‘Youth guarantees’ are the best immediate step in tackling joblessness among the young
One in three young people now unemployed in Ireland
Unemployment is hurting families and denying young people their future. Photograph: Frank Miller
One in four young people across the EU are officially unemployed, according to Eurostat. Here the figure is almost one in three. Our youth unemployment level has trebled since 2007.
While the number of young people out of work has started to decline, so too has the number in employment.
In 2008 there were 250,000 young people working. Census 2011 recorded only 130,900 in work. Since then, this number has fallen by a further 24,100.
Where have all these young people gone? Some have taken up training. Others have disengaged from local employment services. The vast majority have emigrated.
Youth unemployment is at crisis levels. It is hurting families and communities. It is denying young people their future. It is costing the State €3.1 billion annually, according to a study by Eurofound.
Despite this there seems little Government urgency in responding to the problem.
Today the Oireachtas European Affairs Committee will launch a report on youth unemployment of which I was the rapporteur. Titled Guaranteeing Our Future, the report outlines the case for the Government to implement urgently a State- wide youth guarantee for young people.
A youth guarantee is a State- backed promise that within four months of becoming unemployed a young person will receive an offer of a job, training, education or an apprenticeship.
Youth guarantees have proven very successful in reducing levels of youth unemployment since they were introduced in a number of EU member states in the 1980s.
Those countries that operate youth guarantees have youth unemployment levels at half the EU average and a third of Ireland’s.
In December last the European Commission included a call for an EU youth guarantee scheme in its Youth Employment Package.
The European Council endorsed this proposal last February and allocated €6 billion to fund projects in those member states with youth unemployment levels of more than 20 per cent.
While this funding is to be welcomed, it is nowhere near enough to meet the demands of the 7.5 million young people not in employment, education or training across the EU. The European Youth Forum described the allocation as “grossly inadequate”.
The International Labour Organisation has argued that a fund of at least €21 billion would be necessary to start tackling youth unemployment.
In response to the establishment of the fund the Department of Social Protection has announced a youth guarantee pilot project in Ballymun, due to start in October.
However, given that the commission invited applications for funding such pilots in October 2012 and the department submitted its bid only in June, many are concerned the pilot will be delayed.
Clearly the Government has no strategy to tackle youth unemployment. Of the 333 commitments in the Government’s action plan on jobs launched in February only four relate to young people.
It is in this context that Guaranteeing Our Future is being launched.
The report’s 12 recommendations received unanimous cross-party support. They include a call for the Government to introduce a youth guarantee as a matter of urgency and for funding to be increased significantly.
The report also calls for a focus on the long-term youth unemployed and for the next action plan on jobs to have a dedicated section on youth unemployment.
A youth guarantee is not a quick-fix solution to the serious problem of youth unemployment. However, it can play an important part in addressing the issue.
The Government has a unique opportunity to design and implement a scheme that could improve the opportunities and quality of life for a very large number of young people.
The committee is urging the Government to introduce a high-quality youth guarantee. Let’s hope they listen. More importantly let’s hope they act.
Senator Kathryn Reilly, Sinn Féin, was rapporteur of the Oireachtas European Affairs Committee, whose report on youth unemployment is launched today