A lost generation? Not us


GENERATION NEXT: A major ‘Irish Times’ series starting today explores the plight of Generation Next, Irish people aged between 18 and 25 who were raised in the boom but grew up in the bust. They have high education levels but low job prospects. Many will emigrate, but not all are able to. Yet, as this group tell CARL O’BRIEN , they are unresentful about the past, resilient about the present and optimistic about their future

WHO’D BE YOUNG? People under 25 are twice as likely as the rest of the population to be jobless. They face a lifetime of heavier taxes and crippling debt that was not of their making. Many find themselves locked out of work because of protectionist labour policies that shelter an older generation.

And then there are the long-term scars. People who are unemployed for spells in their formative years feel its harmful effects on many areas of their lives – happiness, job satisfaction, wages and health – for many years.

Politicians often say Ireland’s greatest asset is having the youngest population in Europe. Yet it seems as if the next generation is being set up to fail. The basic social contract – the promise that hard work will pay off, that responsibility will be rewarded and that everyone plays by the same rules – is fraying at the edges.

It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Irish society, after all, has always been hard edged and unsentimental about young people. This is the country that has bred generations, like cattle, for export; it is the old sow that eats her farrow. But the way an older generation seems to have pulled the rescue ladder up after itself will create an embittered, alienated and resentful new generation.

Or so you might think.

The Irish Times has assembled a group of young people to discuss what lies ahead for them. They are a mix of early school-leavers, college students and graduates, and they spoke to us in groups as well as individually.

We have discussed how they feel about life in Ireland today. What aspirations do they have? What kind of country do they want to live in? What kind of future lies ahead for them?

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