As the government talks up the rate of job creation, youth unemployment rates remain stubbornly high. Hundreds of thousands have emigrated and many young people continue to leave. Many of those who stay face a difficult job hunt, low pay and insecure contracts. Meanwhile rents are skyrocketing and college fees are increasing.
I did a quick (and crude) survey of younger people's views using Facebook.
Below are some of the replies I received.
I hope by sharing them this helps inform an accurate debate on the various issues.
"I would be of the same opinion of Monbiot in terms of the irish government Men like Cameron, Tony Abbott and Stephen Harper won’t engage in generational struggles with real existential threats – climate breakdown first among them – for fear of alienating their sponsors. They have learnt all the wrong lessons from Churchill’s legacy, seeking to invest themselves with belligerent glory while forgetting his ability, at crucial moments, to place the interests of the nation above the interests of his class.
So, as Hitler is reborn with a thousand faces, a new “struggle of our generation” emerges every six months, and all around us existential crises are ignored. I think the marriage referendum was a turning point in the youth being slightly more engaged but I do feel of all the tens of thousands of graduates that have emigrated they look appallingly on the past government, you don't have to go far to unearth comments and thoughts on it. Robbery, cronyism etc.
I think it will take a while for young people to forgive the property bubble burster and bank bullys
Trust takes while to regain. Now it is excited that there are some phenomenal technology companies in Ireland but a lot of the hires are extremely specialised this attracted foreign hires."
"The department of Social Protection in my experience (and many I know) are not supportive or helpful in actually working with people to gain meaningful employment. You are just a statistic and the assumption is "you're not entitled to anything" UNLESS you prove through all the "hoop jumping" and bureaucracy that you are. I personally don't mind this, i understand it. But many vulnerable people especially younger people are very affected by this approach which causes unnecessary anxiety and frustration at an already difficult time (noone wants to be unemployed).
The mental health consequences of being without purpose are rarely considered. We need proper community support, information and advice on building ones own opportunities. It's not just about "getting a job". The TUS scheme held some promise but is a complete and utter waste of resources and is nothing more than a scheme to sell our young people into slavery and be utterly exploited. The workers have no power in this and have fully agreed with me about this. It could be done in a way that empowers people, gives useful and enjoyable experience while benefiting a host organisation - all of this will lead to developing young peoples professional skills and confidence at less cost than the current waste. Its not about money - its about organisation and in whose interest? At present, increasing employment for the government, is really only about economic advancement not social and personal happiness being increased."
"Both my brother and sister have emigrated to london for work. Coming from a small rural town in Donegal emigration is the norm unfortunately."
"90% of my friends are in employment in Galway. Over five friends have returned home from Canada, Australia and London in the past few months. Both myself and my partner are working in what we want to do right now. There may not be opportunities for exactly what you want to do but there is a huge variety of positions available. Volunteer work and Jobbridge work has increased but is also increasingly brazen. One friend works for free, because in that industry, it us what you have to do to 'get your foot in'."
"Job bridge gateway and internships have made culture of us style free work experience acceptable... Contracts in third level employment non existent..new public sector entrants on lower pay..if didn't have emigration in 2013 it woukd have been 20% unemployment.. 9000 nurses left Ireland in last few years only 500 jobs now..huge issue of low pay and precarious work..community and youth work devastated from cuts..youth facing debt repayments of banking debt in future student fees gone from. 500 to 3000..,generational injustice of burden of Austerity"
"Something I've noticed is that there are young people getting internships, schemes etc. maybe even jobs! However, as they are getting their first job at an older age, they're more anxious and worried about it, and possibly susceptible to more criticism, as there's an expectation on them to just 'know how to work'. I got my first job at 15/16, so work ethic, etiquette, budgeting etc. has been built in at an early age, whereas yp 'these days' are on a scheme after possibly getting a degree (so maybe 20/21), and suddenly thrust into a working environment, more than likely without a mentor (as required on Jobbridge.), and just expected to have 'common sense' and know all about team work and being responsible etc. etc. As for me personally, I did my Jobbridge and was just lucky to get a job after it, as we got a whelp of funding as I was finishing my internship and a vacancy different to my role now came up.
What would have happened if we didn't get that funding? Most entry admin roles are Tus, Jobbridge, or at a push, a part-time position. I'm on the bottom of a rung, looking up, very eager to learn, but my worry now is getting qualified to move up that ladder, or move into a different area without it costing an arm and a leg (in admin role, would like to move into fundraising/campaigns work), so that my skills are relevant and I'm not left trailing behind if I ever do become unemployed again. Even though I'm working full-time now, my finances are stable, but still not able to afford even a shitty little studio apartment so I can live without housemates (that's a different issue altogether but anyhow!).The fear is still there in my head that I'll be unemployed again some day, and that I won't be so lucky next time. Also, the change in circumstances hasn't been fab on my mental health - my volunteering time is 0%, work and college have completely taken over, and volunteering is what I love.
It's an adjustment being on someone else's time, and that fear as mentioned is always there, I have an irrational fear of getting anything wrong, and try to be 100% perfect at all times, and spending any 'downtime' in work doing extra bits of online courses, writing up pretend plans for events/campaigns I'd love to do here, figuring out ways to be more productive and efficient, I just can't relax at all. I'm always stressed and highly strung, it's a definite symptom of being unemployed for so long..... Anyways, that's a ramble. I'm wondering what happened to the Youth Guarantee, seems Govt. just let the 'whole youth unemployment thing' try and sort itself out, and pat themselves on the back when unemployment figures become lower. There hasn't been any real efforts, in my eyes, to tackle youth unemployment. There's a contradiction too, in that, big employers will say that they value experience/soft/interpersonal skills over education, yet I haven't seen any big employers actually contributing to tackling youth unemployment in a practical way?
Oh, another thing!!! The huge contradiction between: focus on the job you want vs. just get a job. On one hand you're criticised for taking a 'shitty' job that won't help you towards your dream job, and then criticised if you're a little picky about what jobs you apply for as you want them to help you towards your dream job. You can't please everyone I guess. End point - don't ever tell anyone you're unemployed - everyone will give you unwanted advice, and possibly be a dick about it."
"While people aren't emigrating in their droves as they were in the last few years to the likes of Australia, Canada etc.. its still not areas like Cootehill's or Gweedores etc that they are getting jobs in.. they still have to migrate to large urban centres. Littel opportunities still outside cities."
"Still a lot of emigration, I have friends still going to Australia, NZ, US, UK and Europe - especially if you want a solid career. General outlook has improved a small (very small) bit here. There's opportunities for work in Ireland, but it tends to be spotty - short terms, not much job security, sporadic work - most of it in the large towns and cities, and most of that in Dublin. The insecurity can be very frustrating, stressful and difficult. Jobbridge has completely undermined the concept of internships, still a lot of very obvious abuse of the system masquerading as being necessary for 'getting your foot in the door'. As for the government, their focus is elsewhere - promoting Ireland, and as we head for an election, promoting themselves. There may be a hope in government that young Irish emigrants will return with skills and experience, but that's a very vague aspiration."
"Hey Ruairi I actually broached this issue with Michael Martin recently at an EU conference here in UCC. It was being advocated by him at the conference that further education (i.e. first/second masters and a PhD) will help tackle youth unemployment here in Ireland. I asked him to consider that jobs are being created by the government in certain sectors and for a certain skillsets. There is increased government investment in the youth enterprise sector with no financial safety net should your risk not work out. Jobs need to be created across a broad range of sectors. Business and state sectors should be encouraged to think outside the box and regard/create a number of job opportunities for young people with informal education, training and youth work/volunteer experience as highly as they do your degree parchment. Young people ought to get work experience as part of their education as early as they can, to build up their record."
I did an interview with Dave Curran from the Inspireland podcast last week (a great guy) and we chatted about love, life, fear and freedom for a full hour. If you're into Podcasting it's on iTunes & should be up on other Apps too. Or you can listen via below link or embedded player.
Or listen via this link: http://inspirelandpodcast.com/2015/07/21/e26-ruairi-mckiernan-on-travelling-fear-mindfulness-embracing-uncertainty/
It took me a while but I finally got there. Myself and Susan were in West Clare last week visiting family and we took the opportunity to visit the inspirational Fergal Smith, a young former professional surfer from Mayo who is blazing a new trail as a community farmer. I first heard about Fergal over a year ago and have been following the progress through a series of impressive online videos that he and his brother produced.
The sun was shining when we arrived at the community garden near Lahinch that Fergal purchased and developed with friends as a local hub for food, learning and sharing.
Fergal gave us a tour of the various plants and crops, their new shed, and the impressive greenhouse that is mostly below ground level so as to prevent frost from killing the crops. He was buzzing telling us about the Tuesday volunteer days and the Friday evening 'cook-ups' where everyone is welcome, including kids who are looked after with special activities for them. There's even been a few evening concerts in the garden.
Fergal told us about the huge groundswell of support he has received for the project. There are the volunteers who give their time, the local farmers who lend their wisdom, the parish priest who has praised the garden from the pulpit. Folk singer Luka Bloom, who lives nearby, even wrote a song about the garden.
Fergal has recently purchased more land and it's clear that his vision holds no bounds. At a time when food and farming is becoming increasingly industrialised and many are leaving farming, his approach is encouraging. It holds out hope of maintaining that ancient connection to the land, and to the idea that food can be local, fresh and grown free from cancerous chemicals and the endless waste of plastic packaging.
We took a box of fresh vegetables home with us to Dublin and ate some of it just 4 hours after it was harvested from the soil. There was no comparison in the taste when compared to sprayed supermarket food that often travels thousands of miles before it gets to our dinner plates. This was food that was alive and you could feel the health kick in every bite.
Fergal is still only in his twenties but has travelled the world and tasted a type of success that others dream of. Now, with his wife and new baby he is focused on a different version of success. One that is about putting down deeper roots, roots that nurture mind, body and soul, while building community and protecting the planet. And thanks to the incredible waves of Ireland's west coast, he still gets to surf lots too.
Our visit was a short one but it uplifted and inspired us. In between all the negative news, it is great to know that there are people like Fergal who are out there who paving forging new paths, following their dreams, and inspiring others to live theirs.
More info: http://www.fergalsmith.com/
Here's to the dreamers
- and the doers!
Various bits of news, photos and updates from Ruairí. More on Twitter and Facebook.