Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 19 Nov 2013

Vol. 821 No. 2

Youth Employment: Motion [Private Members]

I move:

That Dáil Éireann:

notes that:

— 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.

Some say we have a problem with unemployment in this country. In reality, we have a jobs and training crisis, a crisis which, since 2011, has resulted in approximately 150,000 young people in their 20s leaving Ireland for a decent job, a decent wage and a decent life somewhere else. They seek these needs as they are the right of everyone and are the most basic goals that we all strive to attain, but they seek them elsewhere because they are denied them in their homeland. They are cruelly denied these basic needs, first, due to the economic collapse of this State presided over by Fianna Fáil with tacit support from Fine Gael; second, because Fine Gael and the Labour Party in government have worked to stay the course of austerity started by Fianna Fáil with the bailout; and, most crucially, because they are seen as expendable and the Government has for the past two and half years been more interested in meeting bailout targets than investing in young people and their future.

Young people have been hit repeatedly by austerity. They never voted for the Governments that gave us an unstable, unequal boom and an inevitable, crushing bust, and they never cheered for the kinds of policy that landed us here, yet they are so harshly made to pay the price. Not only have they been treated harshly, they have been insulted most despicably by the Labour Party Ministers who treat them as lazy, feckless leeches who would rather watch daytime television and live on a pittance than work for a decent wage. The truth is that our young people are working, but they do so in London, Sydney, Liverpool, Melbourne and Toronto. The truth is that our young people want training, but they want it to be accessible and useful. They want it to lead them somewhere.

Young people are not stupid and they are rightly insulted by dead-end courses or dole cuts being offered while third-level fees go up and up. It sickens me to think that those who want to work and want to make their way in life are painted as lazy if they have the wit to turn their nose up at the yellow-pack rubbish such as JobBridge. Of course the Minister can wheel out the odd person who has gained real, valuable experience and ended up getting a job, but for every one of those there are hundreds of unpaid internships as potato-peelers and farm hands. In a short glance at JobBridge today I found these examples of supposed opportunities, although maybe someone will be lucky enough to get a "scam-bridge" internship within the Labour Party, gaining valuable experience in how to sell out 400,000 voters and most of one's backbenchers for a few ministerial seats.

However, worse than all of this are the positions that require qualifications that are clear signifiers of existing experience. These are the proof, if any was needed, that Deputy English was correct when he stated that JobBridge was "free labour". They also show that it is a tool for displacing workers and driving down wages in the long term. The opportunities have included positions as a school principal's assistant and clerical officers in the HSE. Is it any wonder that the chair of the JobBridge steering group, the interestingly named Mr. Martin Murphy, looked for an intern in his company? I wonder whether this intern will get paid employment at the company. This might be a novel ideal for Fine Gael, but surely I am not being naive to think that some Labour Party TDs still believe that people should be paid for work. As my constituency colleague, Deputy Lyons, stated, "If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys." That is the reality of what a youth guarantee is about for the Government. Given the meagre sum being put towards this initiative, it is clear to most that the only guarantee on offer is that one can expect to be mistreated, exploited, insulted and abandoned if one stays in Ireland.

Fourteen million euro for a guarantee is very little. The Government spent as much in its attempt to abolish the Seanad. Similar to its approach to the Seanad, the Government is intent on not tackling the issue but hoping it will just go away. The International Labour Organization stated that a real youth guarantee would cost more than twice the amount pledged by the EU. Ireland is approximately €333 million short of the investment it needs. There is no money to invest in the future of our people, but the Government was always generous when bondholders came calling.

What we have is a Government that never really set about tackling unemployment or improving access to training or education. This is a Government that decided to do everything in its power to get out of the bailout only so that it could say it had done so and pretend that really meant something, while our children emigrated and we faced decades of repaying debt we had never incurred in the first place.

Tonight I will focus on the issue of youth unemployment, underemployment and emigration, particularly its impact on young people and on the community in general in areas outside the bigger cities, such as the west and the north west, which is the area I represent.

A good many years ago when I was a young lad doing the leaving certificate in Sligo, times were hard and workers were on fairly low incomes. In those days, some had to emigrate to find paid employment, yet I can remember there was always hope for a better future. Young people such as myself could realistically hope to find paid employment locally if we did not wish to emigrate, parents could hope that their children would be able to use the education they had gained in finding employment at home, and grandparents could realistically hope that they would see their children and grandchildren grow up living someplace close to them. What have we now? Particularly in the smaller towns and villages and in rural areas, I am afraid we have communities without hope. That is the worst the Government has done to the people of Ireland. It is bad enough to inflict austerity on people, to repeatedly cut their wages or their social welfare payments and the small additions they get, and to cut back on the public services of which they avail, but the biggest and most damaging thing the Government has done to communities and those within those communities is that it has taken hope from them.

The Government talks about how it values our young people. Frankly, that is hypocrisy. How can it value young people and then turn around and say that it will give those under 25 years €100 per week because they did not emigrate?

That is what we are saying to them. We have managed to wreck the economy to the point where we are not providing jobs or an infrastructure that would support the creation of jobs, yet we are penalising the people who had nothing to do with the banking system that caused the wreckage. Young people in this country had no hand, act or part in destroying the economy. It was the fault of politicians, regulators and greedy, unscrupulous investors and bankers but the young people are having to pay.

Four months ago I received a telephone call from a young neighbour of mine who was in a pub outside Melbourne in Australia. He had counted 25 people from north County Leitrim attending a birthday party in the pub. I could not find 25 young people in a pub in my town of Manorhamilton because of the numbers who have emigrated. Years ago, emigrants sang about their love for the land of their birth. What will our young emigrants sing about the land of their birth and of the politicians who allowed this to happen? Shame on all of us for allowing this to happen. Austerity cannot fix a broken economy. It destroys real economies and if people want to know the Government's response, they should read the amendment it has moved in response to my party's motion. It is a sad day to see what it is offering our young people.

All of us in this House are frustrated at the slow pace of change. That attitude is reflected not only in Ireland, but across Europe. Every opportunity I have had to speak on this issue, whether in addressing the Taoiseach regarding meetings of the European Council or speaking at the Joint Committee on European Affairs, I have noted that there is little recognition of the crisis that faces many young people. There are discussions in Europe about the increasing rate of unemployment among young people but I do not get the sense that the issue is being addressed with urgency in meetings of the Cabinet or the Council. I do not think the difficulties facing young people across Europe are impacting on politicians. During the budget debate on how we would tackle youth unemployment, it became clear that we were not stepping up to the mark.

Like many people, I am concerned about the slow pace of implementation of the youth guarantee and the low level of investment from the Government and the European Union. This issue needs to be grabbed by the scruff of the neck and made into a priority not only for this Government, but right across Europe, because otherwise we will continue to see young people emigrating or becoming trapped by long-term unemployment. Unfortunately, I have also seen the intergenerational impact of unemployment in many estates both in my constituency and in other constituencies across the country. That is a failure of politics.

People do not want to see politicians wringing their hands or expressing sadness; they want to see action. Our motion seeks to develop a youth guarantee fund that is fit for purpose, as recommended by the National Youth Council. We seek to make youth unemployment a key priority under the Action Plan for Jobs. We would set annual targets for reducing youth unemployment and emigration and reverse the budget's cuts to the basic rate of jobseeker's allowance for those under 26 years. These are practical measures. Young people want to know what we intend to deliver in regard to jobs.

We are all aware of the statistics indicating that 1,000 young people leave this State every month. However, in many constituencies young people are not emigrating to the same degree because they do not have the option. They may not have the necessary skills or education, with the result that unemployment rates are above average in certain constituencies. Even the potential hope of finding a job overseas is not offered. They are relying on what the Government and Europe can create for them.

We are told the fight against youth unemployment remains a key objective of the Government's strategy to foster growth, competitiveness and jobs but the money that is being put aside is too small to make a significant dent in youth unemployment. The National Youth Council has highlighted the Swedish model as the preferred option for Ireland and suggests it would cost an estimated €6,600 per person, or approximately €400 million, which could be provided through a combination of Exchequer funding and matching funds from the EU. The International Labour Organization has estimated that it would cost Ireland approximately €435 million to adequately fund our youth guarantee scheme. After the Paris summit, the Taoiseach stated that the scheme would now be funded to the tune of €200 million over two years, which is much less than what we believe is necessary. The Taoiseach also stated that one third of the funds would come from the Government and the remaining two thirds from the EU. That means the Government will provide €66 million, or €33 million per year. However, the Government has only allocated €14 million for the scheme in budget 2014. How will the remainder be provided?

To make matters worse, Labour Party and Fine Gael MEPs recently voted against increasing EU funding for youth employment measures. In light of what is happening not only in this country, but across Europe, why did they do this? I do not understand the logic that brought them to that decision. It is easy to see that while the Government and its MEPs can talk the talk about the youth guarantee, when it comes to real jobs, they cannot walk the walk.

Earlier this evening we discussed an issue pertaining to my own area, as well as Kildare and Clondalkin, whereby 107 jobs will be lost in Pratt and Whitney Aerospace and 408 jobs will go at Lufthansa Technik. While we are not dealing with a large number of young people, both companies employ people, including couples, who have worked with them for 20 or 30 years. These closures will have a major impact but there was no hope in the response from the Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Perry.

At this stage, there is no hope for these people. We hope that young people will move into hugely skilled jobs. In 2011, the turnover of Lufthansa Technik was €205 million. It was supposedly a successful company but it is pulling out of the country.

The Government's policies for young people have been to push them towards emigration or JobBridge internships where they work full-time jobs. We know the income they receive. The announcement to cut jobseeker's benefit for those under 25 years was further proof of this. Young people aged 21 to 24 will lose almost 33% of their weekly payments, while a 25 year old will lose 25% of the payment. I do not know the impact of this in respect of other public representatives but in my constituency young people were devastated. Young people asked me how they could manage. They asked me how they could go home and say to their parents that the payment was being cut. Many of the families were already at subsistence level. This brings about tension in the home and problems. Young people were looking for answers but I did not have answers. I did not have answers as to why it was happening. Perhaps Government Deputies from the constituency can inform people and others in the House may be able to inform their local constituents. Government Deputies have led a barrage of insults against young people, which reached the height of one Deputy blaming youth unemployment on young people sitting at home all day seven days a week watching that flat screen televisions. That was a throwaway remark made by one Deputy. Given the first real opportunity at getting a decent job, young people will jump at it. We need seriously to examine the issue. There must be additional funding and we need to come together to come up with a strategy for jobs for young people, not promises. There is an onus on us to deliver jobs. We need to provide hope. There is no potential for hope and it needs to be delivered by us all.

I commend my colleagues on bringing this important issue to the Dáil. When it comes to caring for and investing in young people, we must face it that the State's record is pretty dismal. Historically, Governments have had little tolerance for young people, particularly those who come from poorer backgrounds or who have been failed by our education system. For many people, the Labour Party's lurch to the right on social and taxation issues since entering government has been hard to take. In advance of the 2011 election, there was real hope out there that Labour would soften the worst of Fine Gael and that social justice would prevail in the coalition Government. Labour Ministers, on taking up office, soon put paid to any prospect of this. When it comes to the Labour Party's treatment of our young people, the numbers speak for themselves. Since this Government took up office, 105,000 young people have left the State. There are 18,000 fewer young people employed since Labour and Fine Gael entered government. These are startling figures. Official youth unemployment is at 30% but many thousands more are not captured in the official figures. Youth unemployment in Ireland is 17% higher than the EU average.

What is the Government response? Budget 2014 promised a paltry 4,500 additional places for young people. Last year, Labour promised 10,000 training places but has delivered only 5,500 so far. The Government's over-promised and under-delivered Action Plan for Jobs contains 275 recommended actions, of which just four relate to youth. I find this astonishing when youth unemployment and emigration is at an historical high and the Government response is to allocate just over 1% of an action plan on jobs to getting our young people back to work.

Not satisfied with those acts of negligence and merely to kick someone when they are down, the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, delivers a whopping cut of 30% to young jobseekers despite promising time and again that the Labour Party would protect basic social welfare payments. So much for that. What makes this dishonesty all the more unpalatable is the absolute brass neck of the Labour Party to flounce around the capital city holding public meetings advocating the benefits of a youth guarantee, one it is actively failing to deliver on. Just two months ago, Fine Gael and Labour MEPs voted against increasing the EU budget allocation for youth employment measures. Meanwhile, at home, the Government allocated a miserly €14 million although no one, including the Minister, seems to know what exactly this drop in the ocean will be spent on or what new and additional spending, if any, is to go towards its youth guarantee.

Sinn Féin has put forward a solution to the challenge of funding an ambitious youth guarantee programme. We have proposed ring-fencing wealth tax income for jobs for young people. This would provide the necessary scale of investment to get our young people into appropriate training and back to work yet when we raise the prospect of a wealth tax it is Labour Ministers who shout loudest against the very idea.

On a point of information, the wealth tax proposal was dropped.

That proposal was made last year.

So far has the party's gaze turned to the right that it cannot even consider social and taxation policies that were once part of its DNA. My colleague has mentioned the recent musings of a Government Deputy who believes jobless young people are more interested in watching flat screen televisions than going to work. That is a pathetic attempt to conceal the Government's failure to invest in jobs, training and the huge resource our young people represent. The Government needs to change tack and drop policies that actively encourage or force young people to emigrate and provide them with a full opportunity of real work in real jobs in their home area. I conclude by commending the "We're not Leaving" campaign and congratulating it on the success of the young people's assembly held earlier this month in Dublin.

In 1987, the activist Raymond Crotty wrote a book entitled Ireland in Crisis: A Study in Capitalist Colonial Undevelopment. He revealed that, from the foundation of the State until the period he wrote the book, half of all Irish citizens who survived childhood had left the State and emigrated. That is a horrendous figure.

What is the real manifestation of it in communities? I can only talk about my community but I will, in the first instance, talk of my family. My grandfather had to leave his home and work on building sites across England, be apart from his wife and bring back the money to build a modest home in Buncrana. He was away for long periods, leaving behind a heartbroken wife and family. That was not just his story but that of his community. When it came to my father's time, he left his home town of Buncrana before he was 15 years of age to work on the building sites in England to become a man long before his time working in steel fixing and hard labour. Almost all of his peers, all young people in his school photograph, followed that path of emigration to Britain. When it came to my time, I had to leave when I was younger to get work. That has been the story of rural communities throughout the history of the State.

That has been our reality.

In Donegal today, once again the spectre and dark cloud of emigration hangs over us, as 49% of our young people between the age of 18 and 24 are unemployed, according to CSO figures. That masks major emigration in all those communities from the Inishowen peninsula, where I come from, as well as in the north, west and south of Donegal. Every GAA team and soccer team can tell a story of struggling to continue to field senior teams, and there has been a loss of a whole generation of our young people because of a failure of political leaders in the economic crisis. It comes despite the debates and issues we have rehearsed in this forum. That is the scale of the crisis and the reality in the community I come from. I have no doubt the Minister is aware of this as representatives of Fine Gael and Labour are in those communities as well. We all feel the same.

Everybody watches "Reeling in the Years" on television and from time to time I have seen images of the current leadership of the Labour Party when they were student leaders. They were young idealists and people who promised to change Ireland from what had come before it, the Ireland Raymond Crotty had so painfully painted in his book Ireland in Crisis. The current leadership of the Labour Party are in power after what was an unquestionably incompetent Government left us in the way that it did. Nevertheless, the Labour leaders have made abhorrent decisions and choices, looking to allocate €14 million to a youth guarantee scheme while at the same time cutting three times that amount to the youth dole. That reduced some young people's payments to €100 per week. To recap, €14 million has been put to the youth guarantee and tackling the crisis I have outlined along with everybody else. The Government has implemented cuts totalling three times that amount to the dole.

How can the Labour leaders look back to the young activists they were, remembering days of idealism and promise in the Labour Party, while they stand over what has been done? At what point will they admit that it would take €400 million to really have a youth guarantee and keep our young people here, reversing a trend that has occurred throughout our history. That is what it would take and the Government has the power to act. It is about choices. The Government used to blame the troika but it is not here anymore; the Government definitely has nobody to blame. The justifications have rung hollow and there is no more room for them.

The Minister must explain this to the next generation of Labour Party activists, who have put a vote of no confidence in the party leadership. They will have to explain how this issue will be changed and how the Labour Party will return to the young people at its roots and the images we have seen in the images of "Reeling in the Years". It is a challenge and the Government has two more years. I appeal to the Labour Party to work with us and others on the left who want to give hope to these young people and provide a future for them. It is a choice and I hope the Government acts on it in the next two years.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:

“notes that:

- the number of people in employment grew by 34,000 in the year ending June 2013, compared with a reduction of employment of more than 300,000 in the three year period ending March 2011;

- the rate of unemployment in Ireland has fallen to 13.2% at the end of October 2013, down from a peak of over 15% in early 2012;

- the number of people unemployed, seasonally adjusted, at the end of the second quarter of 2013 is 296,000, down 22,000 on the first quarter of 2012;

- the number of unemployed young people aged under 25, seasonally adjusted, has fallen to 60,000, a reduction of 20,000 since it peaked in 2009;

- the seasonally adjusted rate of unemployment for young people has fallen to 28% in recent months, down from a peak of over 31% in early 2012;

- notwithstanding these positive developments, unemployment, and in particular youth unemployment, remains a serious concern;

- the Government:

- has prioritised actions to stimulate employment creation and reduce unemployment under the Action Plan for Jobs and Pathways to Work strategies; economic recovery and employment creation resulting from these policies will be the surest way to improve the unemployment situation, both overall and for young people;

- prioritised youth unemployment as an issue to be addressed at European Union level, leading to agreement, under Ireland’s Presidency, of a Council recommendation for a youth guarantee; this recommendation calls on member states to guarantee each unemployed young person under the age of 25 a job, training or education opportunity within four months of registering as unemployed; and

- is preparing a plan for the implementation of the recommendation commencing in 2014; the plan will build on the existing large-scale provision of training, education and work experience places for unemployed young people, and will be transmitted to the European Commission by the end of 2013;

- the cost of the existing provision for unemployed young people is substantial – estimated to have been at least €170 million in 2012 – and expanded provision will be required; initial provisions totalling €46 million have been made across several Government Departments in Budget 2014;

- in this context, it is to be welcomed that Ireland is likely to receive supporting funding from the EU, under the Youth Employment Initiative and the European Social Fund, of approximately €60 million in respect of each of the years 2014 and 2015; and

agrees that:

- the continuing growth in employment and the reduction in unemployment are to be welcomed;

- the Government should continue in its efforts to further increase employment and reduce unemployment, with a particular and urgent focus on youth unemployment;


- the implementation in Ireland of the youth guarantee, agreed under Ireland’s Presidency of the EU Council of Ministers, should form a pivotal part of the Government’s response to the challenge of youth unemployment.

I propose to share time with Deputy Lyons.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The central purpose of progressive politics is to ensure that people achieve their innate potential and reach the full extent of their capabilities. I entered politics in order to change society part by part and step by step so that ordinary men and women would have a greater chance to live a better life. Central to this effort is to ensure that we create a productive economy of work with employment for all.

The Government's determination to transform our economy towards full, fair and productive employment stands in stark contrast to the credit-fuelled Fianna Fáil casino that destroyed this country and the culture of dependency that is central to Sinn Féin's poverty of ambition. Listening to Sinn Féin's comments tonight, it seems that the party, in a way, does not really want young people to work, as it seems to have so little faith in them or their abilities. These competing visions are at the heart of tonight's debate and I am confident that the young men and women whose lives we seek to improve and transform stand squarely with this Government in rejecting the Opposition's delusions.

The evidence is irrefutable that youth unemployment does lasting damage to the individual and the society at large. For example, the renowned economists Bell and Blanchflower found that youth unemployment continues to impact negatively on an individual up to two decades later in a number of ways, including unemployment, health status, wages and job satisfaction. This is in contrast to unemployment in one's early thirties. They conclude that there are "permanent scars" from youth unemployment in that even a short spell of unemployment when young continues to have a harmful impact in later life. In short, the "scarring effects" of youth unemployment are a personal and societal tragedy that cannot be tolerated by any government.

Due to the severity of the current economic downturn, people in all age cohorts find themselves in a position of unemployment that they would never have contemplated. Many of our young graduates are experiencing severe difficulties in finding a demand for their skills among employers, particularly in the areas of property and construction, which have been so decimated by the recession. Side by side with the higher-skilled young jobseekers are unskilled young people who are drifting into long-term unemployment. In recent years, ESRI researchers have examined this cohort and made some stark findings about the risk factors associated with youth long-term unemployment in Ireland.

For those of us who are honest in the Chamber, one of the startling facts about Fianna Fáil's period of office in the height of the boom was the unfortunate number of families without any adult in employment, which increased dramatically. That is one of the reasons that in certain areas, including Donegal, youth unemployment, even before the recession, was quite marked. If we are having a debate, it is better to be honest about this, and I am sure the Deputies recognise that as a fact. Unsurprisingly, young men and women with previous experience of long-term unemployment, literacy or numeracy problems, no formal education qualifications and who live in large urban areas have a higher risk of becoming long-term unemployed. However for young women, additional factors, including whether they have children, spousal earnings and the number of welfare benefits that they receive all had a significantly negative effect on the probability that they would move from unemployment to employment before 12 months. Furthermore, the negative impact of these factors for young women is much larger than for women in general. These findings come from the ESRI.

This research underpins my strong conviction that we need to decisively shift the emphasis of our policy interventions for young people from passive income support alone to a renewed focus on skills, including a massive increase in numeracy and literacy. We also need to ensure that the benefits system does not become an obstacle to young people seeking employment. It is really important to have an honest debate about this.

When the Government took office in 2011, the unemployment rate was approaching 15%, with 500,000 people on the live register and youth unemployment levels perilously high and facing an upward trajectory.

That was Fianna Fail's legacy which was a difficult one for the incoming Government. In October this year the live register fell below 400,000 for the first time since 2009.

I wish to correct some of the figures given for youth unemployment. I cite the figures from the Central Statistics Office. The rate is 28%. The average number of young people unemployed in the first half of 2013 was approximately 59,000, down by 11,000 in 12 months. The unemployment rate for young people in the first half of the year was 28%, down from 31% in 2012.

In the three years before the Government took office in March 2011 the number of people in employment fell by 300,000, one of the worst employment shocks any country had ever experienced following on from the disastrous bank guarantee. The number of people in employment has started to grow again and rose by 33,800 in the year ending in June 2013. In terms of the economy, that is a positive development. While there are still far too many people unemployed, both young and older, the trend is moving slowly but surely in the right direction. It is not moving as quickly as I would like, but it is moving in the right direction. This has had a beneficial impact on young people because the downward movement to a 28% youth unemployment rate in the first half of 2013 has bucked the trend in the European Union as a whole, in which youth unemployment has continued to rise. I am confident these positive trends will continue as the economy recovers. It is not fast enough for me and the Labour Party, but we are slowly but surely improving the situation.

Notwithstanding this return to growth, there is a requirement for specific national and EU-wide strategies to address the youth unemployment problem. The best way for young people to reach their potential is through decent, secure and fairly paid work. That has been my abiding political conviction since I first entered politics and it has informed me throughout my career. Sadly, we live in a world in which the availability of decent, secure and fairly paid work has contracted massively since the financial crisis. In addition to the scarring effect, there is an even more insidious aspect to youth unemployment - the bias and discrimination those who are unfortunate enough to be unemployed face in re-entering the labour market. Employers have a significant job to do in this country and on the island to get young people back to work. They have a critical role to play. My attention was recently drawn to US research which had found that employers would rather call back someone with no relevant experience who had been out of work for a few months than someone with lots of relevant experience who had been out of work for longer than six months. In other words, it does not matter sometimes how much experience one has. It does not matter why one lost one’s previous job; it could have been bad luck because one’s firm closed down and it had nothing to do with the individual. If a person has been out of work for more than six months, one faces an enormous uphill struggle to return to employment. That is particularly the case for young people who have never had a job or have limited work experience. That is why I have long advocated a formal guarantee that any young person will receive training, work experience or an apprenticeship within a short period of becoming unemployed.

The Government and the Department of Social Protection were at the forefront of securing agreement on the adoption of the European Council's recommendation on the youth guarantee. I decided to prioritise the recommendation as part of Ireland’s EU Presidency knowing that it set a significant target to achieve. It was not a case of running away and criticising but setting targets for achievements for young people. That was agreed at the meeting of social affairs and employment Ministers on 28 February in Dublin Castle under my chairmanship and formally adopted by the European Council in April. The recommendation urges member states to ensure all young people under the age of 25 years receive a good quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within a period of four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education.

As part of the European Council's agreement on the EU budget for the period 2014 to 2020 it was decided, in association with the agreement on the youth guarantee, to provide €6 billion for a new youth employment initiative for regions with particularly high levels of youth unemployment. This funding will consist of €3 billion from the European Social Fund and an additional €3 billion from a new youth employment budget line. While it is recommended that the guarantee be implemented as soon as possible, it is recognised that implementation might be more gradual in some member states experiencing the most severe budgetary difficulties and higher rates of youth unemployment. At EU level, the Irish Presidency pushed for early production of implementation plans in all member states and payment of the €6 billion youth employment initiative to be front-loaded, in particular in the next two years, 2014 and 2015. Both suggestions were taken up by member states such as Ireland hoping to benefit from the youth employment initiative. As required, we are producing implementation plans by the end of this year and the remaining member states will produce their plans by next April. The €6 billion youth employment initiative is being front-loaded as suggested by this country. For our part, the Government is reviewing the current range of youth employment policies in Ireland to assess what measures will need to be taken to commence implementation of the guarantee. In line with other member states benefiting from the youth employment initiative, we intend to produce a concrete plan for implementation of the guarantee before the end of this year when it is to be formally decided and agreed to by the Heads of Government and State.

Ireland was successfully awarded funding from the European Commission for a pilot youth guarantee project in Ballymun earlier this year. Numerous stakeholder organisations such as IBEC, Ballymun Job Centre and the National Youth Council of Ireland have agreed to participate in the pilot project. The Government has commissioned the OECD to assist in developing a youth guarantee implementation plan. It has been asked to identify best international practice and how it might best be applied to Ireland. The development plan will be completed before the end of the year in time for the commencement of the 2014 budget. The Taoiseach and I spent a day in Paris last week meeting our counterparts, the Ministers for social affairs and employment and the respective Heads of Government and State in a series of discussions under the aegis of the French President and my counterpart, the Minister for employment and social affairs, which confirmed continued support for the youth guarantee with a view to implementing the programme in 2014.

It is important to recognise that we already operate a number of programmes to assist young unemployed persons and keep young jobseekers close to the labour market. Five main approaches are being taken to tackle youth unemployment: education, training, job search assistance and guidance, work experience and encouraging job creation. These actions range across a number of Departments and agencies and include the JobBridge national internship scheme overseen by the Department of Social Protection which is focused on providing work experience for young people aged under 26 years. A recent independent evaluation of the scheme by Indecon Economic Consultants indicates that three out of five of those who complete their internships subsequently progress into paid employment.

This 61% progression rate is one of the best outcomes for such a scheme anywhere in Europe. Thirty-three thousand people have been involved in JobBridge, which is entirely voluntary. More than 9,000 firms and organisations have offered to host JobBridge internships. Both figures are quite remarkable in such a short period.

With regard to education and training, the Youthreach programme provides 6,000 integrated education, training and work experience places for early school leavers without qualifications or vocational training who are between 15 and 20 years of age. 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. More than 6,500 young people participated on this scheme in the previous academic year. There have been well over 20,000 participants overall.

Approximately 12,000 persons aged under 25 completed a training course with FÁS in 2012. This excludes apprenticeships and evening courses, which are additional. This year, MOMENTUM, a scheme for education and training interventions that is part of the Government's Action Plan for Jobs initiative, has been rolled out by the Department of Education and Skills.

A new recruitment incentive called JobsPlus, established in July, has been developed by the Department of Social Protection. Under this scheme, employers will receive an incentive of €7,500 for recruiting a person unemployed for between 12 and 24 months, and an incentive of €10,000 for recruiting a person unemployed for two years or more, paid monthly by electronic funds transfer for each month of employment the employer gives. At a typical starting wage, this incentive covers the cost of approximately €1 in every €4 of an employer's wage costs. This mirrors what happens in countries such as Austria where there is a direct wage subsidy to the employer. 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. From 1 January, the scheme will be open to any young person under 26 who is unemployed for more than six months. There will be much interest among employers.

The scale and nature of any additional measures required for the implementation of a guarantee at national level 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. While recent trends have been positive in this regard, the implementation of a guarantee will almost certainly require an expansion in the range of opportunities on offer to young people in the form of further education and training internships, subsidised private sector recruitment and supports for self-employment. Expenditure on these programmes is substantial. It is estimated that the cost of participation on relevant programmes by unemployed young people in 2012 exceeded €170 million. This relates only to programmes aimed primarily at the registered unemployed. There was substantial further expenditure on schemes such as Youthreach, which is aimed primarily at younger early school leavers.

As I stated, we are extending JobBridge to those who are unemployed for just six months and in the relevant age group. An additional 1,500 young people will be allocated positions under the scheme. We are ensuring an additional 1,000 places on the Tús scheme. We are developing a pilot programme to support young unemployed people under EURES. Some 2,000 training places for under-25s are being ring-fenced by the Department of Education and Skills under the MOMENTUM programme, and we are starting a young entrepreneurs programme through the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. In total, the provision across these headings in the 2014 budget is €46 million. I am not quite sure where the Sinn Féin figure came from. I suspect it is one figure in the budget of the Department of Social Protection alone. I can check it for the Deputies. I believe their figure is erroneous.

I look forward to the negotiations reaching a successful conclusion. Next year, we will be spending close to €100 million on the relevant programmes in addition to what we have been spending. I look forward to young people getting a series of expanded opportunities.

I have a question for Sinn Féin, which tabled this motion. How important is youth employment to it really? Although its budget proposal states on page 26 that it would ring-fence money obtained from a wealth tax for jobs for young people, Deputy Pearse Doherty, the party’s spokesman on finance, stated in an article in The Irish Times on 22 September that Sinn Féin's proposed wealth tax, which it would use to create jobs for people, would not be included in its alternative budget this year. If Sinn Féin is genuinely concerned about doing something for young people who are out of work, why was this measure put in an addendum as opposed to its being included among the real budget figures the party presented? The difference between Sinn Féin and us is we included our measure in a budgetary submission. We are doing something. It is disingenuous to state what one would do and yet not include that as part of this year's budget proposal. If youth unemployment is so important to Sinn Féin, why did it not include its figures on the wealth tax in its proposals instead of another provision that it did include? I am a little perturbed by that. There is some running with the fox and hunting with the hounds on the part of Sinn Féin.

With the exception of Deputies Pádraig Mac Lochlainn and Seán Crowe, most Sinn Féin Members came into the House and read entirely from a script. There is not a bit of passion about the issue at all. It seems Deputies Mac Lochlainn and Crowe were definitely able to speak from experience, which stood out. I speak from experience also, but I believe it is very insulting for a Member to come into the House and pretend to care so much about an issue while having included that issue as a mere addendum in his party’s alternative budget.

The reality is we have to deal in facts. Some 8,000 jobs were lost per month before we came into government. Some 3,000 jobs per month are being created at present. This is not ideal but it is better by far than the set of circumstances we inherited. Every Member would agree it is highly unacceptable to have 59,000 unemployed young people, but the difference is we are doing something about it.

The Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, mentioned that during the Irish Presidency, she fought for the youth guarantee to be EU policy, and it is EU policy. The Minister also fought for the money to be front-loaded in order that we could deal with the unemployment issue over the first two years of the new budget rather than over a budgetary term of seven years. This is not ideal but we are doing as much as we can. The areas the Deputy opposite and I represent are quite similar. As mentioned by the Minister, there is a startling issue whereby there are second generation jobless households. Many in the area I represent have never had anybody in their family work.

A decision was made on the rate of jobseeker's allowance for new entrants from 1 January. I do not like it but the reality is we are spending twice as much as we are saving by making the reduction. As a teacher who worked for 13 years in two disadvantaged schools, I believe the children there are equal to others and could be as motivated to reach their full potential if given the right resources. If any one of the pupils, who are adults when leaving school, were to come to me and did not know what to do and did not have a place in college, I would tell him to get into education and training. I would not tell him to do anything else because I know the value of education and training and that they create opportunities and open doors that would not otherwise be opened. The reality is that the people the Deputies opposite and I care about are those whom I want to have the best opportunities in life. The best opportunity is afforded to somebody by giving him or her the possibility of education and training. This is why the additional money is being used to create additional spaces. It is in order that the people about whom we all care and for whom we want to ensure a fairer society will have that opportunity.

Some will say that the jobs are simply not there for everybody at the moment, and we all know that is true. However, we know there is a momentum building in the context of job creation. We also know from research that the next best thing we can do for those who are unemployed is to keep them close to the labour market. That means giving them a reason to get up every day, a sense of dignity in their lives and a sense that their community and their State care about them. That is the purpose of the youth guarantee and the various youth employment initiatives. The aim is to create opportunities for young people under the age of 25 who find themselves, unfortunately and through no fault of their own, out of work for more than four months. We know from the projected figures for next year for people under the age of 25 who are out of work that there will be sufficient places, due to the additional 20,000 places that will be provided from January 2014 as well as the existing 60,000 places for jobseekers. I have no doubt that places will be found for everyone seeking to improve his or her quality of life. That is why we are doing this. That is also why I have been speaking about this since before I became a Deputy. I pushed the whole idea of a youth guarantee in this House long before anyone else did. Lots of people followed afterwards when it became popular, not only in Deputy Mac Lochlainn's party but in other parties too. We are taking action. We are trying our best and making a difference. Do we have infinite resources? No, we do not, but we have to deal with reality we face.

We should be judged on what we have done and any debate on this issue should be based on facts and figures and nothing else. In that context, we must have a debate at some future date on emigration. Figures were mentioned here this evening that I would dispute. I agree that emigration is unfortunate, and nobody wants to see a family member or a neighbour leave this country. However, the figures that were bounced around here tonight do not show the real impact of emigration. Nobody referred to the fact, for example, that 5,000 people migrated back to Ireland from Australia this year.

I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on this very important motion, which I am happy to support. Possibly the biggest challenge facing the European Union at the moment is youth unemployment, which is economically destructive and socially corrosive. There are more than 5.5 million young people under the age of 25 throughout the EU who are without jobs. In the lead-up to the Irish Presidency we had several jamborees, pronouncements and newspaper interviews in which the Minister for Social Protection was central, telling us that she was going to propose a youth guarantee to her colleagues in the EU during the course of Ireland's Presidency. She said she was going to take charge of it and that it would be a scheme to end all schemes. It was the subject of several newspaper articles, particularly in Sunday newspapers; I stopped counting after four but I am sure there were more than that. The net result of all that boasting and all those acres of newsprint was a commitment or pledge by the European Union of €6 billion for a youth guarantee scheme. One does not have to be a mathematical genius to know that if there are more than 5.5 million people unemployed, a sum of €6 billion to be spent over seven years equates to less than €200 per annum per person. That demonstrates a distinct lack of will on the part of the EU. An attempt was made in the European Parliament to increase that figure substantially but that was inexplicably voted down, with the assistance of MEPs from Fine Gael and the Labour Party. That is a matter of public record.

In view of the lack of will on the part of the EU, each nation state is thrown back on its own resources. As evidence of its commitment, the Irish Government, in its wisdom, decided to allocate the princely sum of €14 million for a youth guarantee scheme here - that is, to guarantee everyone under the age of 25 who is unemployed for more than four months either a job, education or training. The sum of €14 million equates to €211 per annum for each individual who falls into the aforementioned category. The experts, including those in the International Labour Organization and the National Youth Council of Ireland, tell us that to have a proper youth guarantee scheme in this country along the lines of the one operating in Sweden would require an investment of more than €400 million. I believe the figure cited was €420 million. We are providing a mere 2% of that figure. The Government would be more honest if, instead of spreading €14 million across all of those under 25 who are unemployed, it gave a guarantee to two out of every 100, because that is exactly what the funding will cover.

The official unemployment rate in this country is 13.2%, while the figure for youth unemployment is in the region of 30%, which is considerably higher than the European average. However, those official figures mean less and less. They fail to take into account, for example, emigration. Gross emigration from this country in the last 12 months ran at a rate of 1,600 per week, which is well in excess of 200 people per day. The true rate is also masked by the fact that a lot of those people under the age of 25 who are in jobs fall into the category of the underemployed. Many of them are in part-time jobs. I know some people who are officially registered as employed but have only a very marginal connection to the workforce. Furthermore, the figures for youth unemployment also fail to take into account the fact that there are many people who are not in a job, education or training who are not picked up by the system at all. The most reliable statistic we can use is that three or four years ago 16% of the Irish population was under the age of 25. That cohort has fallen by a quarter, to 12%, which is proof positive, if proof were needed, that the youth are voting with their feet and leaving the country.

The Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed has said that the way to encourage young people and stop them drifting into long-term unemployment is to have a proper activation system, not to be cutting their social welfare payments. Everybody, including the OECD, the IMF and the European Commission, knows that the activation system we have here is nothing short of a joke. The Minister for Social Protection spoke about honesty, but does any Deputy on any side of this House honestly believe that the current activation system is working? How many people have been taken off the live register? The Taoiseach said that 100,000 would be taken off the live register within 18 months. How could this work when there is only one case worker for every 800 people who are unemployed? How could that system possibly work? The Government policy has been to cut social welfare benefits for young people. How does cutting the unemployment benefits of those who have plenty of qualifications and do not need any further education or training help the economy or create more employment? How does it help to cut the social welfare benefit for a young person because he or she cannot access a non-existent training or education place? The Government's policy on youth unemployment is, like its policy in so many other areas, a triumph of spin over substance. However, it is not really a triumph at all because in this area in particular, that spin will dissolve on its first contact with reality. The young people of this country know that their benefits have been cut for an excuse that is nothing short of a fig leaf. They also know that the Government's policy on young people is to hurry them along to the nearest airport, even giving them directions and getting jobs for them in Canada so that the unemployment figures will look better. It is a case of spin over substance, but the Government should bear one thing in mind. When the time comes, it will be on the substance that it will be judged, not the spin.

I also thank Deputies Mac Lochlainn and Crowe for submitting their motion this evening because it gives us an opportunity to reflect on this subject. I have consistently welcomed the youth guarantee and welcomed the promise of that guarantee. In fairness to Deputy John Lyons, he was the first person to debate that concept, and during meetings of the Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation he has been a very passionate advocate of the guarantee. He has put an enormous amount of work into it.

However, my concern all along regarding the youth guarantee, which is now being realised, is the funding issue. I am also concerned that the silo mentality of the Government and its predecessors still predominates and the guarantee will be its latest victim. The Department of Social Protection will ring-fence its resources and it will not share information or resources with the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation while neither of them will bother talking to the Department of Education and Skills. The guarantee, even if it was properly funded, still would not have the impact it could because of the way of we do government. The Government is making little effort to try to break down those silos. When 59,000 people under the age of 25 are out of work and seeking an employment opportunity, what more incentive does one want to tear down those walls? The youth guarantee is the vehicle to do this and it provides a perfect excuse to do so. This is the opportunity but the ink is hardly dry on our EU Presidency and the guarantee is running into funding difficulties.

I was critical of the Taoiseach last week for heading off to Paris. The Minister boasted about being in Paris earlier yet there are funding issues here. As Deputy O'Dea said, the European funding is inadequate but responsibility for the impact of the funding issue on the 59,000 young people in Ireland lies in Dublin. It is beyond me why we have a national training fund with €112 million sitting in it and we are squabbling over funding the youth guarantee. The purpose of the fund is to enable people to take upskilling opportunities to become skill ready for the labour market and gain employment. When they are in employment, their employer makes a contribution to the fund and, therefore, it is self-paying and self-fulfilling.

Many sectors are crying out for labour, one of which is tourism and hospitality. The Restaurants Association of Ireland has an ambitious proposal to train chefs because there is a shortage in the economy. On the one hand, the Government is investing significant money with, for example, the 9% VAT rate costing the Exchequer €330 million but, on the other, it does not have the money to train chefs. This is a perfect example of the silos to which I referred. The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has a need but it will not talk to the Departments of Education and Skills or Social Protection about funding that need or funding a small plan that could train 5,000 young people not only to have a job in the hospitality industry, but a long-term career. CERT was subsumed by Fáilte Ireland a number of years ago. It used to provide hospitality training and at this time of the year when hotels closed seasonally, they were often turned around to provide training opportunities. Many hotels are closed for other reasons now and they would be perfect for doing this but Fáilte Ireland is getting out of hospitality training and leaving it up to the Department of Social Protection and the private sector to provide training. This is an example of a demand for employment but resources are missing, even though they are sitting in a fund. They would be targeted properly if there was a plan behind the ambition of the youth guarantee.

We all share that ambition and we all want it to work out. Deputy Lyons referred to second generation unemployment and I can point to families with third generation unemployment. We need to break that cycle. We need to show that employment is good and creates opportunities. However, without skills, one will not secure employment. If we are honest about this, the ambition of the youth guarantee will be watered down in funding rows between Departments and it will be seen as another missed opportunity with more spin than substance in the context of what needs to be done.

The Minister of State has a personal involvement in the guarantee, which needs to be fought for. Somebody in Cabinet needs to stand up. The Minister's contribution earlier was mostly along the lines of her creating the world in the first six days and resting on the seventh.

So did God. There is no five-day week for the Minister.

It was only towards the end of her contribution that she referred to the substance of the motion. I always find it ironic when she lectures us about responsible opposition having listened to her between 2007 and 2011. The Minister lecturing about responsible opposition is like Silvio Berlusconi lecturing about fidelity and compliance. When she was on this side of the House, responsible opposition was about getting her elected and bringing a few party colleagues with her. She abused the Opposition earlier and did not acknowledge the ambition of the youth guarantee. We all buy into, believe and support that but the implementation of the guarantee is weak and it is being let down. She has resources at her disposal if she is willing to use them. She loves lecturing employers. She tells them that they have a critical role and that is the case but by forcing them to cover additional sick pay and abolishing the redundancy rebate they used to receive and with her Department targeting them in the past three budgets, she is taking away their ability to play that role to give opportunities to people.

She has introduced good schemes, including JobsPlus, but they are the equivalent of putting a finger in a dam. Perhaps whoever responds on behalf of the Government will reply tomorrow about why the national training fund is not being used. Why are Ministers not acknowledging there is a problem with 59,000 people needing an opportunity when there are resources which should be matched to them but this is not happening? If they did, we might begin to believe the ministerial spin. If anything comes out of the debate, at least I hope I get an answer to that question and a commitment on the part of the Government parties to not just spin the guarantee, but to implement it and to say to the 59,000 people aged under 25 who do not have an opportunity that they believe in them and that their future lies in Ireland, not in Canada.

I was struck by the questions asked during Leaders' Questions earlier. A recurring theme is the excessive salaries paid to executives in organisations. It is still not clear whether the top-up salaries came from their fund-raising activities, which involve tremendous work on the part of parents, volunteers and friends of the organisations. They see this as funding for essential services but we do not know if that is the case. In addition, there were newspaper reports at the weekend about the case of the wife of a recently discharged bankrupt. The judge felt that €9,000 a month for living expenses was appropriate but this is being funded by the taxpayer. There is a disconnect between those issues and this issue in the context of available funding.

We are discussing the implications for young people when it comes to unemployment. Budget 2014 provided €14 million for the youth guarantee scheme but international parallels with countries where similar schemes are in operation show that much more is necessary if it is to have any chance of success. Many young people are emigrating. We must consider the cost to the State of putting these articulate, bright, highly skilled young people through second and third level education and even postgraduate education and of losing the various skilled tradespeople whom we will need who are leaving the State. Those skills and knowledge will benefit other economies.

The Government amendment states the unemployment rate has fallen. While this is always welcome, how much is due to emigration? There is a need to examine the correlation between the numbers who have emigrated and the fall in unemployment. The youth guarantee will work if it is properly and adequately resourced. Everybody hopes it will be but there are serious doubts on the part of organisations that work with young people. They estimate only half of the places needed will be available next year. The Minister of State and I represent the same constituency and we are both aware of the problem of homelessness among young people. Will this be added to? Once people enter emergency accommodation, they are unable to access education and training, and cutting welfare payments will add to the problem, not solve it.

The youth guarantee scheme reduced youth unemployment and inactivity in Sweden and Finland but only among the short-term unemployed. There is the Action Plan for Jobs and the Pathways to Work strategy but there must be more emphasis on action.

In supporting this motion, I want to put particular emphasis on the demand to reverse the cuts to jobseeker's allowance for those under 26. This €32 million cut was presented cynically as a jobs-activation measure, to quote the Government, “to ensure young people are better off in education, employment or training than claiming”. The implication is that we have a country full of work-shy youngsters, who as Deputy Eamonn Maloney of Labour disgracefully said during the budget debate, are “sitting around watching their flat-screen TVs, seven-days a week.”

There is no evidence to back up these slurs on our young unemployed people. The fact is 85% of those aged between 18 and 24 on the live register had previously worked. When the jobs were there, even with low pay and poor conditions, young people were prepared to work. The problem is not a lack of motivation but, simply, that the jobs are not there. There are 32 unemployed people for every job vacancy in the economy. The impression is also given that young people do not need this money. The reality is that jobseeker’s allowance is means-tested which can include the income of a partner or a spouse, as well as the benefit of living with parents. To gain the allowance, one must need it.

According to EUROSTAT in 2011, 42% of 18 to 24 year olds were at risk of poverty or social exclusion. For those living at home, this cut is yet another cut in family income. The rate of unemployment or jobs availability varies across the country. Many people outside major urban areas have to move to find work. This measure is a real disincentive in this regard. Is the real measure from the Government to ensure young people consider they are better off migrating rather than claiming? Even the Nevin Economic and Research Institute, NERI, has stated the cut to jobseeker’s allowance is a blunt instrument used against our youth. The stated aim is to ensure younger workers are better off working or in further education. The notion that the young are work-shy is clearly not supported by the evidence, however. It is shameful that the Government claims to have saved €32 million through this cut. It should be instead creating jobs, education and training places while maintaining the protection of jobseeker’s allowance for those under 26.

Debate adjourned.
The Dáil adjourned at 9.05 p.m. until 9.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 20 November 2013.