Rising unemployment and age

 

Sir, – I read with interest David McWilliams’s article “Middle-aged unemployment is Ireland’s new growth area” (Analysis, November 7th), in which he makes some very salient points about the worrying unemployment figures and the deleterious impact of losing a job on the individual, family and community.

It is also worth considering some of the implicit assumptions in the narrative regarding the younger worker versus the middle-aged and older worker.

In 2013, the government signed up to the European Commission’s Youth Guarantee, which aimed to address the effects of early school leaving and long-term unemployment for 18 to 24 year olds, by guaranteeing the offer of a job, work experience, apprenticeship, or training within specific timeframe after leaving school or becoming unemployed. One wonders if this government guarantee still holds firm now.

We cannot assume that the “kids will be all right” if some sectors of the economy will struggle to recover. There is also an assumption that middle-aged and older workers are predominantly male, when in fact there is a high percentage of female workers in these age brackets who have also lost their jobs; just think of those workers in the retail and tourism sectors who rely on such jobs for balancing their family and caring commitments.

The suggestion that people within this age group can become entrepreneurial has some merits, but not everyone has the interest or capability to be an entrepreneur at this stage in their lives, even though they now have to work longer due to the increase in the pension age.

To address the increasing unemployment figures across all age groups, a more long-term vision and strategic collaboration amongst policymakers and education, training and employer stakeholders is needed, rather than the current short-term activation measures and stop-start funding for education, training employment supports. – Yours, etc.

Dr LUCY HEARNE,

School of Education

and Lifelong Learning,

Waterford Institute

of Technology,

Waterford.