Seanad debates

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

12:30 pm

Photo of Kathryn ReillyKathryn Reilly (Sinn Fein)
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I move:


That Seanad Éireann notes that:- 30.4% of under 25s were officially unemployed in 2012;
- this is the fifth highest rate of youth unemployment in the eurozone, after Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy;
- our youth unemployment rate has more than trebled since 2007;
- 53,800 under 25 were officially unemployed at the end of March 2013;
- the cost of youth unemployment to the Exchequer is estimated to be €3.16 billion annually;
- the number of young people in employment has fallen by 24,100 in the last 12 months;
- since Fine Gael and Labour took office the number of under 25s in the labour force has fallen by 34,500;
- 31,181 under 25 emigrated in the year up to April 2012;
- 18% of young people are not in education or employment or training, the fourth highest rate in the EU;
- of the 333 actions listed in the 2013 Action Plan on Jobs only four relate to young people;
- the European Council Recommendation of February 2013 announcing a youth employment initiative with a fund of €6 billion, while welcome, is not sufficiently resourced;
- the International Labour Organization has called for an investment of €21 billion EU wide to tackle youth unemployment;
- the proposed youth guarantee pilot project in Ballymun, while welcome, may not be up and running until 2014;and agrees that:- the Government is not doing enough to address the crisis of youth unemployment;
- the Government must urgently develop and resource a youth employment strategy;
- a central part of this strategy must be a high quality youth guarantee scheme that provides young people with an offer of employment, education, apprenticeship or traineeship within four months of becoming unemployed; and
- the youth guarantee scheme must be adequately funded, accessible to all, target those in greatest need and work in the interests of young people.
I welcome the Minister for Social Protection to the House to discuss this important issue. Usually during Private Members' time the Gallery is filled with representative organisations but youth organisations are at present gathered at a round table in the Civic Offices at Wood Quay hosted by the National Youth Council of Ireland and the European Youth Forum to discuss the implementation of the youth guarantee and the role for youth organisations in the future. I hope the Minister will make contact with these organisations to discuss the feedback from that round table.

Last week, I organised a conference in County Cavan on the youth guarantee which was attended by representatives of youth organisations, the European Commission and Parliament and other organisations with an interest in the matter. The broad discussion we had at that conference included contributions from a considerable number of young people. Several of the points I will be making today arose in that discussion and I will put a number of questions to the Minister that I hope she will be able to answer.

The motion sets out statistics on youth unemployment drawn from the CSO and Eurofound. They make for depressing reading, with 53,800 people under the age of 25 listed as officially unemployed and 24,100 fewer young people in employment now compared to last year. Since this Government took office, the number of young people in the labour force has shrunk by 14%, which equates to 34,100 young people who are no longer in the labour market. The number of young people not in employment, education or training in Europe equates to the population of the seven smallest member states of the EU. That is a harrowing figure.

While some of the young people who have left the labour market have gone into full-time education or training, most have emigrated in search of work or disengaged from local employment services. Many of the youth organisations I have consulted regard the Government's response as completely inadequate given the scale of the crisis facing young people. Only four of the 333 recommendations in the Action Plan for Jobs published in February related to young people. That is simply not good enough.

I ask the Minister why the Government has decided to locate the youth guarantee within the Department of Social Protection rather than the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. What role will the latter Department play in the pilot project and eventual State-wide youth guarantee scheme? The representative from the European Commission Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, Catherine Blair, who attended our conference on Friday, stated that the issue will not go away on its own because young people need specific support. It will require a cross-departmental action plan and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation cannot shirk its responsibility in that regard.

The announcement in February of EU funding for youth employment initiatives, including the guarantee, is welcome but I share the concerns expressed by others, including the European Youth Forum, that the €6 billion allocated to these initiatives is nowhere near enough even to begin to address the problem. I am also concerned about the gradual implementation of the scheme. The Council recommendation on the youth guarantee called for schemes to be implemented at the earliest opportunity, while stating that member states with budgetary difficulties or high numbers of young people not in employment, education or training could consider more gradual implementation. However, we seem to have interpreted the recommendation as requiring us to adopt a more gradual implementation of the schemes. Why have we adopted this gradual approach despite our high level of youth unemployment? Given the social and economic consequences, the problems of youth unemployment and emigration cannot be put on a waiting list until the economic situation improves. Some 14% of young people under the age of 25 have left the labour market in the two years since this Government was formed.

If we wait any longer, we will only exacerbate the problem even further.

How is the Government proceeding in respect of the timescale for the implementation of the guarantee in the current circumstances? What criteria are being used and what type of phasing is involved? From the presentation that was made on the youth guarantee, I understand the Commission is very keen to obtain action plans from the various governments in the context of the roll out. I sensed some frustration with regard to the slow response from various member states on how the guarantee is to be rolled out. The Commission wants to hit the ground running from 1 January next. Has the Government developed a plan and forwarded it to the Commission? If not, will the Minister indicate when this will be done? I do not believe we should exit our Presidency - at the core of which has been the youth guarantee - without having our own blueprint in place.

The Ballymun pilot project is very welcome but I have a number of concerns. When will the project be up and running, when will the various stakeholders be brought together, how will it be evaluated and how will the lessons learned be transferred to other areas, particularly those with less well developed community supports? Is the Minister in a position to provide a guarantee to the effect that youth organisations will be centrally involved in all aspects of the pilot project and the subsequent State-wide youth guarantee?

We are all aware that the cost of youth unemployment is massive. According to one study, the economy loses €3.16 billion annually as a result of our high level of youth unemployment. This roughly equates to 2% of GDP. The cost for young people and their families and communities is equally devastating in economic, social and emotional terms. There is going to be a demographic fallout from our high level of youth unemployment and it prompts us to inquire as to who is going to pay for pensions in the future. The guarantee should not just revolve around putting people in quality jobs today, it should also be about preventing poverty and social exclusion into the future. That is why we need a youth guarantee scheme which is going to assist the 53,800 young people who are currently unemployed to get into training or employment.

I firmly believe that the design, implementation, governance and ongoing evaluation of this scheme should involve the relevant Government Departments, employment services, educational and training services, employers, youth services, youth advocacy organisations and young people. A phrase that was used at the conference I organised was "Nationally led but locally delivered". Timo Mulari of Allianssi, the national youth council of Finland, used the term "public private people partnership" in the context of the implementation of the guarantee. That is something which is very important.

If we learn from previous experience, then the scheme should focus on the long-term unemployed, those with low skill levels, those who are furthest from the labour market and those who are not currently engaging with employment services or who are not involved in formal education or training. Our public employment services have a crucial role to play and they need to be fit for purpose. We need to obtain a real and accurate sense of the number of young people who are unemployed. The scheme should be open to all and not just to those who are currently registered with the public employment services. As everyone is aware, there are many people who are hidden from the live register. These individuals may not, for example, be eligible for jobseeker's benefit or allowance. In addition, they may not be on the radar for some other reason.

An individual needs assessment and personal plan will be required for each person who engages with the youth guarantee process. An important point was raised this morning to the effect that we need to track youths who engage with the youth guarantee system and we must ensure that we are not just shifting them from one scheme to another. We must examine how we can create sustainable situations for them in the aftermath of the initial couple of months for which they are on the youth guarantee scheme. It emerged earlier today that there are no statistics for 39% of those youths who engaged with the youth guarantee scheme in Finland. This means that the Finnish authorities do not know what happened to 39% of those who were involved with the scheme. It is important, therefore, to ensure that tracking is put in place.

Many young people attended last weekend's conference and gave voice to their concerns. One of those concerns relates to the fact that they do not necessarily want to be employees but rather they want to be employers. These young people want to start their own businesses and become entrepreneurs. However, they cannot obtain access to funding and neither can they get loans guaranteed. The youth guarantee will ensure that all young people under the age of 25 receive an offer of good quality employment, continuing education, apprenticeship or traineeship within a period of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education. What is going to be incorporated into the guarantee for young people who are unemployed, who want to start their own businesses and who may not require education, training or an apprenticeship? I refer here to individuals who have the idea, who possess the necessary drive and who are ready to go.

My final point relates to costs. If 53,800 of those under 25 are officially unemployed and if best practice - as highlighted by the National Youth Council - places the cost per participant in the scheme at approximately €6,600, we will need approximately €335 million in order to deal with these people. As already stated, those who are off the radar are not included in the 53,800. With youth unemployment so rampant across Europe, our leaders should be collectively considering how we might move towards the estimate produced by the International Labour Organization, ILO, of €21 billion being required to combat youth unemployment as opposed to the €6 billion which has been set aside. Would it be possible for the Government to make strides in this regard either prior to the end of Ireland's Presidency or before the meeting of EU Labour Ministers is held in Berlin on 3 July? Who will be representing Ireland at that meeting?

I referred to the creation of sustainable situations for those exiting the youth guarantee. The Minister, in an article she co-authored, argued in favour of more investment in growth. How are we going to invest in the jobs that will be required in order to get young people who are currently out of work back into employment post the youth guarantee? What is going to be brought forward in that regard?

12:40 pm

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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I second the motion. Táim thar a bheith buíoch de Cheannaire an Tí, an Seanadóir Cummins, as ucht an t-am seo a thabhairt dúinn leis an gceist seo a phlé mar is ceist iontach tábhachtach ar fad í. Bhí mé thiar i gCarna an la faoi dheireadh agus casadh iníon mo dheirféar orm. Tá sí 22 bliain d'aois agus dúirt sí liom nach bhfuil cara amháin fágtha aici i gCarna seachas cailín amháin eile atá ina máthair shingil. Tá gach duine eile imithe. My 22 year old niece who lives in Carna in rural Connemara recently informed me that almost all of her friends have left the area. She only has one friend left who is her own age. The only reason that girl has remained is because she is a single mother and cannot afford to leave.

It is important to note what the motion states. From the point of view of their amendment, those on the Government side appear to have stuck their heads in the sand to some degree. The motion states:

That Seanad Éireann notes that:- 30.4% of under 25s were officially unemployed in 2012;
- this is the fifth highest rate of youth unemployment in the eurozone, after Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy;
- our youth unemployment rate has more than trebled since 2007;
- 53,800 under 25 were officially unemployed at the end of March 2013;
- the cost of youth unemployment to the Exchequer is estimated to be €3.16 billion annually;
- the number of young people in employment has fallen by 24,100 in the last 12 months;
- since Fine Gael and Labour took office the number of under 25s in the labour force has fallen by 34,500;
- 31,181 under 25 emigrated in the year up to April 2012;
- 18% of young people are not in education or employment or training, the fourth highest rate in the EU;
- of the 333 actions listed in the 2013 Action Plan on Jobs only four relate to young people;
- the European Council Recommendation of February 2013 announcing a youth employment initiative with a fund of €6 billion, while welcome, is not sufficiently resourced;
- the International Labour Organization has called for an investment of €21 billion EU wide to tackle youth unemployment;
- the proposed youth guarantee pilot project in Ballymun, while welcome, may not be up and running until 2014;
However, the Government amendment advocates the deletion of all words after "Seanad Éireann" and suggests a replacement text. What is the problem with the facts outlined in the original motion, which are true? If we are going to tackle the issue of youth unemployment, we must be realistic and acknowledge the facts. There is nothing in the motion which castigates the Government or its policies. Neither does lay blame at the door of this Administration as opposed to a previous one. That is the status quo and surely we must acknowledge this fact. I call on all Government Senators to support the motion in the sense that it at least acknowledges the location of the starting point. Let us admit that a difficulty exists and let us consider how we can move on from it.

The motion tabled by Senator Reilly clearly and concisely highlights the lack of action on the part of the Government in respect of this matter. It is in stark contrast to the Government's amendment, which is actually quite laughable. Everyone is familiar with the adage "Lies, damn lies and statistics". The Government's amendment is an exercise in finding any kind of statistic in order to justify its position, while denying the truth of what is actually happening.

Those on the Government side are sticking their heads in the sand if they believe they are offering anything like a reasonable defence. I ask them, therefore, to withdraw their amendment. The amendment notes that the number of young people unemployed is down to 53,800, a reduction of 26,800. However, as the motion indicates, the number of young people in employment has fallen by 24,100 in the past 12 months.

We note that the number of under 25s in employment has fallen by 34,500 since Fine Gael and the Labour Party took office. What does that tell us? It tells us that the numbers in employment are not due to any increase in population but are due to the inordinate levels of emigration which are blighting Ireland. We all know the situation, and the Government is kidding itself if it believes that it is dealing with the matter. We all know families where a mother has had to see two, three or more children travel to the far side of the world to seek work because there is nothing here. We see families separated, and towns and villages emptied of young people. That is particularly evident in communities along the west coast; I see it at home in Connemara.

We had a course at Easter of student teachers who went to Carraroe to learn Irish, and I was asked to talk to them. Towards the end of the presentation I asked the approximately 200 teachers how many of them expected to have a job as a teacher in Ireland within the next three or four years. Approximately 10% of them expected to still be here at that time. That shows a huge lack of hope among the youth in that particular sector in terms of their future prospects of finding full-time employment as teachers here.

Shops and pubs that were once thriving are now struggling. GAA clubs are struggling to put 15 players on the pitch yet we see clubs in London and Warrington thriving, and clubs in Sydney and Melbourne have greater numbers than ever. If the Minister is wondering where the 26,800 who were on the dole are gone, they are not gone into jobs. They are most likely gone into employment but they are in Perth, Dubai or Toronto. Some 31,181 emigrated in the year up to April 2012, and many more have emigrated since.

The issue of emigration is closely related to the issue of unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, as it is the category between the ages of 22 and 35 who are most likely to be mobile. The key solution to the emigration crisis is to solve the unemployment crisis but the Government has effectively done nothing. It points to the pilot project in Ballymun but as the motion notes, it will be 2014 before we even see that, and that is a mere pilot. We can take it that it will be at least two years before the vast bulk of the population sees any benefit from that.

The motion notes that the youth guarantee needs more funding - currently, it has only €6 billion - and that the employment issue is the real issue, particularly in rural areas. The role of LDCs is unsure, and they are key to creating employment in rural areas, as is the capital budget in Údarás na Gaeltachta. This issue must be targeted in conjunction with the employment targets that have to be set down, particularly in rural areas.

12:50 pm

Photo of Deirdre CluneDeirdre Clune (Fine Gael)
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I move amendment No. 1:


To delete all words after ''Seanad Éireann'' and substitute the following:
''notes that:-- the number of people in employment grew by 20,500 in the year ending March 2013, compared with a reduction of employment of 50,100 in the year ending March 2011;
-- the rate of unemployment in Ireland has fallen to 13.7% at the end of Quarter 1 2013, down from 15% in Q1 2012;
-- the number of people unemployed at the end of Quarter 1 2013 is 292,000, down 30,000 on Q1 2012;
-- the number of unemployed young people aged under 25 has fallen by a third to 53,800 since it peaked in 2009, a reduction of 26,800;
-- 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;
-- the Government has also prioritised Youth Unemployment as an issue to be addressed during Ireland's term as President of the European Union. The European Union has agreed, under Ireland's Presidency, a recommendation for a Youth Guarantee. This recommendation requires each member state to guarantee each unemployed young person under the age of 25 a job, training or education opportunity within 4 months of registration with the employment services;
-- this Youth Guarantee is supported by the allocation of €6bn at EU level under the Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF);
-- Ireland has applied for advance funding, as part of an EU pilot initiative, to support the implementation of a Youth Guarantee project in Ballymun;and agrees that:
-- the 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, and
-- 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 reserve my opportunity to speak at a later point in the debate.

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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Is that agreed? Agreed. I call the Minister, Deputy Burton, who is very welcome to the House. The Minister has 15 minutes to reply.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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I thank the Acting Chairman. Tackling the crisis in relation to young people being unemployed is an absolute priority for the Government, and we are driving the response both on a national and EU-wide level in the context of our Presidency.

Research evidence shows that spells of unemployment while people are young, particularly for young men, can have a permanent scarring effect on their lives. This is a particular problem during an economic downturn as young people tend to be more severely affected by job losses. That is because young people tend to be the most junior employees in an organisation and they also tend to work in sectors such as retail and services, which feel the brunt of any reduction in demand. It is crucial, therefore, that an effective strategy is in place to tackle youth unemployment before it becomes prolonged and systemic.

In the first instance, the Government's primary strategy to reduce youth 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 can be expected to fall relatively rapidly when recovery takes hold. That is the good point.

In this context, although there is a long way to go, the Government has stabilised the economy and economic growth has returned at a modest level, but it has returned. It must be remembered that in the period after 2009, the bank guarantee period, the economy lost 250,000 jobs. That haemorrhaging of jobs in that period after the bank guarantee was an enormous shock to unemployment in this country at every age level, but most particularly for young people.

Official labour market figures published by the Central Statistics Office, CSO, recently indicate that the number of unemployed people aged under 25 has fallen by 10,000 on the same time a year earlier to approximately 54,000. The statistics cited by the Sinn Féin Members are wrong. I do not know if that matters much to Sinn Féin but they are wrong. I am not sure who did the research but the other figures cited in their presentation are wrong. For instance, it is not true that the number of young people in the labour force has fallen by 24,000 in the past 12 months. The number of young people in unemployment has decreased by fewer than 4,000. In a range of 50,000 people the Senators' figures are dramatically wrong. If they are trying to forecast economic growth, they should try to work with the correct figures.

One of the obvious reasons we have these changes is to do with demographic patterns. If the Senators check with the CSO it will tell them the demographic patterns. In addition, as a consequence of the recession, and I am sure everybody here knows this, huge numbers of young people have chosen to remain in education. That is a factor. Emigration and the distress it causes is also a factor but I strongly suggest the Senators should check with the CSO or get their researchers to verify the facts with the CSO because the figures they are using are wrong.

The official labour market figures published by the CSO show that they have fallen by 10,000 on the same time a year earlier. That is a positive. The unemployment rate for young people has fallen from 29.7% to 26.6% over the same period. This downward movement in unemployment has bucked the trend in the EU as a whole, and that is important in the context of Ireland, where youth unemployment has continued to rise.

Furthermore, in the most recent 12-month period, virtually all the decline in youth unemployment was accounted for by a fall in the number of young people who were out of work for a year or more. From the comments made by Senator Reilly I understood that her concern is specifically about young people in the younger age group. I ask her to check the statistics because there are things that the people of Ireland have worked hard for and she should recognise and acknowledge that we are doing better than a huge number of other countries. Our rate is very high. We are not the fourth or fifth highest; we come after about eight other countries. The Senator should check the facts. It is hoped that the trend will continue as the economy recovers. Specifically, there is a requirement for specific national and EU-wide strategies to address the youth unemployment crisis.

I will start by discussing the European context because of the Government's role in securing an EU-wide youth guarantee and the crucial discussions now taking place on the way the guarantee will be implemented. These are very important.

Youth unemployment is an EU-wide crisis. The number of young people not in education, employment or training across Europe is estimated at 7.5 million. For that reason, the youth guarantee was identified as a major agenda item to be delivered during the Irish Presidency of the EU. Senator Reilly asked the reason I was involved. It is because of the catastrophic fall in employment that I mentioned earlier that I identified this as a priority, as I have done regarding other initiatives by my Department, particularly JobBridge, to help young people get work experience and get on the ladder to work. As the Senator is aware, my colleague, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, has significantly expanded a wide range of opportunities for young people in regard to education.

The EU's response since the outbreak of the financial crisis has largely been a fiscal one. That is the reason the Irish Government chose to make the European-wide framework for a youth guarantee a priority for the Presidency. I have long argued that there must be a social response to ensure the effects of the crisis on our people are lessened. The youth guarantee will be a crucial step in that regard.

The Government and the Department were at the forefront of securing agreement on the adoption of the EU Council recommendation on the youth guarantee. The recommendation received political agreement at the EPSCO Council meeting of social affairs and employment ministers on 28 February under my chairmanship and was formally adopted in April. There was very wide welcome and support for it because the Commission's initial documentation had only been signed off at the end of December. It is a mark of how concerned countries throughout Europe are that they were able, under the Irish chairmanship, to agree to the framework of the youth guarantee being adopted in February.

The recommendation states member states should ensure all young people under the age of 25 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 agreement on the 2014-2020 EU budget, 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 should be implemented as soon as possible, it is recognised that implementation could be more gradual in some member states experiencing the most severe budgetary difficulties and higher rates of youth unemployment. However, it is crucial to maintain momentum in terms of implementation of the recommendation.

At EU level, the Irish Presidency, particularly the Tánaiste and I, have pushed strongly for early production of implementation plans in all member states. The Commission has backed the Irish Government's approach that we should try to front-load this for countries with severe youth unemployment difficulties. This is under negotiation. I will be in Luxembourg at the end of next week and I hope the member states will agree to do this. The European Parliament has been very positive, particularly the socialist group, in pushing the youth guarantee and was doing so two years ago when it was not a very fashionable idea. I am not sure Sinn Féin was that taken with it when it was first discussed. It did not seem to like the idea, no more than it liked the JobBridge idea. None the less, the idea has gained general acceptability and support. I hope it will be advanced further at the Heads of State meeting.

For our part, the Government will review the range of youth employment policies in Ireland to assess what measures will need to be taken to commence the implementation of the guarantee. It is intended to produce a concrete plan for the implementation of the guarantee before the end of 2013. The Government intends to work with all relevant stakeholders to maximise the impact of a youth guarantee in Ireland. In this regard, we have sought funding from the European Commission for a proposed pilot youth guarantee project in the Ballymun area of north Dublin. Numerous organisations, such as IBEC, Ballymun Job Centre and the National Youth Council of Ireland, have agreed to participate in the pilot. Last year, I launched an initiative on a pilot basis specifically referencing young people with a disability in the Border, midlands and west region through European funds. These projects are under way as we speak throughout the region and are very positive.

More generally, 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 on 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. As Senators are aware, there is a review of apprenticeship in Ireland. Apprenticeship as we know it collapsed with the collapse of the construction boom. In any event, the old-style apprenticeship largely recruited young men and there were relatively few apprenticeships for young women, except in the areas of hairdressing and beauty.

Returning to the issue of the EU funds, the European Commission has published its legislative proposal for this initiative, which in the first instance will have to be considered by the Council and then, in turn, negotiated with the European Parliament. The timing of the expenditure for this initiative and the distribution of the funding throughout EU regions is not yet clear because the negotiations are ongoing. The Irish Government will over the coming weeks, while we still hold the EU Presidency, explore the possibility of front-loading funding towards the beginning of the forthcoming EU budget period which will run from 2014 to 2020. I do not want to pre-empt a final decision on funding but it is expected the Border, midland and west region and the south and east region will qualify for funding. Perhaps some of the funding under the UK package, if it decides to be involved, will apply with regard to Northern Ireland.

Senator Reilly spoke about young people. I am extremely anxious to develop a programme with regard to young people and unemployment which would specifically include young people with disabilities, whether intellectual or physical disabilities, and I hope the Seanad supports this. It is very important they should be included. The Sinn Féin motion does not address this, but it is important that the various organisations seek to be as inclusive as possible in this regard. We have put forward and discussed proposals on young entrepreneurs and I have had an opportunity to meet organisations of young people representing young entrepreneurs. This is positive. I also think young people who have a disability ought to be in the programme, and I hope, as Minister, to be able to influence this.

The Government has a number of programmes to assist young unemployed persons and keep young jobseekers close to the labour market. We have initiatives on education, training, job search assistance and guidance, work experience, and encouraging job creation. The JobBridge national internship scheme overseen by the Department is focused on providing work experience to young people. 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. In the short period since it started, more than 17,000 people have participated, and it is gratifying to note that five months after they have completed an internship, more than 60% of young people have secured further employment. This is very positive because in a tight labour market, very good young people coming out with various levels of qualification find the labour market is closed and they hit a brick wall. This is what often makes it very depressing for them.

In the December budget, I secured funding for an additional 10,000 places this year across a range of programmes, including JobBridge, Tús and community employment.

Approximately one quarter of these places are expected to be taken up by unemployed young people. The Youthreach programme provides 6,000 integrated education, training and work experience places for early school leavers who do not have qualifications or vocational training and are between 15 and 20 years of age. The back to education allowance, which my Department runs, provides income maintenance for unemployed people. More than 20,000 people are on this scheme, of whom approximately 6,000 are less than 25 years of age. This scheme provides an important opportunity.

Approximately 12,000 people under 25 years of age completed training courses with FÁS in 2012, including apprenticeships and evening courses. This year, MOMENTUM, a scheme for education and training interventions as part of the Government's Action Plan for Jobs initiative, is being rolled out by the Department of Education and Skills. In the next month, I will launch a new initiative that I have developed and that I mentioned at the time of the budget, entitled JobsPlus. Under this scheme, an employer will receive an incentive of €7,500 for recruiting a person who has been unemployed and on the live register for between 12 and 24 months. The employer will also receive an incentive of €10,000 over a period for recruiting a person who has been unemployed for two years or more. At a typical starting wage, this incentive will cover approximately €1 in every €4 of an employer's wage costs. I will launch it next month. 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.

The original Action Plan for Jobs set out a target of 100,000 net new jobs to be created by 2016. Many of these will be filled by young people. In addition, the Department of Social Protection's Pathways to Work strategy includes targets for increasing the number of long-term unemployed people moving into employment. Specifically, we want to return 75,000 long-term unemployed people to employment and to increase the exit rate of people on the live register for two years or more by 50% by the end of 2015. We also want to reduce the persistence rate - the rate at which short-term unemployed people become long-term unemployed - to 25% by the end of 2015. As more than two out of every five young unemployed people are long-term unemployed, these targets are important to young people.

As the Minister for Social Protection, I have a specific concern in this regard. Our young people represent a wonderful resource for Ireland. As a country, we have invested heavily in their education and care. Parents, families and communities have also invested heavily in this regard. Everyone wants the best for them. To answer Senator Reilly's question, I became involved because this represents a significant opportunity for Ireland. My job and that of the Labour Party - this is why we are called the Labour Party - is to help young people and their families to return to work. The best way to do so is to put in place educational and training structures that meet the needs of modern labour markets. We are receiving a great deal of foreign direct investment, FDI, and we must ensure that our young people are able to fill the ensuing jobs. We must also ensure that our young people have the confidence and encouragement to participate in employment.

I assure the House that the issue of youth unemployment, indeed, overall unemployment, is a priority for the Government. We will know that the economy has recovered when the unemployment figures drop, the banking issues are sorted and life returns to the construction sector, which traditionally employed many young people before the crash began in 2008. It is important that the young people who entered the apprenticeship system at the height of the Celtic tiger with the promise of work experience, only to be left without sponsors when the property market crashed half way through their apprenticeships, are offered the opportunity to complete their training, albeit perhaps in different fields. We need to be able to provide such training and education so that young people can use their skills in the workplace. We will do this through apprenticeships, internships, traineeships, State work experience, employment schemes and employer-subsidised jobs.

We need to examine the countries that have been the most successful in reducing their levels of youth unemployment, for example, Germany, Austria and Finland. The latter two are small countries and working closely with employers has been one of the keys to their success. My Department is building in this regard so that people can work from an early age in a training and education context so that they can gain experience of employment as they complete their educations.

1:10 pm

Photo of Averil PowerAveril Power (Fianna Fail)
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Fianna Fáil strongly supports the motion. The Minister has picked holes in the statistics, but there is no doubt that people of all ages and their families have been devastated by the economic crisis. Young people have suffered the greatest toll by far in recent years. This is true across Europe. The Minister cited some statistics and the Sinn Féin motion cites others, but the statistics do not capture the scale of youth emigration. Often, this element underplays the extent of youth unemployment, as tens of thousands of young people who have left Ireland are unaccounted for in the statistics. They are not present to raise this issue because they are struggling to make lives for themselves elsewhere. They worked hard to get the best possible education and enough points for college and they put in the effort and commitment required to get good degrees, only to find that there were no opportunities for them. This is an important point.

The National Youth Council of Ireland, NYCI, published an excellent report recently entitled "Time to Go? A Study of Youth Emigration in Ireland", on the impact of emigration on young Irish people. We can argue the figures, but this debate should be taken as an opportunity to put our heads together and come up with solutions, not to make party political arguments. This is my party's stance. The motion made excellent suggestions.

I welcome Senator Reilly's comment on young entrepreneurs. There is significant potential in harnessing their creativity and ideas. With little investment or support, we could give them the tools necessary to create the businesses of the future. They are well placed to do so. We should use the remainder of our debate to make constructive suggestions.

Last year, Fianna Fáil published a paper on youth unemployment. We have the same concerns as those that have been mentioned. For example, the Government has published a number of jobs initiatives in recent years, but no specific strategy on youth unemployment has been proposed. While I welcome the Minister's initiatives relating to other aspects of her brief, for example, JobBridge, her willingness to review and change them to ensure they are fit for purpose and her overall commitment to the area, there is a wide cross-Government gap, in that a specific strategy on youth unemployment has not been introduced. The European youth guarantee is a positive initiative, but it is significantly underfunded, given the figures announced today.

More than 7 million young people are unemployed in the EU so the figures announced so far are probably only a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed.

It is important to acknowledge how good it is that work is being done on this on a European level, and that there is a co-ordinated response, because we are not in this on our own. Other European countries are facing exactly the same problems we face and therefore we should put our heads together on an international level and come up with the most sensible strategy for addressing this on a continental basis. At the same time there is no excuse for delay on a national basis. There is nothing to stop the Government bringing forward a specific national strategy. Of course each country will be required to submit implementation plans and suchlike as part of the European process but that is for down the road. It is clear from the Minister's opening address that the process has started but there is still a way to go. I fully support the efforts of the Minister and her colleagues to use the Irish Presidency to try to accelerate this pan-European effort. That is very important but there is nothing to stop the Government focusing on the bringing forward of a national strategy ahead of what emerges in that regard. We have already lost time in this area and cannot afford to lose any more. To reiterate, too many young people have already left this country and they wonder if they will ever have a future here. They are looking to us to put initiatives into place now, not next year or two, three or four years down the road.

Last year, for this reason, Fianna Fáil published a specific strategy on youth unemployment. I ask the Minister to take the time to consider some of the initiatives we put forward, in regard to internships and improving and extending the JobBridge programme, to ensure that people are offering real jobs. I welcome the fact that many young people who are taking part in internship programmes get real jobs but there are also those who are being abused in the process. I know several young people who are on their third or fourth internship, which I do not think was the original intention. Internship should be for people who have the relevant education but need to get work experience that will help them to get inside the door elsewhere. It is important to review the internship schemes and change them, but much more important is the need to create real jobs. Instead of having people wondering if they are going to be volunteering endlessly or getting a slight top-up on their social welfare, we should create real jobs for young people. Many of them cannot afford to stay here and will end up leaving if their only real choice is to find employment elsewhere.

I welcome this debate. My party wants to be part of the solution to this problem and we see that as part of our role in constructive opposition. I hope all of us can do the same, both in the remainder of this debate and in the future. We should all put ideas out and work together on this. There is a temptation for us to argue about the causes of the crisis and be party-political about its impact but people are looking to us, to Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Féin, to put aside the politics and work together on sorting out the problem.

1:20 pm

Photo of Deirdre CluneDeirdre Clune (Fine Gael)
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I thank the Minister for her contribution to date and I acknowledge the work that has been done, by her and the Tánaiste in particular, in progressing the youth guarantee and highlighting it during the period of Irish Presidency of the EU. She has ensured it is front-loaded, which is very important. This is a serious issue, not only for Ireland but across Europe. We all know the figures.

We should put this in context. We have lost very many jobs in this country, some hundreds of thousands. Our unemployment level was over 14%, with jobs being lost in the construction sector in particular, which used to employ many young people, in retail, banking and many areas of the services sector. I noted some business publications and news this week. The latest news from the Department of Finance, its economic bulletin of this week, shows that for the second successive year we have had growth, 1.3% last year. The Department, the IMF, the Central Bank, the European Commission and the ESRI all forecast that the economy will recover in the next few years, with growth from a minimum of 2.2% to a maximum of 2.7%, and from next year to 2016 they forecast an improvement of some 2% in GDP. That is positive and we should all acknowledge it. The Minister has mentioned the employment figures, noting how the numbers of those in employment have increased, according to recent bulletins. The figures for young people show they are gaining employment. At present we are seeing improvements in all the headline figures that were so depressing and disappointing in recent years. The services value index rose again, by 1.2% in April. Irish bond yields rose as did loans to SMEs this week, as acknowledged by ISME. Foreign direct investment continues to improve in this country. Governments do not create jobs; they create the environment in which jobs are created. The Minister has outlined her role in dealing with the difficulty young people have in gaining employment, a role that rests with her Department as well as with the Departments of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and Education and Skills.

I will take issue with another point, if I may. The Minister has dealt with the motion tabled by Sinn Féin but I refer to that party's statement that of the 333 actions listed in the action plan for jobs only four relate to young people. That is completely untrue. Every one of those actions relates to young people and to ensuring that jobs are created within a suitable environment. I entirely refute that statement.

I mentioned the economy and how it is improving. Slowly we are beginning to see a start whereby we can get this country back in action. It is only by improving the economy that jobs can and will be created. The Minister outlined in the budget of last December the additional places she has secured in a range of programmes, including JobBridge, Tús, and community employment, with 25% of these expected to be taken up by young unemployed people. JobBridge in particular has been very successful. This has been established by an independent survey from Indecon. As the Minister noted, there have been 17,000 participants in the programme so far. The most positive result seen in the independent report by Indecon into JobBridge is the fact that more than 60% of participants have gained employment. It is an extremely positive and beneficial programme. I encourage the Minister to continue with it, as I am sure she will, because it engages across not only the public and private sectors but also the voluntary sector.

No single solution will cure our current unemployment problem but a number of issues are being tackled. Education and training are very important. Job searching assistance and guiding, gaining work experience and encouraging job creation are what the action plan for jobs is about. I particularly welcome the statement by the Tánaiste last week in which he agreed an action plan on youth unemployment with the OECD. From listening to OECD delegates reading their papers and hearing them speak on a number of occasions, I know they are really concerned about the level of youth unemployment, in particular throughout Europe. They have much experience in dealing with challenges and I know they will work at close hand with the Government in addressing this issue. The OECD calls continually for industry to engage in training structures, to offer either technical training or engage via third level institutes or universities to ensure the correct programmes and types of training are being developed so that young people can move into employment.

I refer to the entrepreneurship programme. There was a debate in this House recently on entrepreneurship. The microfinance scheme established by the Minister, Deputy Bruton, if not specifically targeted at young people, is available to them. It is for traditional businesses that cannot get collateral or support from banks. Funding is available, ranging from as little as €2,000 to €25,000. I urge Senator Reilly to encourage those people to whom she speaks to participate in this scheme because funding is available directly for the type of businesses in which young people who want to start their own enterprise should engage.

Photo of Jillian van TurnhoutJillian van Turnhout (Independent)
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The Minister is welcome to the House. I very much welcome that Senator Reilly and her colleagues tabled this motion.

It is an important issue for us to debate, and considering the motion and amendment, one could see the glass as being half full or half empty. Nevertheless, it is really important that we are discussing youth unemployment. Unemployment, and specifically youth unemployment, is something that concerns us all across the House. Nevertheless, focus should not be solely on employment as for the age group in question, this is the period in which they are most likely to be in education and training. Unfortunately, the picture remains seriously bleak when we take employment, education and training into consideration.

Some people have already cited the Indecon assessment of the economic value of youth work report of 2012, which was commissioned by the National Youth Council of Ireland. We know Ireland has the fourth highest number of young people not in education, employment or training at 18.4%, compared to the average at 12.9% for the EU in 2011. In April 2013, the figure for young people who are long-term unemployed for more than 12 months was 27,857. I realise that is a reduction on previous months but it is still a considerable number of long-term unemployed young people. Ireland also has the highest number of children and young people under 18 at risk of poverty or social exclusion, with the figure at 37.6%, as compared to the 27% EU average.

We are all aware of the devastating impact that unemployment has, particularly on the social and health aspects of young people's lives, as well as morale and self-esteem. It is generally accepted that increased social pressures such as financial and employment worries can trigger mental health problems or exacerbate existing issues. Unless concerted action is taken, the mental health of young people in Ireland and Europe will decline in coming years. We know that in 2009, Eurofound, the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, which is based in Dublin, conducted research indicating that across 21 EU member states, the cost of exclusion of young people from employment amounted to more than €100 billion. The study considered the cost of social welfare payments and contributions to GNP and it put a preliminary figure for the cost to society at €14,000 per young person who is not in education, employment or training. Some €11,000 would be from unpaid contributions like PRSI and PAYE and €3,000 is representative of benefit payments.

The cost to the Exchequer of youth unemployment is estimated to be €3.16 billion annually. Last December, the Independent group put forward a motion in this House on the importance of the value of youth work. We had good support across the House in our belief that the State must recognise the value of the youth work sector and its potential for a cohesive approach in tackling youth unemployment and exclusion. We know just under 400,000 young people benefit from youth work in Ireland and 53.3% of these are from socially or economically disadvantaged areas. Over 40,000 volunteers are involved in youth work, with almost 1,400 whole-time staff equivalents. Some 26% of young people in Ireland participate in a youth club or youth organisation, and that is the highest level in the EU. The Indecon report proved that for every €1 invested by the State in youth work, we save €2.22 as a State in the long run. This can be contrasted with the fact that youth organisations have received cumulative cuts during the recession, with the cuts running at approximately 30%. Youth organisations could be used as a vehicle in tackling youth unemployment but we are cutting their funding.

The youth guarantee is very important to me and everybody in this House because it will give young people an offer of a job, work experience, apprenticeship, training or combined work and training. It is hoped this will be found within four months of the young person finishing education or becoming unemployed. We should hope it will achieve the target of having 2 million young people out of unemployment by 2014.

I agree with the contention in the motion that the youth guarantee scheme must play a central role in the Government's strategy to address our young person not in education, employment or training, or NEETs, crisis in Europe. I commend the Government for signalling its support for the youth guarantee from the outset and making it a priority. Given what I have stated on the importance of the youth work sector, I also welcome the determination of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, in securing EU agreement on a greater role for youth work in supporting EU policy proposals for youth employment and social inclusion. I welcome the pilot scheme planned for Ballymun. It is good that we will have a pilot but we must consider local circumstances. I am a bit concerned about the length of time it may take to mainstream the process.

I am conscious of the time but I will comment on those who are most disadvantaged. These are the 9,000 young people who have been on the live register for three years or more. They have literacy issues and they are early school leavers. The have a poor relationship with State agencies. We must do much more to tackle the problems of this cohort of young people within the youth guarantee. The youth sector is well placed to work with this cohort, who are the hardest to reach. There should be a joint initiative between the Departments of Education and Skills, Social Protection, Children and Youth Affairs and Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

Has the Minister identified additional measures to support young people who are long-term unemployed in avoiding the weaknesses identified in the scheme already in operation in Finland and Sweden?

1:30 pm

Photo of Marie MoloneyMarie Moloney (Labour)
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I welcome the Minister of State to the House and the opportunity to speak on the EU guarantee. The wider problem of youth unemployment is something that has consumed this Government's focus since coming to office. The matter has been raised in the Seanad on many occasions and I commend Sinn Féin Senators for once again bringing it back on the political agenda through Private Members' time.

The Central Statistics Office recently stated that the level of youth unemployment had fallen in Ireland by nearly 10,000 in the year to May 2013. I will not get into an argument about figures as one can see the glass as half empty or half full. There is no denying that some of the fall may have come through emigration, activation or people staying longer in education. We must not believe that the job is done and the tough work has only started.

In the five years since 2008, this country has lost six out of ten jobs held by people under 25. That is a catastrophic collapse that has been a significant body blow to the morale of young people in this country. This has a devastating effect on families, communities and the Exchequer. There are even places where we cannot field a GAA team and clubs must band together to form a team. This proves that we are missing young people in this country.

I hope the recent approval of the European youth guarantee can offer some relief to young people in this country. A youth guarantee aims to provide every young person between 18 and 24 with an offer of a job, internship or training within four months of becoming unemployed. The fact that this progressive measure has been confirmed by the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs, EPSCO, Council meeting during the Irish Presidency of the EU means this Government is putting the unemployment crisis at the heart of political discussion both nationally and at EU level.

I commend the Minister, Deputy Burton, for her work in securing this approval. She is deeply concerned about the level of youth unemployment in this country and she is very committed to bringing forward measures to solve it. It is important to note the EU-wide youth guarantee scheme is partially funded by the European Commission, with 7.5 million young people across Europe not in employment, education or training representing 12.9% of young Europeans. It is highly unlikely that the €6 billion pledged by the Commission will cover all the costs of the scheme and as a result individual states will probably have to provide the majority of funding. Given the state of public finances, the funding for a full youth guarantee will not come overnight, and I hope the Government will continue the measures contained in the Action Plan for Jobs and reinforced in the last budget.

As outlined by the Minister, Deputy Burton, the Government's plan is to gradually implement the EU youth guarantee to obtain best value for money and the most effective results. The Government currently has a number of schemes in action designed to combat youth employment and long-term unemployment in particular. Currently, 12,500 young people are participating in FÁS schemes aimed at providing the skills to enter the labour market.

Youthreach has 6,000 young people receiving integrated education and work experience aimed at early school leavers. JobBridge, a scheme commenced by the Minister, Deputy Burton, is providing 2,700 people with work experience places. This year, Momentum, a scheme for education and training interventions, which is part of the Government's Action Plan for Jobs initiative is being rolled out by the Department of Education and Skills. Momentum will support the provision of free education and training projects to allow 6,500 long-term jobseekers to gain skills and access work opportunities in identified growing sectors. More than 1,250 of these places are assigned specifically for under-25s. I welcome today's announcement by the Minister of JobsPlus which will help the employer take on people who are long-term unemployed, and that scheme will be launched next month.

These are some of the many schemes by the Government designed to combat unemployment and, as I said before, these schemes are beginning to tentatively make an impact on the live register figures. A perfect example of this can be seen in the JobBridge scheme enacted by the Government. Over 60% of the participants in this scheme find paid work afterwards. We have seen from JobBridge that the Government needs to aid young people by providing them with the right education and skills. It is also necessary in the current climate to provide employers with assistance and confidence in taking on more staff. It provides an opportunity for employers to see the value and qualities of the new staff without the financial cost.

Ireland is not in a position financially to provide a Scandinavian style youth guarantee that costs and estimated €6,600 per young person. This means the Government needs to be creative and come up with fresh ideas. I commend the Minister and the Government for the energy they are putting into coming up with these ideas. It is important that when we speak about the training and education of young people we consistently remember the jobs market. I want to see Ireland providing our young people with the right tools to enable them to find work. I refer specifically to PayPal, which had to go outside Ireland for nearly 50% of its employees because Irish people did not have the right language skills to take up the jobs. We have to look to the future and work to the future and to do that we have to educate our youth in the right sector, and in particular in language skills.

1:40 pm

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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I commend Senator Reilly and the Sinn Féin group for putting forward this motion. My party will fully support that motion. Senator Ó Clochartaigh read out a number of the points in the Sinn Féin motion and it is important to read some of them again because they are startling. Some 30.5% of under-25s are officially unemployed. The number of young people in employment has fallen by 24,100 in the last 12 months. Since this Government came into office the number of under-25s in the labour force has fallen by 34,500.

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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We have had this already.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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It may not suit to hear it again but this is a democracy and this House still exists for the moment. If the Acting Chairman's party gets its way, it will not. If the Acting Chairman does not mind I will continue making my few brief points.

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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The Senator has five minutes.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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Some 31,181 under-25s emigrated in the year up to April 2012. I propose that this is much higher now. Some 18% of young people are not in education, employment or training, the fourth highest rate in the EU. The Minister has disputed these figures here but they are the correct statistics from Europe. Of the 333 actions listed in the 2013 Action Plan for Jobs by this Government, only four relate to youth unemployment. That is outrageous.

As the Minister said, the European Council recommended in February 2013 that €6 billion be set aside for the youth guarantee scheme. Last Friday I attended a conference organised by my colleague, Senator Reilly, in Cavan. That conference was addressed by a number of experts, some of them officials from the European Community, and the representative from the European Youth Forum and youth guarantee said a minimum of €21 billion would be required to accommodate another startling statistic, the 7.5 million young people in the European Union who are not in employment, education or training. So €21 billion would be required, not €6 billion. That €21 billion is based on the region having a minimum of 25% youth unemployment. What about the regions that have 24% or 23%? They do not qualify for anything. If we divide the €6 billion proposed by Europe by the number of unemployed people in this country who would qualify, that would give them a little more than €6,000 each. Is that acceptable? It is not acceptable to me. It may be to the Government. I accept and appreciate that it is a proposed figure and is not finalised, and I request that the Government fight as hard as it can before the end of its Presidency to ensure that €6 billion is dramatically increased so the young people we are referring to, who are still in our country, can be facilitated and accommodated.

I commend the Minister on the JobBridge scheme. It is an excellent scheme. I have first-hand knowledge of it. More than 17,000 people have availed of it since its inception. If we are to believe the statistics, and I have no reason not to, three out of five have got employment and I commend everybody involved in it. The Minister mentioned that 6,000 young people are engaged in Youthreach. If the Government had not cut the budget for Youthreach by 25% we could have 12,000 young people involved in the programme which is an excellent programme of education and training. We could have 6,000 more than we have now, and there is a long waiting list to get on the programme. The Minister mentioned the back to education programme, another excellent programme in which 6,000 young people are involved. Again the budget was cut by 25%. If it was increased by 25%, that scheme could cater for 12,000 young people.

The Minister also referred to FÁS. Again, 6,000 young people received training and apprenticeships. However, again, that budget was slashed by 30%. Had it been increased by 30% we would have an additional 6,000 young people on it. They are the true facts. That is the reality. It is time this Government woke up to the reality of the situation. I know money is tight, but to cut budgets for vulnerable young people involved in Youthreach, the back to education allowance and FÁS schemes is totally unacceptable. To pay lip service to it is not acceptable to me or my party. I commend Senator Reilly for putting forward this motion. We will fully support it. I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy McGinley, to the House.

Photo of Catherine NooneCatherine Noone (Fine Gael)
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I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I acknowledge the work of the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, in this area. I commend Senator Reilly who has been very vocal on this issue for some time and I am happy to see she has tabled her motion here today. Money is tight, that is for sure, and the reason it is tight is because Fianna Fáil was in power recently. I have great respect for Senator Wilson, but it is difficult when one is on the Government side to hear talk of our cutting budgets which we do not want to cut and very difficult decisions being made because of the situation we are in.

I am not one who subscribes to constantly reminding Fianna Fáil of what it did wrong but that is the reality.

There is no disputing the fact that youth unemployment has reached crisis level in most EU states with more than one in five young Europeans currently out of work. Currently, Ireland has the fifth highest rate of youth unemployment in the eurozone after Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy. However, it must be noted, as stated by Senator Marie Moloney, that the latest CSO figures are positive in the sense that the number of youth unemployed dropped by almost 9,000 in 2012 on the same time in 2011. As others have said this drop can be partially attributed, unfortunately, to emigration but it attests to the success of initiatives such as Youthreach, the vocational training opportunities scheme and the back to education allowance programme. What is not in dispute is that the uphill battle against the scourge of youth unemployment remains. In light of this today's announcement that Cloud computing firm Citrix is to create 50 new jobs in Dublin following unprecedented customer demand is timely. The importance of training young people in the new wave technology cannot be overstressed. As we are all aware, Dublin has become a major hub for technology companies in Europe. Facebook, Google and LinkedIn all base themselves here. Other home-grown successes in this space include Paddy Power.

As I highlighted when I spoke previously on this issue, the major challenge facing the technology industry is the shortage of graduates. The skills shortage is the greatest impediment to business growth in the digital sector. We need to address this issue as a matter of urgency. We must ensure that the new technology universities have IT skills to the forefront. I wish to reiterate a point I have made previously that we consider having conversation courses in all relevant IT skills such as apt development and programming. This is equally vital at second level. The time has come when Ireland Inc needs to grasp the nettle and introduce a proper IT and programming optional syllabus at junior and leaving certificate levels. By the time it comes to college most people feel IT is not an option because they do not know enough about it or the succession to third level is often reduced to only IT hobbyists whereas it should be an open door for anybody who wishes to pursue it. These measures would greatly assist in killing two birds with the one stone - the technology skills shortage and the youth unemployment crisis.

A fiscal response to the plague of youth unemployment although helpful is not enough. There must also be a social response. I welcome the Government initiatives being rolled out including the JobsPlus initiative which has been designed to encourage employers to recruit long-term unemployed people. Under this scheme, the State will pay approximately €1 of every €4 it costs the employer to recruit a person from the live register. Momentum, which is part of the Government's Action Plan for Jobs initiative, will support the provision of free education and training projects to allow 6,500 long-term jobseekers to gain skills and access work opportunities in identified growing sectors. More than 1,250 of these places are assigned specifically for under 25s. An additional 10,000 places this year across a range of programmes have also been made available by JobBridge, Tús and community employment. About a quarter of these places are expected to be taken up by unemployed young people.

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. We have to hope that this target will be met. It is encouraging that the Department of Finance anticipates that the overall unemployment rate will fall from 14.7% in 2012 to 12.3% in 2016. This could mean that youth unemployment, which fell by 30% in 2012, will fall to 24% or less in 2016.

I believe that the final adoption in February of the EU recommendation on implementing a youth guarantee offers the potential to make a key difference to the lives of millions of young people across Europe and Ireland. We are all in agreement that a central part of the Government's strategy must be a high quality youth guarantee scheme that provides young people with an offer of employment education, particularly in the IT and engineering apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of becoming unemployed. I applaud the Government's progress to date while acknowledging the huge amount of work yet to be done especially in providing and encouraging training in the technology sector where the creation of another 15,000 jobs is a strong possibility.

I commend Senator Katherine Reilly for bringing the motion to the House.

1:50 pm

Photo of Fiach MacConghailFiach MacConghail (Independent)
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Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit McGinley anseo sa Teach. I also acknowledge the response by the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton and do not doubt her bona fides, sincerity or idealism. I applaud to a great extent the JobBridge programme of which I have personal experience. Broadly speaking, the spirit of what it seeks to achieve is commendable and worth praising.

I welcome the Sinn Féin motion and the opportunity to continue to highlight the ever increasing scar on society. The Minister acknowledged this in her contribution when she said that long spells of unemployment have a permanent scarring effect on a person's life. The statistics and the points which have been highlighted in the Sinn Féin motion are stark and dispiriting. It is true, in fairness, that the Government has prioritised youth unemployment as an issue to be addressed during the Irish Presidency of the European Union. I commend the Government's role under Ireland's Presidency that the European Union has agreed a recommendation for a youth guarantee. As has been explained earlier, each member state should guarantee each unemployed person, under the age of 25 years, a job, training or education opportunity within four months of registration with the employment services. At present, the youth guarantee is supported by the allocation of €6 billion at EU level under the multi-annual financial framework. I understand from the Government's amendment to the motion that Ireland has applied for advance funding as part of an EU pilot initiative to support the implementation of a youth guarantee project in Ballymun. I also noted from the Minister's comments that she is talking to other organisations such as IBEC and the National Youth Council of Ireland. As there is no indication in her contribution, what is the timeline for this pilot scheme? Will it happen this year or in 2014? The Minister said it is intended to produce a concrete plan for the implementation of the guarantee before the end of 2013. That says very little. What I think it means is that a plan will be established in 2013 but maybe the pilot scheme will not start until 2015 or 2016. I seek clarification on that issue.

I do not want to get bamboozled with the various sets of data and figures that Sinn Féin and the Government amendment have put forward. However, whatever we agree on, even if it shows a decrease, the number of unemployed young people under 25 years of age is too high. The Government contends that the figure has fallen at about 30%. However, we have still the fifth highest rate of youth unemployment in Europe after Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy. That has not changed. Some 80% of the young are not in education, employment or training making us the fourth highest in the EU. These figures are stark. I do not want to slice and dice them but commend Sinn Féin for acknowledging and bringing them forward in this debate.

I am disappointed that in the Government's amendment and the Minister's contribution there is no mention of emigration. This is the elephant in the room. Its omission in the amendment is symbolic of the abuse we all feel when speaking of emigration.

The scar repeats itself from generation to generation. It is disappointing that the word was not mentioned by the Government in the Minister's speech or the amendment.

2:00 pm

Photo of Fiach MacConghailFiach MacConghail (Independent)
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I was not speaking about the Senator, but the Minister's notes and the Government amendment.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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Senator Moloney is not in government yet.

Photo of Marie MoloneyMarie Moloney (Labour)
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No, but the Minister did mention it.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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Senator Mac Conghail without interruption.

Photo of Fiach MacConghailFiach MacConghail (Independent)
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I am referring to the notes that the Minister supplied.

The plays of Tom Murphy have such resonance for today's audiences because they deal with the disease of emigration. There is no acknowledgment that emigration has played an important part in the falling unemployment rates. According to the National Youth Council of Ireland, NYCI, the Government is failing to address youth emigration adequately or to support the needs of young people who are leaving the country in search of work. This makes the Government amendment dispiriting. A poll of 1,003 people carried out by RedC on behalf of the NYCI found that one in four people had a close family member emigrate in the past two years. Half of all people aged between 18 and 24 years and still living in Ireland have considered emigrating while four out of ten people aged between 25 and 34 years have considered moving abroad. Some 41% of those considering emigration stated that they would leave because they were unemployed. When asked whether the Government was addressing the issue of youth unemployment adequately, 83% disagreed and 85% replied that not enough was being done to tackle the problem of youth emigration. This proves my point about the Government's amendment to the Sinn Féin motion.

In a separate report, the National Economic and Social Council, NESC, presents a similar and equally disturbing picture. It points out the recession's negative impact on the young, who have been most deeply affected by the jobs crisis. The national unemployment level remains close to 15% while the youth unemployment level is just below 30%, albeit depressed by emigration. In Limerick, the figure is 50%, which is just above Donegal's figure of 49% and Wexford's figure of 47%. What emerges from this report is the high price paid by the younger age groups for the financial crash and the necessary ensuing fiscal adjustment. The high rate of youth unemployment risks the creation of a jobless generation with worrying social consequences.

The UN's most recent report on world youth unemployment reads: "With almost 74 million people in the 15 to 24 age group unemployed around the world, translating into a 12.4 per cent unemployment rate for this subset, job prospects for the world's younger workers are looking increasingly bleak". We understand that this is not a national-----

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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The Senator's time has concluded.

Photo of Fiach MacConghailFiach MacConghail (Independent)
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It is almost up.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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The Senator respects the time.

Photo of Fiach MacConghailFiach MacConghail (Independent)
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In Ireland, figures published last week put youth unemployment at 15.9%.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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I will bring the curtain down quickly.

Photo of Fiach MacConghailFiach MacConghail (Independent)
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David McWilliams has stated that, unless we resolve this issue, the scar will continue. I thank the Acting Chairman for being flexible and giving me a couple of seconds more than the six minutes.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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The Senator must fine-tune his timing.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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I wish to share time with Senator Conway.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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Is that agreed? Agreed. The Senators will have six minutes, some three minutes each.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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I welcome the Minister of State. This is an important subject. The Minister for Social Protection outlined the importance that the Government placed on youth unemployment and unemployment generally. Unemployment has been the Government's main focus since entering office, as demonstrated by the Action Plan for Jobs and our strong economic activity. The Government has managed to stabilise the economy after it was put into freefall a few years ago. The Government has, in difficult circumstances,-----

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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The Progressive Democrats played a part.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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Exactly. That is why I am saying this. I tell the truth in politics and, unlike you when you stand up and ask why we have lost jobs, I am prepared to explain why.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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Through the Chair, is Senator Keane-----

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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I am prepared to acknowledge the truth.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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On a point of order, Senator Keane has stated that, unlike me, she tells the truth. I want her to withdraw that comment.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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Senator Wilson was criticising this Government for having lost all of the jobs. I am taking half of the blame for being a part of the last Government, which lost all of the jobs,-----

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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On a point of order, Senator Keane accused me of telling untruths.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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-----particularly in the construction industry.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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One moment, please. We must make the record clear. Senator Keane might have inadvertently made a comment that I do not believe she meant. One could not refer to Senator Wilson in terms of untruths.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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He does not tell lies. I did not say that he did, but that I was acknowledging the facts.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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The Senator stated that, unlike me, she told the truth.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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"You do not acknowledge the facts" differs from "You are telling lies".

(Interruptions).

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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I will withdraw my statement that the Senator does not acknowledge the facts.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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I am sorry, but that Senator Keane-----

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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The facts speak for themselves.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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-----is trying to deny the fact that she was in the Progressive Democrats has upset me too much.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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The people acknowledged the facts the last time out.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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Senator Keane has withdrawn her comments. It is on the record.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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I accept the withdrawal.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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I have wasted my three minutes. Senator Conway, might I-----

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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Through the Chair, please. The Senators cannot dialogue.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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I will return to the important business of youth unemployment. The Minister, Deputy Burton, outlined the size of the problem, but it is being tackled by the Government. I congratulate the Minister on the EU initiative that is being advanced. She said much about it. Unemployment is being tackled on an EU-wide basis. As it is such an important issue, the Irish Presidency of the EU has made it a priority. The Minister outlined that, in chairing previous and upcoming meetings, ensuring that young people are returned to work is a priority for her. The EU takes the issue of youth unemployment seriously. Ireland has driven this area and is working with Ministers from various member states on the €6 billion employment initiative which will target the most affected regions to return young people to work. The youth guarantee scheme offers people aged between 18 and 24 years the chance to return to work.

This is not the only initiative undertaken by the Government. As Senator Clune stated,-----

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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I have given Senator Keane injury time, but her time has concluded. I call on Senator Conway.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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I wasted time. The figures will speak for themselves. I hope that Senator Conway will address them.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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Let them speak for themselves.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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Tá fáilte roimh on Aire Stáit isteach. It is wholly appropriate and commendable that Sinn Féin would use its Private Members' time to highlight this issue. No Government, including this one, is above criticism. Regardless of what is done in terms of job creation, more should be done. It is the No. 1 issue in Ireland, as the Minister of State is keenly aware. He comes from an area that has suffered significantly from emigration. Although he may not have mentioned it yet, he has seen that suffering along the west coast from County Donegal to County Clare.

This morning, I spoke at a conference in Croke Park. The level of unemployment among minority groups, such as people with disabilities, is remarkably high and above the European average. It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the presence of the Clare Comhairle na nÓg in the public Gallery. Its members are young people with their futures ahead of them and they are deeply concerned about job opportunities.

I commend the Government on micro-managing a resolution to this horrific issue. The Action Plan for Jobs contains initiatives that have been fine-tuned and are determined by the requirements that need to be met when creating jobs. The plan is reviewed on a three-month basis. A new jobs initiative is launched each year. The plan has met with tangible success.

I commend the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton, on leading many trade delegations to various parts of the world, particularly the US. These have resulted in significant job announcements. I commend the tourism industry, which has borne the brunt of some of the harshest job losses. We are seeing green shoots. The Gathering is one of the most phenomenal tourism initiatives in which the country has ever engaged. All stakeholders have bought into it. I am not just referring to the tourism industry, but also to local authorities and the Government.

It was a very focused and determined marketing drive that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of extra people visiting the country. Every week for the past number of months we have seen major international conferences held in Dublin, and I commend my colleague, Senator Cáit Keane, for initiating one of those international conferences which took place in Dublin Castle last weekend. Hundreds of people from all over Europe attended a conference in that instance which made very interesting recommendations.

2:10 pm

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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The Senator's time is up.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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That is the type of action that creates jobs. It is on the ground and micro-managing an issue. We need to see enterprise, employment and business nurtured and we need the stranglehold of red tape in this country dealt with. We must see a position where the banks would be more flexible towards business, and I know the Government, behind the scenes, is doing much in collaboration with the Central Bank and banks in general to ensure funds will be released to facilitate the creation of jobs in the funding of small business.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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The time is nigh.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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Before concluding, I must point out that there is much happening and the House has a role to play in job creation. Time should be put aside for a rolling debate every few months so that we can air ideas that could ultimately create jobs.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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I welcome the group from Clare to the Gallery. One of their colleagues has been speaking.

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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I wish to share time with Senator Mooney, who will speak first.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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I am grateful to Senator Barrett. I wish I could share the enthusiasm and confidence of Senator Keane and others on the other side that Europe is somehow solving the problem of youth unemployment. In reality, Europe is making a complete hames of addressing the problem of youth unemployment and despite several initiatives, the youth unemployment rate - which is bad enough in this country - is soaring to over 50% in Spain, Portugal, Italy and other southern countries. If we are to solve youth unemployment in this country, we will have to try to do it ourselves, and I compliment the Government on the initiatives it is taking, notwithstanding the difficult period we are in.

I do have a gripe. There are a great many multinationals in this country constantly being presented as salvation in our economic problems. Why do these multinationals seem to have a high number of vacancies while not taking on graduates coming from third level colleges? They have stated that the companies cannot get experienced personnel but what is to stop the Government from imposing a quota for taking in graduates coming from third level colleges and training them? This is instead of having to go across the world to import workers into the country. We have one of the highest participation rates at third level in Europe at between 40% and 45%, when the European average is approximately 25% to 30%. I am sure Senator Barrett will correct me if I am wrong. Nevertheless, part of the reason we have a youth unemployment problem is that youths cannot get work in their own country and, as Senator Mac Conghail noted, those who feel they have an opportunity to find work abroad are emigrating.

A photograph appeared in the Irish Independent only two weeks ago, following London's defeat of Sligo in the Connacht championship. The caption included not only the names of the team but the occupations they held; some 12 of the 15 players were involved in the construction sector, and they were all Irish-born people who emigrated. These youths were plumbers, carpenters and civil engineers. The collapse has occurred in the construction sector since 2008 and there is a real need for the Government to upskill and retrain those people. I would love to get an answer on why some responsibility is not placed on multinationals by the Government to introduce some sort of a quota system for graduates coming out of college.

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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I join with those who have thanked our Sinn Féin colleagues for putting down this motion, as it is very important that we discuss these matters. Our problem is that we have an "insider-outsider" labour market and it is all designed to protect those with jobs. The people outside have borne the burden, with 143,000 people under 25 emigrating in the last four years. We would be in Greece's position if that emigration had not happened. We are locked into a fixed exchange rate with Germany, along with Greece and Spain, and I do not see Europe as the solution to this either. The euro is a fundamentally flawed concept and countries like ours are bearing the burden. Why did we sleepwalk into the currency nine or ten years ago? Such questions must be asked as we are now having an internal devaluation, which means marginalised people in the labour force are bearing the burden.

My time is limited. On page 37 of the Book of Estimates from the Taoiseach's Department, there is an indication that the number of staff went down by 7% and the wage bill went up by 2%; that amounts to 9% per head extra for the people in the Taoiseach's office. There was a similar pattern in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, where the wage bill went down by 3% and the number of people working there went down by 8%, which is a 5% real increase. In the health Department, staff numbers decreased by 4.7% but salaries have increased by 5%, which is a real increase of between 9% and 10%. That is what social partnership and benchmarking achieved. It gave us the most expensive people in jobs and excluded all the others, who were priced out of the labour market.

I welcome the Minister of State but he must reaffirm the reform agenda. We are approximately half way through the term of the Oireachtas and all the reforms in the manifestos have not been implemented in the Taoiseach's Department, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation or in health. The IMF has been particularly critical of the health sector. We do not yet have proper banks because of the legacy of bad capital appraisal, benchmarking, social partnership and the insider-outsider labour market. All of these problems are being borne by young people. We should reform and stop the platitudes that we might have a few shillings to throw at young people after we have destroyed so much of the economy because of misguided policies.

This Government badly needs to create a Government economics service to ensure we run many policies far better. We must tidy up the absolute destruction that bad economic policies have brought about. The process is still geared to giving much money to people in jobs, particularly in Departments, although I am sure if we went through the Estimates for 2013, we could see it happened across the board. We do not have a value for money culture and the burden is being borne by people outside.

Senator Conway and others have mentioned tourism but Oireachtas research has shown that Ireland is increasingly being perceived increasingly as bad value for money. The tourism sector must bear on its shoulders the excess costs we have spoken about and we have an horrendous sheltered sector that makes life in the unsheltered sector of the Irish economy so difficult. The results have been mass emigration and unemployment.

Photo of Mary MoranMary Moran (Labour)
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I welcome the Minister of State to the House. Youth unemployment continues to be a main priority of the Government in its efforts to deal with job creation and getting people back to work. At the outset I acknowledge the work of my party colleague, Ms Emer Costello, MEP, who has worked tirelessly on the youth guarantee at the European Parliament. Since taking office, she has relentlessly pursued the issue and was instrumental in bringing forward the youth guarantee. I also commend the Minister, Deputy Burton, for her speech today and for her work and dedication to youth unemployment. Although it was noted otherwise, emigration was referred to.

The Labour Party is taking the youth unemployment issue very seriously and we are committed to finding viable solutions to rectify the problem. Reputable organisations like the National Youth Council of Ireland have strongly welcomed the youth guarantee and I eagerly await the decision at EU level for advanced funding for the pilot initiative to be introduced at Ballymun. The youth guarantee offers the person aged 18 to 24 a job, work experience, apprenticeship, training or combined work and training within a defined period after leaving school or becoming unemployed.

I recognise the programme has issues that must be addressed, and my biggest concern is that the programme is adequately funded. We must also be aware that additional measures to support the youth of Ireland and long-term unemployed young people should be within the guarantee. This problem cannot be solved with one initiative but it will be done through a combination of efforts across all Departments.

The situation will take a multidimensional approach. There has been much talk about youth unemployment and I welcome the opportunity to have this debate and thank my Sinn Féin colleagues for bringing this motion before the House. The Government has taken actions within the action plan for jobs 2013, pathways to work strategies and by prioritising the youth guarantee at European level. I welcome each of these initiatives on the part of the Government but believe we can do more. This problem is seeing our young people leave our shores at such an alarming rate while many who stay face a life of few options and exist on social welfare. As I said previously, I encourage all Departments to work on a cross-departmental basis to find new and further innovations to deal with the problem. I urge the Members of this House to work on a cross-party basis to come up with further motions and ideas where we can move forward. We must not forget to continue to prioritise this at European level after we have passed on the European Presidency. It is important to continue to highlight this and remind our EU colleagues of the difficulties we face in Ireland.

This morning I was listening to the radio and heard a segment from the German ambassador to Ireland and he admitted that for Germany to do well, its neighbours must also do well. Addressing the youth unemployment crisis would be instrumental to our recovery process and the health of our European counterparts. We must be vigilant abroad and I recognise that many of our representatives at European level are already raising the important issue for Ireland. I welcome the opportunity to speak on this extremely relevant and continuing issue. I hope we can build on this debate, work across Departments and parties to ensure the youth guarantee works and we can reduce the rate of youth unemployment.

2:20 pm

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Sinn Fein)
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I commend the youngest Oireachtas Member, Senator Reilly, for bringing forward this important motion and for her excellent articulation of the issues affecting young people. It was a very strong performance. I read an article in one of the national newspapers today and it mentioned an exchange yesterday in the Seanad, which was unfortunate. The same article referred to the fact that the vast majority of people outside the Seanad would not be able to name a handful of Senators. The media is partly responsible for that because it does not cover many of the excellent debates we have here in the Seanad. In this case a Senator organised a conference that was a mix of organisations representing young people from this State and Europe to come together and discuss ideas on how we can create jobs, assist young people, support the Government on the youth guarantee and ensure we have the best possible model for people, and to take those ideas into the Seanad and have a discussion with the Minister. As the Minister can see, the members of the media are not interested in that, but that is their problem. We will get on with our work in this House. I commend Senator Reilly for bringing forward this very important motion.

Despite the fact that the Minister got off to a bad start in her contribution, I strongly agree with and support her conclusions where she says the youth guarantee in Ireland will make a real difference to the many talented young people. She spoke about young people being innocent victims of the boom-to-bust legacy and that this has been exacerbated by a lack of opportunities to match their ambition. We would all agree with that. We want to be able to ensure when our graduates come out of colleges with ambition, the opportunities are there for them. That is not the case for a lot of young people.

The Minister mentioned emigration and it is a blot on all of our copybooks that it is affecting another generation of young Irish people, graduates of colleges at a high cost to their families and the taxpayers of this State who put people through colleges to get the education they want. They have the talent, energy, enthusiasm, but unfortunately, for many of them the only opportunities are in America, New Zealand, Australia, the UK or wherever, and not here in this country. Anything we can collectively do to provide opportunities for those young people is to be welcomed.

The Minister mentioned apprenticeships. We need to fundamentally re-examine this because, unfortunately a perception, a prejudice even, about apprenticeships has built up in this country. Some people and employers look down on apprenticeships and do not value them. The Minister acknowledged the problems we had in the apprenticeship schemes during the Celtic tiger years and afterwards, when people dropped out. Other European countries do apprenticeships much better than we do. The Germans, for example, strongly value it. There are very strong, robust connections between industry and the apprenticeship schemes, and not just in manufacturing but also in food production, dairy, ICT and a range of sectors where we do not look at apprenticeships. We have internships, but we need apprenticeships that offer young people jobs and a training element. We need to go back and examine the apprenticeship model in this country and value them more because there is a lot more we can do to encourage business to ensure there is ongoing training and innovation in companies, which supports employees and young people.

Youth entrepreneurship is very valuable. I am one who places great faith in creativity, innovation, thinking outside the box and encouraging young people to be part of that. That could be done in secondary schools. There is much more we can do to foster innovation in secondary schools and enable young people who show innovation, who are creative and want to set up their own businesses, to do so. We could also encourage people who have made it, successful businesses, to get the message across to them that it is in their interests-----

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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In accordance with an order of the House I have to call Senator Reilly to reply.

Photo of Kathryn ReillyKathryn Reilly (Sinn Fein)
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I thank all the Senators for their kind words. I thank the Leader, Senator Cummins, for facilitating this debate. I thank the Minister for taking part, Senators Power, Clune, van Turnhout, Moloney, Wilson, Noone, Mac Conghail, Keane, Conway, Mooney, Barrett, Moran and my Sinn Féin colleagues, Senators Ó Clochartaigh and Cullinane. One of the important things about this debate is that we always remember that what matters going forward is not the label guarantee but what we have in the youth guarantee.

I agree, and everybody would agree, with the Minister that long spells of unemployment cause permanent scars, especially for young people. In her contribution she said youth unemployment can be expected to fall relatively rapidly when recovery takes hold but, as a number of Senators reiterated here today, the implementation of this guarantee in Ireland needs to happen as a matter of urgency, given our high levels of youth unemployment. As I said, the issues cannot be put on a waiting list until the economic situation improves.

I asked a question on the role of the Department of Social Protection in the youth guarantee and I was definitely not questioning the Minister's bona fides and her dedication in terms of piloting and making this the flagship project of the Irish Presidency. I was questioning why the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation had not been taking a greater role. There were many questions, especially in terms of the youth organisations, when there is a lot of talk about back-to-work jobs anchored in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. I was not questioning the Minister's bona fides in that respect; it was just a question on the rationale for having the Department of Social Protection anchoring it instead of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

I support the Minister's comments on the inclusivity of the guarantee and Senator Conway touched on it in terms of high levels of unemployment among other groups, especially people with disabilities. At the round-table discussion of the conference I attended this morning someone mentioned people who have left school by the age of 16. As the youth guarantee scheme does not kick in until they are 18, what happens for those two years for those people who are not in employment, education or training? We need to go further to try to assist these people in that age group between 16 and 18 years.

I welcome the support of Fianna Fáil. Senator Power mentioned that statistics do not capture the picture of emigration and they are silently unaccounted for. Senator Mac Conghail went into emigration again and it is important. Senator Power mentioned that we need to put our heads together on this issue at a continental level and I made that point in terms of how we move towards the €6 billion that has been earmarked at EU level towards the International Labour Organisation, ILO, target of €21 billion.

It requires greater thinking. That is why EU leadership has to come forward. I hope the initiative being brought forward by Angela Merkel on 3 July will go some way to expanding on the €6 billion and put a proper concerted effort into this issue. If we do not put the resources in now it could fall on its face. We do not want it to be just the label "guarantee" with measures which are not up to scratch. That is very important.

2:30 pm

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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According to the rule of the House, as it is now 4.30 p.m. the Senator's time has expired. I thank the Senator for her contribution.

Photo of Kathryn ReillyKathryn Reilly (Sinn Fein)
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I thank Senators for their contributions.

Amendment put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 26; Níl, 16.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden; Níl, Senators David Cullinane and Kathryn Reilly.

Amendment declared carried.

Question put: "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to."

The Seanad divided: Tá, 28; Níl, 15.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden; Níl, Senators David Cullinane and Diarmuid Wilson.

Question declared carried.

Sitting suspended at 4.50 p.m. and resumed at 5 p.m.