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Irish economy is 'leaving behind far too many for far too long'

An OECD report published yesterday was critical of attempts to reduce long-term and youth unemployment in Ireland.

Image: Photocall Ireland

THE OECD HAS been critical of Ireland’s efforts to reduce long-term and youth unemployment, saying that the economy is “leaving behind far too many for far too long”.

In a report, the OECD said that, although recovery is reducing unemployment, this is likely to be a gradual process, and people having been unemployed for a long time risk being marginalised and discouraged.

The proportion of young people who are long-term unemployed has increased from 21 per cent in 2007 to close to 50 per cent in 2012.

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Emigration of young workers, skill mismatches and rising inactivity all threaten growth in the years ahead, the report warned.

In particular, persistent long-term unemployment may translate into structural unemployment and contribute to a lost generation of young talent.

Of particular concern, it pointed out, is that 20 per cent of children are living in households where no one works. This is the highest proportion in the EU indicating serious risks of the persistence of social exclusion.

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The report commented that entering the labour market at the current juncture is especially challenging for disadvantaged youth such as school dropouts, young individuals from immigrant background, those living in workless households and those suffering from disabilities.

An increase in the long-term unemployment rate and dependency on social welfare has been linked to a rise in mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse, and an increase in criminal behaviour among young people. However, to date the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and other drugs by Irish youths does not stand out in international perspective and there is no significant evidence of an increase in youth crime.

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Nevertheless, Ireland has one of the highest rates of suicide among youth in Europe, specially for young males and in historical perspective, a link between the unemployment rate and the male suicide rate in younger age groups has been established for Ireland. The OECD said this “demands an increased focus on prevention policies”.

Though the OECD said that “multiple steps in the right direction are being made, it said current plans leave the long-term unemployed without appropriate activation support.

Thus, there is a high risk that these people will be simply left behind as permanent casualties of the recession as new and better qualified jobseekers, including immigrants, take advantage of the recovery.

In its recommendations the report said that policies need to focus more on supporting the long-term unemployed, ensuring people receive appropriate training for the labour market and are not caught in welfare traps.

Read: OECD: Irish economy recovering but government must stick to targets>

Read: Long-term unemployed man “at a loss” after college course cancelled>

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