Young people under 25 years of age have been badly hit by the recession. As of June 2010 there are 91,646 young people on the Live Register which equates to one fifth of all those on the Live Register. Youth unemployment has trebled since 2008 with 1 in 3 young men under 25 being out of work. The scale of the problem is masked by a big increase in numbers re-entering or staying in education and the numbers emigrating. The numbers of young people under 25 emigrating increased from 15,600 in 2004 to 30,000 in 2009. Sectors such as construction, retail and services where young people were heavily employed shed thousands of jobs. Between Q1 2008 and Q3 2009 youth employment in construction and manufacturing slumped by 63.6% and 47.4%.
We acknowledge that Government does not create jobs, but rather its primary role is to create the conditions for employment and to ensure current and future jobseekers are equipped with the skills and qualification to avail of opportunities when they arise. We also note that there are no quick or simple solutions to the current high levels of unemployment. However we believe a lot more could be done. To date the response of Government has lacked coherence and co-ordination while their actions have in our view lacked the resources, scale and imagination required to deal with the problem of unemployment in the current context. We also believe that any measures or actions undertaken must not marginalise or push young people further into poverty, not damage their long term employment prospects and they must be effective.
What we want –
Clear political responsibility for youth unemployment and an overall plan which is coherent and comprehensive
At present there is not sufficient political leadership on the issue of youth unemployment, many of the actions and initiatives are spread across 3/4 Departments and a range of state agencies. A Minster who takes overall charge of directing the effort is needed.
Reverse the cutbacks in social welfare to young jobseekers
*The new policy is ill-thought out and does not take the needs of different young people into account. At the moment some young people are forced to engage in education and training which is of little use to them just to retain their benefits. The vast majority of young people want a job and failing that want education, training or work experience.
Public Employment Service that works for and with young people.
*NYCI welcomed the proposal to integrate the public employment services of FÁS with the benefit function of the Department of Social Protection announced in April 2010. Too many young people fall through the administrative cracks and this change provides Government with the opportunity to deliver a more coherent service to jobseekers. o There are a large number of measures, programmes and opportunities, all of which have different eligibility criteria and come with benefits and conditions. Decisions made in haste and without all the facts can have major implications for the career and livelihood of young people. While information is provided on websites and by other means it is vital that young people have access to skilled professional who can support them to make informed choices. We not only need more job counselling staff to support young people in these difficult times, we also need to ensure that young people are getting a good service.
Review Training Provision
Forfás has recently completed a review of Training Programmes. The findings raised a number of questions about the focus and effectiveness of some of the programmes provided. This review indicates that some of the programmes need to address drop out rates, are not sufficiently targeting those on social welfare, have lost focus on their target group and need to do more to ensure participants make progress after the course is over and provide certification.
NYCI believes that the following changes are required.
*Increased investment in supports and measures to retain young people particularly disadvantaged youths on training courses.
*Courses such as the local training initiative should be refocused on young job seekers between 16 and 25 years of age.
*Training opportunities should be targeted exclusively at those who are unemployed, particularly young people and the long term unemployed.
*All state funded courses should be required to provide certification within a 3 year period. Ø Courses should be required to demonstrate their effectiveness in supporting the progression of young people into further education, training or employment.
*Where courses or programmes are not delivering for young people, the resources should be diverted to other more effective programmes.
Youth Guarantee & Youth Jobs Fund
We believe a fund along the lines of the Futures Job Fund in the UK is required to support the employment of 18-24 year olds who are unemployed. Also the Dutch Government has developed a youth guarantee so that if a young person fails to find appropriate education, training or employment, the local authorities and/or not for profit organisations act as employers. The idea is that in return for engaging in activation, the authorities in these countries invest to ensure young people have the opportunities. By using this approach, the withdrawal of benefits is a very last resort.
Review & Expand Work Placement Programme
The Government established the Work Placement Programme in April 2009 which allows participants to retain their social welfare benefits while engaging in work experience. Initially take up was very low until the scheme was revised and in recent months the numbers have increased.
We think proposals such as making the programme part-time and providing young people with a bursary to undertake education and training make enhance take-up. We also believe that employers should be permitted to make ex-gratia payments to participants for expenses and perhaps in the form of a completion bonus. In a revision of the scheme it is important to ensure that the placements are of a good quality to improve employability and of course to ensure there is no exploitation of young people.
Increase Number of Back to Education Places:
*In light of the fact that some young people will not find work in the short term, it makes sense to support them to engage in education and training. Some schemes such as the Back to Education Allowance are not as costly as the participants are transferring from one social welfare payment to another. There is a cost of education payment of €500 per participant, the costs of supporting additional secondary and third level places, but these costs per participant is minimal. We think the BTEA scheme should be expanded to at least 40,000 participants with a particular emphasis on young people.
*The decision to introduce free college places for jobseekers was welcome. However only 1,752 of the 2,500 free part-time college places on undergraduate certificate and degree-level programmes have been filled to date and the Government is non-committal to date about providing more places. We believe a much greater number of places should be provided for the next academic year.
*Other programmes such as Youthreach, VTOS and PLCs have not expanded to meet the exploding demand. All these programmes meet very important needs and will support young people to be better able to rejoin the workforce when the economy recovers. Therefore it makes sense to expand these programmes now.
(1) Forfás Review of Labour Market Programmes, 2010