That Dáil Éireann:
— our young people want to work and contribute but are starved of the opportunity of quality employment;
— 64,700 young people are officially unemployed;
— the unemployment rate for persons aged under 25 is almost 30%;
— many thousands more are not in employment, training or education but not captured in the official statistics;
— the number of young people in employment has fallen by 18,000 since Fine Gael and the Labour Party took office;
— since 2010, 105,000 young people have emigrated;
— under the Government the rate of overall emigration and net outward migration has increased;
— budget 2014 only provides an additional €14 million for the youth guarantee scheme; and
— according to the National Youth Council of Ireland, budget 2014 will, at best, provide 3,250 new labour activation places for persons aged under 25;
and calls on the Government to:
— adequately fund a youth guarantee scheme that provides all young people with a good quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of becoming unemployed;
— allocate €400 million for this purpose, as recommended by the National Youth Council of Ireland and the International Labour Organization funding model;
— make youth employment a key priority and theme for the Action Plan for Jobs 2014;
— set annual targets for youth employment and reduction in emigration; and
— reverse the cuts to the basic rate of jobseeker’s allowance for persons aged under 26 years that were introduced in budget 2014.
Before discussing the substance of the motion, I propose to comment briefly on the Government's amendment. Reading through the text, one is given the impression that the initiatives and policies the Government is implementing to address youth unemployment are working. The way in which figures are massaged in the amendment is insulting to those young people who will board aeroplanes tonight and tomorrow as they seek to find employment elsewhere. I ask Government Deputies to knock on doors in the housing estates they represent and ask those who answer whether Government policies on youth unemployment and emigration are working.
It is clear the Government is living in denial, while our young people are living in London, Sydney, Chicago and other cities around the world. Various Ministers and Deputies will speak at length tonight and tomorrow on emigration. What we will not hear in this Chamber are the voices of the young people who have been forced to emigrate. For this reason, I will commence the debate with the words of a young lad, Anthony McDermott, who was forced to emigrate to Australia. Before he left, he wrote the following:
Will they meet us on the runway, and welcome us home with great cheers?
And will the men in power and the bankers, give us back our long, lost years?
Now my generation’s leaving, a generation going away,
A generation that didn't cause this mess, but the generation that has to pay.
These words sum up the views of many young people who have been forced to emigrate. A whole generation is leaving. Last year an average of 1,700 people left the State every week and more than 250,000 have emigrated since 2011. More people are leaving the State than left at any time during the 1980s. Of those leaving, 70% are in their 20s and 62% are graduates. These highly educated young people are the lifeblood of the State and the people we need to grow and nurture economic recovery. Unfortunately, however, many of them are leaving for foreign shores, not to speak of the suffering the families of young emigrants are enduring.
Different Ministers have spoken in the past about emigration being a choice, as if it were a good thing. Listening to some of them one could conclude that emigration is some kind of school exchange programme for one year and that the young people who emigrate are having the time of their lives. A recently published report on emigration found that while 39.5% of all recent emigrants would like to return within three years, only 22% of them consider this prospect likely. In addition, 78% of emigrants did not envisage returning to Ireland within the next three years. These unfortunate figures are a damning indictment of the response to emigration of the Government and its predecessor.
We have lost a generation which wants to work and is seeking employment and access to training and education. I note the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, is present. She is cutting benefits to young people, while the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Richard Bruton, fails to recognise that we have a crisis. His Department has failed abysmally to create jobs for young people. Last year the key Government programme for employment creation, the Action Plan for Jobs, set out 333 areas across government where action was to be taken to increase employment. Only five of these areas related to young people, while this year none of the seven key themes the Department identified for its Action Plan for Jobs explicitly refers to youth unemployment.
The Minister for Social Protection and the Taoiseach have made much of the upcoming youth guarantee programme which aims to ensure every young person is given an opportunity to access quality employment, training or continuing education. Every question on the youth guarantee and job creation that my party has tabled to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has been transferred to other Departments. Given that he will not even answer questions on the youth guarantee and job creation, it appears youth unemployment is not an issue for the Minister.
Sinn Féin has long called for the development of a youth guarantee to address the problem of youth unemployment and help to stem the flow of emigration. My colleague, Senator Kathryn Reilly, has been particularly active on this issue and acted as rapporteur to the Joint Committee on European Affairs which produced a report on the youth guarantee. The Irish Youth Council has indicated that approximately €400 million would be required to adequately fund a youth guarantee, while the International Labour Organization has called for the allocation of funding of approximately €435 million. Last week, while in Paris to discuss the issue of youth unemployment, the Taoiseach promised a fund of approximately €200 million in the next two years. The budget in October allocated only €14 million to addressing the issue. The Government must come clean during this debate on precisely what will be invested in the youth guarantee scheme and from where the money will be come. The House and, in particular, those who are contemplating emigration need this information because they must be given some hope the crisis will be addressed. The Government must set targets for stemming emigration and creating jobs, particularly for young people. Without proper funding, plans and targets, all we have, unfortunately, is more political rhetoric.
Much will be made in this debate of the JobBridge scheme. The title of the scheme suggests it is a bridge to full-time employment. In my other role as Sinn Féin spokesperson on education, I have discovered that a number of teaching positions have been advertised under the JobBridge scheme. The Irish National Teachers Organisation has been highly vocal on this practice, describing it as the exploitation of young teachers. Participants are being asked to work in highly pressurised jobs teaching future generations for an additional €50 per week, without even being given a guarantee that they will be offered employment on the back of participation in the scheme. This is nothing more than an attempt by the Department to shore up declining teacher numbers. It also constitutes, de facto, abolition of the minimum wage. Figures available to me indicate that, as of 1 November, 58 teaching positions have been filled under the JobBridge scheme. I ask the Minister for Social Protection or her colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills, to indicate how many teachers under the JobBridge scheme will secure full-time employment at the end of their internship. Given the nature of the education system, I do not believe any of them will be offered a job.
Young teachers who are not being exploited under the JobBridge scheme are being told their future lies elsewhere.
I know of one young music teacher from Drogheda who, when she went into her local FÁS office, was told that there was a job in Madrid teaching the violin and she was advised to apply for it. That is what she was told in a centre that was there to help young people into employment. It is a scandal. It is merely another signal by the Government of an on-your-bike approach to job creation.
The outworking of the Government's economic policy, from where I stand on this side of the Chamber and from where many outside this Chamber stand, is high unemployment and emigration. The response by the Government in its amendment to my party's motion is deeply cynical. The do-nothing approach, which has been the hallmark of the Government, and the attitude of hoping that the problem will go away are quite literally working, because the problem is going away. Unfortunately, it is going away on planes and boats. It is emigrating and there is little prospect of it returning. The young people who should be contributing to economic recovery and building our future in Ireland are to be found in Australia, Canada, England and the United States.
The Government's lack of action has undermined the long-term sustainability of the economy. It has wrenched families and communities apart. However, this problem can be resolved. Our young people are looking for hope and opportunity. I genuinely hope that over the next two nights they hear some of that hope and opportunity from all sides of the House. It is not beyond the Government's capability to use some of the State's wealth - we do have some wealth - to instill that hope and deliver that opportunity. I commend the Sinn Féin motion to the House.