The official labour market figures published by the CSO indicated that the number of young unemployed at the end of 2012 was 59,000, of whom 27,300 were long-term (over one year) unemployed. The number of young long term unemployed represented a fall of 8,300 on the figure of 35,600 at the end of 2011.
In the first instance, the Government’s primary strategy to tackle all forms of unemployment is to create the environment for a strong economic recovery by promoting competitiveness and productivity. Economic recovery will underpin jobs growth. Past experience suggests that youth unemployment, which tends to rise relatively rapidly in a downturn, can be expected to fall relatively rapidly during the recovery.
The Government is also implementing a number of programmes to assist young unemployed persons and keep young jobseekers close to the labour market. There are five main approaches being taken to tackle youth unemployment: education, training, job search assistance/guidance, work experience, and encouraging job creation. These actions range across a number of Departments and Agencies and includes the Youthreach programme providing 6,000 integrated education, training and work experience for early school leavers without any qualifications or vocational training who are between 15 and 20 years of age. The Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme scheme provides a range of courses to meet the education and training needs of unemployed people over 21 years of age, particularly focusing upon early school leavers. The Back to Education Allowance scheme run by the Department of Social Protection provides income maintenance for unemployed people returning to further or higher education. Over 6,500 young people participated on this scheme in the last academic year.
Approximately 12,000 persons aged under 25 completed a training course with FÁS in 2012. This excludes apprenticeships and evening courses. This year MOMENTUM, a scheme for education and training interventions, which is part of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs initiative, is currently being rolled out by the Department of Education. MOMENTUM will support the provision of free education and training projects to allow 6,500 long term jobseekers to gain skills and to access work opportunities in identified growing sectors. Over 1,250 of these places are assigned specifically for under 25s.
The JobBridge National Internship Scheme is focused on providing work experience to young people with the total number of placements of young people on JobBridge during 2012 at 2,700. Long-term unemployed youth will also benefit from the JobsPlus initiative which is designed to encourage employers to recruit long-term unemployed people. Under this scheme, the State will pay circa €1 of every €4 it costs the employer to recruit a person from the Live Register.
In the December Budget, funding was secured for an additional 10,000 places this year across a range of programmes, including JobBridge, TÚS and Community Employment. About a quarter of these places are expected to be taken up by unemployed young people.
With regard to the expected impact of policy, the original Action Plan for Jobs sets out a target for 100,000 net new jobs to be created by 2016, many of which will be filled by young people. In this context, the Department of Finance anticipates that the overall unemployment rate will fall from 14.7% in 2012 to 12.3% in 2016. This could be expected to see youth unemployment fall from over 30% in 2012 to 24% or less in 2016.
In addition, the Action Plan for Jobs 2013 includes the Pathways to Work initiative’s targets for increasing the number of people who are long-term unemployed moving into employment and reducing the average length of time spent on the Live Register. Specifically, these targets are that at least 75,000 of long-term unemployed people will move into employment by 2015 (starting 2012); to inncrease the exit rate of people on the live register for two years or more by 50% (to 40%) by the end of 2015; and to reduce the persistence rate (the rate at which short term unemployed people become long term unemployed) to 25%. As two out of five young unemployed are long-term unemployed, these targets are pertinent to young people.
A new recruitment incentive, JobsPlus, has also been developed by my Department and was approved by the Government as part of the Action Plan for Jobs, and is aimed specifically at the long-term unemployed. This incentive will cover the cost of c. €1 in every €4 of an employer’s wage costs and will be launched for availability by July 2013. Young people are likely to be major beneficiaries of this initiative as employers tend to hire young people when there is a recovery in employment.
Following from the formal adoption of the EU Recommendation on Implementing a Youth Guarantee, the Government will review the current range of youth employment and training policies in Ireland to assess what measures will need to be taken to commence the gradual implementation of the guarantee. This will include the identification of what would be the appropriate timescale for implementation in Ireland's current employment and budgetary circumstances.
The scale and nature of the measures required will depend on the trend in youth unemployment, and in particular the number of young people likely to experience periods of unemployment of more than four months under current policies. In this context, it is to be hoped that the favourable developments in the number of young unemployed seen in 2012 is the beginning of a sustained downward movement in youth unemployment as the economy recovers.
Even so, the implementation of a guarantee will almost certainly require an expansion in the range of opportunities currently on offer to young people in the form of further education, training, internships, subsidised private-sector recruitment, and supports for self-employment. It is to be hoped that any measures taken by government in relation to the implementation of the youth guarantee will see youth unemployment fall even further than is already anticipated on the basis of existing policies.