In the three years prior to the Government coming into office, over 300,000 people had lost their jobs, including 145,000 people under the age of 25. By comparison, in the last two years, there has been a significant slow-down in the decline in the number of young people at work. Recent labour market figures published by the CSO indicate that the number of people under 25 years of age in employment decreased by 4,000 in the year between Quarter 1 2012 and Quarter 1 2013. The number of unemployed people under 25 years of age fell by 10,000 in the twelve month period to Quarter 1 2013, while the unemployment rate for young people fell from 29.7% to 26.6% over the same period. This downward movement in youth unemployment in Ireland differs from the trend in the EU as a whole, where youth unemployment has continued to rise. However, youth unemployment continues to present a major challenge for Ireland as it does for most other Member States.
The work which the Government is doing through the Action Plan for Jobs aims to transform our economy from one that became over-dependent on property, construction and debt, to one focused on enterprise, innovation and exports. The Action Plan is focussed on sustaining and creating employment for all, including young people. There are a range of initiatives in place under the Action Plan and Pathways to Work to support young people looking for employment. These include programmes such as JobBridge, Springboard, Momentum and the ICT Action Plan, which are delivered by the Departments of Social Protection and Education and Skills. A recent independent evaluation of the Jobbridge scheme conducted by Indecon Economic Consultants found that 61% of interns progressed to paid employment after completing their internship. These progression outcomes are among the best in Europe for similar schemes.
My Department is also keen to support young entrepreneurs and, in this context, initiatives such as Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund and New Frontiers Programme, along with the Microenterprise Loan Fund, will all contribute to supporting young entrepreneurs. The Government will also publish a Policy Statement on Entrepreneurship, including youth entrepreneurship, later this year.