The government offers this generation of young people three choices for the future; unemployment, emigration or low paid, yellow pack jobs. Since the outbreak of the crisis, young people have been hammered by the government in the form of vicious cuts to education, training and social welfare. The fact that the establishment chooses to attack the living standards of young people instead of investing in their potential doesn’t come as a shock to anybody. But the criminal waste of a generation’s talent and ability is a damning indictment of the system.
This is to be found in the jobs crisis which has severely hit young people. With the second highest youth unemployment rate in Europe, a staggering 74,400 workers under 25 are living on the dole. One in three young males are officially unemployed, with many more working only part time or three day weeks.
Of course the unemployment figures would be far higher was it not for the 60,000 young people who were forced to leave the country last year. Like a turning back of the clock, mass emigration is a reality once again as another 40,000 are expected to go abroad in search of work this year.
The sum total of the government’s plan to tackle youth unemployment is a work placement program with a meagre 2,000 places and only 250 places are for non graduates. Now considering the amount of young people who have lost their jobs in construction industry and the fact that construction workers tend not to be graduates, this scheme seems like a bad joke.
The result of this human catastrophe is a sense of desperation and anxiety among a section of young people who are willing to make huge sacrifices in order to get a job or even just experience. An example of this desperation can be found in the young men interviewed by RTE’s Prime Time one of whom even considered joining the British Army to get a job, even if it meant having to fight in Afghanistan! The sacrifices being made, include working for low pay, worsened conditions or even for free.
This all plays right into the hands of the bosses who are more than happy to use the crisis and mass unemployment to force down wages, including the minimum wage. IBEC’s latest stunt Gradlink, is essentially a way to make vulnerable young people work for their paltry dole, undercut the pay of workers and make plenty of money for the bosses – no flies on them.
Over the course of the boom and into the recession, the government and the employers have been two steps ahead of the trade union movement all the way. The lack of organisation among young workers in unions is a crucial factor in the ability of the establishment to continue with their agenda.
The union movement should vigorously oppose any schemes that would see young people work for little or nothing and cut across existing wage rates. A campaign should be launched to unionise young workers. Young people themselves have to get organised to fight for decent jobs, wages and conditions and shoot down the future they are offering us – it’s not theirs to give!