SFA Calls for Action on Youth Employment

Monday, 27 May 2013

SFA Calls for Urgent Action to Address Youth Unemployment

Strong commitment and focus on education, and growth necessary

"Just a quarter of people aged between 15 and 24 are working, down from half before the recession. Active labour policies are only part of the solution, reducing youth unemployment is not possible without a strong commitment and focus on education and growth.” AJ Noonan, Chairman, Small Firms Association.

The Small Firms Association Chairman AJ Noonan has stated that youth unemployment is one of Ireland’s most pressing problems. “In the current economic and financial crisis the lack of job opportunities has impacted on young people more than any other group in Irish society, this is reflected in our high and increasing youth unemployment rates.”

In the years leading up to the bust, there were about 325,000 under-25s employed in the State. At the last count there were just 130,000, meaning that for every 10 jobs that existed at the beginning of 2008, six have disappeared.

“Active labour policies are only part of the solution, reducing youth unemployment is not possible without a strong commitment and focus on education, growth and recovery,” said Noonan.

Noonan highlighted that the action required is both a short term and long term approach:
  • No additional costs on employment in 2013;
  • Optimise the role of industry, in particular small firms, as a driver of sustainable and inclusive growth;
  • Strengthen the quality and relevance of education and training at all levels to reduce mismatches between skills supply and demand;
  • Further reform of the apprenticeship programme to move towards a dual learning system, i.e., greater focus on alternate learning between training institute and industry, with a significant part of the education taking place in the workplace;
  • Create jobs that offer attractive career opportunities for young people.

Noonan highlighted that young people have never been more educated with a large number entering into third level education than in previous decades, however this does not guarantee a smooth transition to working life. “The high levels of youth unemployment stand in sharp contrast to the potential of the young generation, it shows that something is seriously wrong in the functioning of our education system and our labour market.”

“Greater synergies between the world of work and education should be promoted, as a skills workforce is essential for our competitiveness.” Noonan said that the labour market needs should be at the centre of education and apprenticeships. “Practical professional experience needs to be added to the knowledge acquired in the classroom – mismatch between skills supply and demand must be reduced.”

Longer and unpredictable movement to the labour market can have a negative impact on young people’s confidence in the future and in their daily lives, notably in terms of access to a regular income and risk of poverty. Without a job and adequate social protection, more young people are dependent on their families for a longer time.

According to Noonan, if both Government and agencies are forthright in their ambition to address youth unemployment and create jobs then they must do everything to reduce the cost of employment in 2013. “When employment costs rise small firms are less likely to take on new staff. The small business sector is the engine of the economy and it is vital that Government does not undermine its ability to drive growth and create jobs.”

“We have to as a country and society reject the inevitability of a “lost generation”, we can and must create jobs and a working future for our youth. We all need to create a better future – we need to learn from the past, replicate the good and plan for the future. That is the future we must work for, and we must work for it together,” concluded Noonan.


For interviews, please contact: AJ Noonan, SFA Chairman at Tel: 086-2592610.