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Youth unemployment getting worse in the Liberties

“To be honest, being young now, is tough and hopefully, we will see an improvement soon,” says 19-year-old John*.

He has been unemployed for two years now after his employer dismissed him “because of the economic downturn.” According to John these last two years have been “really degrading.” He lost contact with his friends. Sometimes he didn’t get out of his bed for several days because there was nothing to do.

One in Four is Unemployed

Like him, one in four Irish people under 25 are searching for a job. The number of young people signing on the Live Register (based on statistics from the CSO) has more than doubled over the last two years. The reality for young people in the Liberties reflects this. Here, youth unemployment has doubled as well. While there were only 370 young people in Dublin 8 signing on the Live Register at the end of 2007, this group has now increased to nearly 770.

“The Liberties is an area where we find a lot of families that don’t have a ‘culture of education.’ It’s a kind of vicious circle. Parents don’t work. And their children don’t know why to go on to further education because they don’t see any goals to reach,” says Joe Gallagher, Director of the Liberties Community Training Agency.

His agency, situated in Oliver Bond Street, offers early school leavers training, education and help with job placement. For example, young people can study catering, engineering, fitness instruction or computer skills there.

In former years about 50 per cent of the people leaving the agency were able to find a job. But after the recession things have changed. Last year only 20 out of 60 people found a job and only 12 went on to further education. This year, until the end of March, none of the 11 people leaving the agency could find a job.

Unemployed Now – Unemployed Later?

“The local industry is not as vibrant as it used to be,” says Gallagher. Companies situated in the Liberties like Subway or St. James’s Hospital still cooperate with the agency. But today, they often employ people who are higher qualified.

“They have a wider choice,” says Gallagher.

John is also worried about this. He now participates in a Support Training and Enterprise Programme (STEP) at the YMCA.

“We try to upskill now. But when we are upskilled, there will be other ‘fresh’ people coming out of school or college. And it’s probably them who will then get the job,” he says.

And unfortunately, John is right in a way. As British data indicate, people who were unemployed in their mid-20s were more likely to be unemployed later in life, having lower wealth and generating lower wage.

“Being unemployed for some time makes it very difficult to break into the market again,” says Mary Upton, Labour Party TD for Dublin South Central. For her, the biggest challenge is to re-educate those people who, in the past, worked in the construction industry. For Angus O’Snódaigh, Sinn Féin TD for this area, the solution to youth unemployment in the Liberties is to “harness the imagination of the youth.” In his opinion, more should be done to encourage young people towards the digital media companies that are located in the area in the Digital Hub.

More Money for Job Creation

“With a large proportion of the visitors to Dublin passing through the area to visit Guinness Hopstore and also Kilmainham,” he says, “more could be done to renew the retail area that was once vibrant in and around Thomas Street and Meath Street to capture this passing trade, with a greater encouragement of traditional arts and crafts.”

In general, both politicians believe that more money should be provided to drive job-creation because, as Mary Upton puts it, “it is counterproductive to allow people to go on the dole, when it would cost about the same amount to provide a basic job.”

More money for further programmes against unemployment – this is what James Doorley, Assistant Director of the National Youth Council, has demanded for a long time. But the answer by the government is according to him always the same: no money. “We accept that there is a crisis of funding,” he says, “but young people are as important for our economy as the banks. But we found billions to deal with the banks. So we have to find some money to deal with the unemployment issue.”

The National Youth Council is now trying to create a strategy against youth unemployment to provide the government with some ideas to encounter the issue. In the meantime, John hopes that after his YMCA training programme he will be able to at least find an internship to gain work experience “because being unemployed without having a daily task is something I don’t really want to experience again.”

* Names of the young people we talked to are changed.

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