Fine Gael belittles young people as unemployment rate skyrockets

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD
22 April 2021

A year into the pandemic, the Government still has no plan to tackle youth unemployment. Speaking in the Dáil, Labour enterprise and education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD urged the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation to pay as much time to solving the youth unemployment crisis as he does with Sinn Féin spin.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

“Young people have played a key role in their communities throughout the pandemic and what’s more, they have improved Ireland for the better. On Earth Day, it is no exaggeration to say that the Climate Action Bill debated in the House last night would not be going ahead without the activism of our young people. They are already building a better Ireland for generations to come, yet they remain ignored and disregarded by this Government which continues to cosy up with the landlords and ignores the calls from this Party and others to invest in training and education for young people currently unemployed.

“Youth unemployment is out of control in this country. At a rate of 59%, Ireland is an outlier across the EU where the average of youth unemployment is 17%. In Spain, youth unemployment is considered extremely high at 40%, while in the UK only 14% of young people are out of work. We echo the calls of the National Youth Council to commence a taskforce on youth unemployment to build meaningful, secure jobs for young people in Ireland. The fact that it is April 2021 and the Tánaiste and Minister for Business does not have a single plan in his hands to tackle youth unemployment is outrageous. There is no doubt that the Tánaiste would be resourcing youth unemployment better if he believed there were votes in it.

“Before the pandemic, young people faced poor employment conditions, insecure work, no right to say no to their boss out of hours and high rents. Many are wondering why they should bother hanging around. We are at risk of losing another generation of young people, many of whom are about to experience their second economic recession. There is no doubt in my mind that once it is possible to do so, we will experience another generation emigration and lose out on this generation of activists and campaigners. The real loser here is Ireland.

“Young people are feeling the inherent disrespect shown to them by the Government. In fact, the Tánaiste does not even deem these 18-24 year olds as adults, noting in his reply that the “youth unemployment rate is double the adult rate”, which tells me and anyone else listening that young people, in Fine Gael’s eyes, are less important, less worthy of a decent quality of life, and perhaps, less likely to vote for him.

“His dismissal of the rate because the sectors that young people traditionally work in like retail, hospitality, tourism are closed is ignorant and oblivious. The crux of the issue is that our young people are overrepresented in insecure, low paid jobs and the Minister for Business could not care less. We lead with our actions, and the fact that the Tánaiste has no plan for young people one year on while the unemployment rate skyrockets says it all.

“Once again, I am calling on the Tánaiste to introduce an employment agency focused on upskilling, retraining and deploying our young people into the workforce. All that is missing is political will. We should be targeting youth unemployment, particularly in disadvantaged areas, leading to fairer opportunities as the economy begins to recover. Such a scheme is doable if Government want to be ambitious for our young people. We need a Government that is building in better workers’ rights, a living wage, and tackling soaring rents to give our young people, who have given us so much, a reason to stay.

“10 years ago we lost a generation of young people, we can’t lose another. This Government needs to step up and deliver for the young people of Ireland in the same way that they are delivering for future generations.”

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