Monday 16 December 2019

Editorial: Government must help young jobless into work

There are any amount of figures one can pluck from the unemployment statistics released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) yesterday, the good, the bad and the disturbing. The good news is that the unemployment rate is down again, the 24th consecutive month of decrease, and at 11.6pc brings us more into line with European average.

The bad news is that there are still 386,000 people on the Live Register and that 47.4pc of all claimants, or 188,858 individuals, are now classed as "long-time claimants". The longer people continue to claim, the less likely they are to ever work again.

But the most disturbing part of the figures released yesterday is that 61,448 of those signing on for social welfare last month are under the age of 25, and that figure is almost 3,000 more than the previous month.

While it can be argued that youth unemployment is a European-wide phenomenon it is not acceptable that even after emigration has absorbed so many of our young people there are still over 60,000 able-bodied young men and women condemned to a life of dependence on the State.

There is a serious need for various government departments and agencies to co-ordinate a strategy to get young people off welfare and into education and training programmes. It is also unsustainable that, while so many are unemployed, employers complain that they cannot get Irish workers to fill jobs.

Governments, as we must all realise by now, do not create jobs, but they do create the conditions for the real economy to flourish, and that means more jobs for more people. The Government can also encourage people back to work by getting rid of welfare traps, which have been identified in various government reports but still persist and make it more worthwhile for people not to work than to take up jobs that pay the minimum wage.

It is also worth remembering that many of those emigrating are not unemployed, but leaving low-paid jobs for what they perceive as a better lifestyle abroad. After years of restraint and austerity there is also growing pressure for wage increases and the Government needs to be very vigilant if the good work of the last number of years is not to be undone.

The nature of work is changing rapidly and in some areas Ireland has responded magnificently, but it is important that the unemployed, especially those under 25, are not abandoned, but are educated, encouraged and coaxed into taking their rightful place in the workforce.

More vital debates than Good Friday drink ban

Is this why we saved the Seanad, so that it can spend time and energy discussing The Intoxicating Liquor (Amendment) Bill 2014, a bill which aims to allow pubs to open on Good Friday and we can all do what is permissible only 363 days of the year right now.

Closing pubs on Good Friday is always a good talking point, like the continuing practice of having the Angelus on RTE. There are, of course, arguments for having pubs open on Good Friday, and why not take it a step further and open on Christmas Day also?

The sponsor of the bill, Senator Imelda Henry, believes pubs closing on Good Friday is "a legacy of our past which does not recognise the massive changes in the country" and possibly she's right. But equally it could be argued that it is a legacy we should preserve, simply because, like the Angelus on radio, it is part of what makes us slightly different in this standardised world.

The real question, of course, is: have our legislators nothing better to do? We have lived through momentous events and yet we still haven't got around to the banking inquiry; social issues like suicide, unemployment, mortgage debt, gay marriage – the list is practically endless – abound.

Is it unfair to ask, in such circumstances, are there not more important issues to occupy the exalted members of Seanad Eireann than opening pubs on Good Friday?

Irish Independent

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