According to CSO figures, unemployment currently stands at 14.72% with only a quarter of the 15-24 year old age group currently in employment. It seems the educated elite workforce that the Irish government preened during the Celtic Tiger era are no longer the attraction to multi-national corporations that they used to be. As companies continue to globalise their operations, the future is bleak for students and young graduates nationwide.
Education in Ireland has seen major changes in recent years. While our universities are still amongst the top ranked within Europe, degrees are holding less and less appeal in the current harsh economic climate. Less than a decade ago, Irish universities were producing some of the finest graduates in the world. This, combined with a highly favourable corporation tax, drew many multi-national corporations (MNC) to Ireland, resulting in excellent jobs for our highly skilled graduates.
However, as globalisation becomes the main aim of MNC’s, formerly attractive countries such as Ireland begin to suffer. Globalisation consists of linking a multitude of communities and expanding the reach of power worldwide. Put simply, it is similar to the idea of an American company designing products in Europe, producing them in Asia, and then selling the products worldwide. Globalisation aims to reduce production, selling, and distribution costs, but at the expense of skilled employees.
One main consequence of the current increases in youth unemployment in Ireland is that of the ‘brain drain’. The Irish government invest considerably in the education and training of Irish citizens, and when those newly graduated young people begin emigrating, this investment is now of benefit to the countries to which Irish-educated citizens are going. UCD Students’ Union Education Officer Shane Comer commented: “It’s a sad state of affairs. Ireland produces some of the best and most qualified graduates in the world and then we see them emigrate to other countries that reap the benefits.”
Between April 2011 and April 2012, emigration reached 87,100, a record high for the current recessionary period, with people under 25 making up 33.76% of this. According to Research and Development Officer for the Public Appointments Service Susan O’Riordan, this emigration is only set to continue: “What will tend to happen will depend on the economic cycle, price of labour, and the cost an employer is willing to pay. Labour is increasingly mobile. For persons with poor educational skills, who do not tend to be employed in MNC’s, the outlook will be bleak.” People will always go where there is work, and for young people, with no family or work ties, emigration will always seem like a viable, and sometimes last choice.
For the young people that remain, the hope of securing a job is fleeting. Both the current and next generation of students are suffering considerably because of the recent cuts to education. University budgets have been slashed, and grant allowances have fallen significantly. It seems that since students are no longer an attraction for business, they are no longer worth the investment. Those from families that would previously have relied on grants to fund their third level education are putting off working towards a degree, while those already in education are choosing to stay within the system for as long as it is financially viable, in the hopes of securing a job upon graduation.
But education is no longer enough when attempting to secure a job. According to O’Riordan, people need to bring more than just a qualification to an interview if they want to land that elusive job. “Attitude, attitude, attitude,” O’Riordan claims, is the key factor businesses are now looking for. “Standards are certainly higher now… People are expected to work harder, longer, for less pay, more tax and fewer benefits.” With an abundance of choice when it comes to filling every available position, companies can afford to be picky, and only accept the best of the best.
O’Riordan believes that personality is now the deciding factor, when qualifications are all of a similar level: “A good work ethic, a good brain, and adding value to a company will always be considered desirable. If you can prove to an interview board that you can apply your skills and knowledge in a practical, productive manner, that will give value to the company, you are on a winner. That evidence can be based on how you approach doing a university project, voluntary work in the community, [or even] a football club.”
Jobs are scarce, and the consistent failure to secure a position can leave young people feeling worthless and desolate. Comer believes that the answer lies in a government that “fosters an environment where graduates can get employment but not get annihilated by a tax system [hitting] lower incomes, where most graduates begin their careers.” O’Riordan echoes this, and states: “A highly educated, young, mobile workforce is unlikely to hang around waiting for things to improve.” If the government do not begin to tackle the issue of youth unemployment, it is highly likely that our young, educated workers will continue to leave us for greener pastures, and better career prospects.