The National Youth Council of Ireland has described as “eye-watering” the high level of unemployment among young people and warned of a social and economic crisis if they are not able to get a foot on the jobs ladder.
Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week programme, James Doorley, Deputy director of the National Youth Council, said six out of ten young people in the labour market were now unemployed, with young women the worst affected.
CSO figures released last week showed 59% of people aged 15-24 were unemployed in March. 64% of young women were unemployed, according to the figures.
Mr Doorley described these figures as “eye-watering”.
“At the height of the last crisis ten years ago we had 30% youth unemployment and that was a huge political crisis,” he said.
The NYCI has called for a national task force to assist young people get back into jobs and education as soon as vaccinations allow the economy to reopen.
James Doorley said the UK government had announced a fund that will invest in schemes to help young people ‘catch-up’ their skills after a year of disruption.
“There doesn’t appear to be a plan from Government. We have a social and political crisis if we allow young people with talent and qualifications to not gain a foot on the ladder,” he said.
The Union of Students in Ireland told This Week that students voices were not being listened to during this national crisis.
USI president Lorna Fitzpatrick said students had been asking for the same three things for years – affordable accommodation, greater access to education, and the abolition of the €3,000 college registration fee.
“We’ve just launched another version of a campaign around fees. We’ve an accommodation bill been brought through the Dáil to support student renters. But the action isn’t coming from government in response to them. It’s building an awful lot of frustration,” Ms Fitzpatrick told This Week.
The USI president said student nurses were still waiting for the promised €100 a week payment for working during the height of the pandemic.
“There was commitment made in the Dáil to ensure that nurses and midwives would receive that payment by the end of January. They still haven’t received it,” she said.
Socially, the pandemic has also affected young people more than most other age groups.
Social care student Joseph Burke who lives in Ballinasloe said this third lockdown had been the most challenging for him.
“I actually got on well until lockdown three, but my attitude is changing now,” he said.
“Not being able to meet up with my friends and family, not being able to go for a dance in the night club or a day out in Galway city. There’s no uniqueness to our days anymore. It’s just getting boring a frustrating now at this stage.”
Nessa Gorrell from Donegal town said young people had missed out on many opportunities that could not be rescheduled.
“Such a prominent time in our lives, coming of age aspects and the new experiences were supposed to have as young people, that’s been taken away from us for the time being.”
Young people also have endured criticism over breaking lockdown rules including holding house parties.
Michael McLoughlin of Youth Work Ireland said young people needed to stick with the continuing restrictions but called for a better understanding of young people’s pandemic needs.
“The rules are generally set by people who are older, married or settled. Subconsciously they just don’t feel the same way as young people, across all areas. They socialise more, they want to form attachments more.
“They’re not in the same space as people who are parents. These are two different worlds and we have to be a little bit more understanding,” he told This Week.
As the recovery nears, Michael Mc Loughlin said young people should be brought into the decision-making process.
“It doesn’t mean you are in charge, it just means you are at the table like other interest groups. We’ve seen the amount of lobbying by all interest groups who felt they’ve been left out over the last year and a half. We’ve rarely heard that from the young people of Ireland.”
Both the NYCI and Youth Work Ireland have been calling for the PUP to be increased for young people as most are on the lower rate of €203 week.
“Its been restricted and reduced, and as time goes on people will lose the entitlement. We do have to look at that,” Michael Mc Loughlin said.
He also said adequate funds needed to be invested into youth recovery.
“We have a big enough stimulus package from Europe and children are supposed to be a priority area in that. We want to see more resources made available in a targeted and directed way from that fund.”