Now Ireland becomes No Country for Young Men

Padraig O Morain

For young people, the prospect of going to live in a country that has not disgraced itself by blowing its prosperity must be looking awfully attractive today. After all, it's even looking attractive to their seniors so why not to them?

The Budget has brought home the reality of the price to be paid by ordinary people, including young people and their families, for the sins of the brigands and buffoons to whom we handed our economy during the boom.

And if that Budget included an inspiring job creation policy, whether through direct job creation or a stimulus package, I have certainly failed to find it.

That's a terrible omission because it is the prospect of work that could have brought hope to young people.

Like everyone else, young people can be divided into different categories. For those who can expect to start their working lives on the minimum wage the cut in the rate of pay is a bleak occurrence.

It was people on the minimum wage or near it who were denied the fruits of the boom because of outrageous property prices and rents. Now it is they who are being asked to put their hands in their pockets. Not an attractive prospect if you're a young person in one of the most expensive countries in Europe.


For those whose families live on welfare the picture is bleaker still as they struggle to get by on a very low income which is likely to fall again in future years. These of course are probably the young people whose skills are least transferable to other economies. Worse, some may have grown up in areas or in families in which the belief in education is weak.

But education has to lead to something. Not too many students are attracted by the idea of education for its own sake. That's why the absence of anything inspiring on the job creation front is such a disappointing part of this Budget.

When even Iceland is out of recession, emigration must be looking very attractive. Some would be quick to point out that wages in England and other countries are lower than here. Yes, but the cost of living is lower too.

It could also be said that young people have always gone abroad for new experiences. This is also true -- but now young people may go abroad not to broaden their experience but to find a future. And we especially have to concern ourselves with the question of whether they will come back.

I am reminded of the line "no country for old men". Do we want to replace that in Ireland with "no country for young men or women"?

Now and then we hear talk that whoever forms the next Government -- and it looks like this will be happening soon -- will bring in a supplementary Budget of their own.

If that is so then I would plead with them to make it a Budget of hope for the young people. We need some indication of the primacy of job creation above all else.

Let's make it a country for young men and young women after all.