded as very stable employment and good pension schemes. That is gone."

He added: "I don't think there is any going back to the past, I think it will remain as it is now, but hopefully economic conditions will improve to such an extent that the problem of precariousness will be contained."

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has pledged that 5,000 more Irish people will return home than will leave to find work abroad next year as the Government moves to make Ireland a more attractive place to work.

"The lure of home is very strong, and for those who return this Christmas to family and friends and communities, it is an opportunity for them to reflect on the changed and enhanced circumstance that apply here," said the Taoiseach.

Mr Kenny also promised that more than 70,000 emigrants who left Ireland during the recession will return home by 2020.

Speaking to reporters, the Taoiseach said people who returned to Ireland say "this is the country that gives the best professional, personal output in terms of working".

"People come back and see the new confidence and transformation in Ireland," he added.

Mr Kenny plans to lure Irish people home by making Ireland's income tax system as competitive as low-tax countries such as America and Canada, where many emigrants went to find work after the economic crash.

Mr Kenny also pledged to hold a referendum during the lifetime of the next government on allowing the Irish diaspora to vote in the presidential election.

He added that the vote would have to come with conditions, as you cannot allow 70m people who claim Irish ancestry to cast a ballot to elect the President.


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