Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Is there any hope for young people who want to stay?

The majority of our best brains (and best friends) are packing their bags and carrying their fine educations to faraway lands. Is there any hope for those of us who want to stay here, asks Carlynn McCarthy

Thu, Mar 7, 2013, 16:00


Carlynn McCarthy

I am a very tired 25 year old girl. I am physically tired because I have just finished a 12 hour shift. My legs are stiff, my back is aching and my feet are throbbing so hard it feels like my heart has literally fallen into my shoes. I am mentally tired because I spend a lot of my time asking myself, is this all there is?

Was it worth four hard but wonderful years at college just to stand at the wrong side of the bar all night? I have a degree yet I spend most of my weekends wiping other people’s vomit off the floor. Mostly, I am tired of defending my decision not to emigrate. I lived abroad for three years and loved it but in the end I wanted to come home, get a good job, find a nice apartment, meet up with family and friends whenever I felt like it. A humble yet impossible dream for me and many more like me.

As a young(ish) Irish person all I seem to hear is:

“You should be over in Australia.”
“You’re mad, there’s nothing for you here.”
“I hear Canada is crying out for people.”

I know people mean well, but why should I travel thousands of kilometres to a foreign country that may or may not resent my presence there? Why should I leave my friends and family behind? Why can’t I find a job I enjoy, here, in a country I love?

“You’re young, you have to do it while you can, believe me, I know.” Cue conspiratorial wink. Must experience trump youth every time? I’m young therefore someone else knows better?

Unfortunately this isn’t just a barstool phenomenon. I feel like it happens at a national level too. The recession has taken its toll on everyone; the elderly, single mothers, people with special needs, medical professionals, farmers, the list is endless.

We’ve heard about the proposed CAP cuts and how they have been adjusted; following the latest budget we heard about the plight of low income families, nurses and home owners but can anyone remember any meaningful action taken to create good jobs for young people?

The percentage of unemployed young people here in Ireland is over 30 per cent. Yet instead of hearing about endeavours to create lovely new jobs we are consistently told, ‘bear with us, we’ll pull through, the Irish have survived worse etc. etc.’ Well we have borne with you, (looks around an almost empty room) and those of us who remain are frustrated.

We are one of the best educated generations this country has ever seen. Our parents, government and we, ourselves have ploughed money into shaping our minds for the future, and now what?

Those minds shuffle aimlessly forward in the local dole queue waiting to sign on and get their €188 a week. If not, they are probably serving you your cappuccino in your local pub or café listening to people tut-tutting them because they haven’t jetted off into the job-filled sunset.

I work in a bar and have colleagues who are fully qualified criminologists, microbiologists and lots of other types of -ologists as well. But rather than go out and unleash all this potential everyone told us we had, we worry about how frothy your milk is or about which cup is the skinny latte and which one is the regular.

Don’t be fooled reader; this is not the voice of an angry young person, it is the sigh of your frustrated and ever more discouraged ‘future’, a sigh which up until now (five years into the recession) seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Not anymore though, the large scale unemployment of all of Europe’s young people means that Brussels and therefore the Irish government can no longer dole out rain checks or reign in the dole cheques. Something has to be done. And that something, apparently, is the Youth Employment Package.

The Youth Employment Package has three main strands: the Youth Guarantee – promises employment and/or training within four months of graduating or becoming unemployed; the European Quality Framework for Traineeships – aims to offer experience and learning on the job in fair working conditions; and the European Alliance for Apprenticeships – hopes to improve the quality and quantity of apprenticeships on offer throughout Europe.

The main strand being touted by officials is The Youth Guarantee which will pump €6 billion into European countries with youth unemployment levels above 25 per cent. Sounds marvellous. But will a certain percentage of the money be allocated solely to the creation of positions for young people? If not, it sounds eerily similar to our national Jobs Bridge scheme and to be honest I don’t think I could take the disappointment. I really need someone to come through for me here, whether that someone be from the Dáil or the European Parliament I don’t really care.

Jobs Bridge is a good but flawed programme, which has been abused as a source of cheap labour. Young people work full-time hours in order to earn €194 a week, that works out at €4.97 an hour. If you are one of the lucky ones, you pick up some new skills along the way; if not, you learn how to make a mean cup of tea and arrange stationary like a boss. But what do you do once your 6-9 months are up? Get another barely paid internship? Shuffle a little more aimlessly up the dole queue? Join me in the hospitality industry?

While the government took care of other business the majority of our best brains (and best friends) packed their bags and carried their fine educations to faraway lands. What about those of us who are still here? Are we mad to stay? Is it time to dust off the old suitcase or is there really hope for us on the domestic job front?

Carlynn is a member of the Youth Media and the Irish Presidency group.