The outcomes from the NYCI consultation on Youth Employment highlight the difficulties currently facing young people accessing the labour market in Ireland. The main concern for young people is youth unemployment. In just the last two years there has been a rapid increase of a staggering 178% in youth unemployment and one in three young men under 25 are unemployed.
The consultation, which took place on March 27th in Dublin, was part of a European Initiative in structured dialogue with young people. The EU Commission encouraged each member state to consult with young people at a national level in preparation for a European Youth Conference on Youth Employment in Spain. NYCI nominated three young people from the consultation to attend this conference in April.
The young people consulted called on the government to tackle the issue of youth unemployment and improve communication between government departments and agencies responsible for the issue. They fear being considered the “mothball generation”, expected to just ride out the recession and emerge unaffected when the economy improves. However, young people do not want to put their lives on hold and feel that they do not have the opportunity and support to live up to their true potential.
The outcomes from the consultation show that quality education and training remains the most important factor in securing employment. Education systems should therefore better prepare young people for the labour market, beginning with improved career guidance at secondary level. In terms of improving employment opportunities, more investment in training and education for the unemployed are deemed necessary. In addition there is a necessity for increased availability, variety and relevance of courses. Those consulted identified the youth sector as playing a vital role, due to a people centered approach and adaptability to the needs of young people.
The transition from education to the workplace is difficult and young people can be exploited as cheap labour. Precarious contracts, lack of legal frameworks for internships, requirements of previous working experience were seen as main barriers to finding a decent first job.
Employment is considered a key factor for youth autonomy and this is threatened by changes to the social welfare system. Young people under 25 years of age who are not engaged in training or education have had their social welfare payments halved for 18-21 year olds and by 25% for 22-24 year olds. While these measures were introduced as an incentive for young people to engage in training or education, it creates a number of problems. Firstly, many young people are already very well qualified, having left third level with degrees and secondly there are insufficient places on courses. Another threat to youth autonomy is the loss of benefits between leaving education and training and receiving social welfare.
There is a call for initiatives to encourage entrepreneurship.Young people should be encouraged through better grant and mentoring systems.
The effect of unemployment on young people was a constant theme throughout the consultation. It has a detrimental impact on the mental health of young people. Many referred to the isolation and loneliness they experience. Relationships with family and friends are affected as young people retreat into their own world and can turn to alcohol and drug misuse in some circumstances because they lack confidence and their self esteem has been undermined.
Three Young People attend EU Youth Conference
Around 100 European youth delegates and 90 political representatives from all over Europe gathered in Jerez (Spain) for the EU Youth Conference “Youth Employment and Social Inclusion”. During three intense days of discussions they have reached Joint Conclusions that set the most important prioriteis to improve youth employment at EU level, see downloadable document below. These priorities include access to long-term, secure and fairly paid jobs, the creation of a more youth friendly labour market, sustainable pensions schemes, as well as fostering entrepreneurship, promoting quality internships and ensuring a smooth transition between education and employment. The conclusions were presented to the European Commissioner for Youth, Androulla Vassiliou and to the Spanish Minister for Equality, Bibiana Aido who will further pass them to the Council of Ministers on May 11th in Brussels.
To see full more information on the Structured Dialogue process and the conclusions from the follow up EU Youth Conferences on Youth Employment held by the EU Presidencies in Belgium and Hungary please visit the NYCI international website.