FIRSTLY, A CAVEAT: this is one side of a many-sided argument, a quadruple dodecahedron. Everyone has been hit hard by the recession – well almost everyone – however I am not everyone, only a tiny percentage of a generation. A mere little fingernail of the country.
So, youth unemployment is over 24%, the national average is 14%, we’re in a puddle and it’s not full of water. Basically there are no jobs for new graduates, school leavers and the under-30s. But it’s not just lack of employment affecting this age group, of which I am one. I am becoming convinced the Government is trying to get rid of us: it’s Operation Emigration.
The first sign was last year, when students waited for college grants. They waited and they waited. Angry colleges full of angry students up and down the country waited for the non-existent cash to come like a deluded contestant on Deal or No Deal.
Third level maintenance grants were first on his list when Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn was faced with cutting €44 million from his departmental budget last year. While college is undoubtedly a privilege, it is, we are told, the way to employment. Yet we’re sabotaged from the beginning by creating our own piles of debt before we even get to an interview.
The Jetsons, the old Hanna Barbera space family on the telly used to fly around in personal spaceships in a vision of the future. Now though, owning a car has become a distant dream let alone a house or a 3D HD telly. A debt pile is about the only sizeable thing we will ever own.
Then there was the introduction of the JobBridge scheme, the answer to our unemployed prayers, which offered menial jobs in return for minimal pay and the promise you would have something to put on your CV even if you didn’t actually have a job at the end of it. Joan Burton’s labour of love was reported to have a 75% dropout rate in 2012. The figures showed that of those remaining in the system, 38% got jobs, but that wasn’t to say they were with the companies for which they had been interns.
It’s fair to say McDonald’s has better employment policies than our Minister for Social Protection. They are willing to train their workers with City of Guilds qualifications while actually paying them to work, because the corporate monster realises you have to invest in people. Of course not investing in people is the perfect way to wave them off; ‘Sorry about that, we could have tried harder, but you know, we couldn’t really be bothered. See you, off you go, go on, BUGGER OFF!’
Cuts, cuts, cuts
Then budget cuts were announced. What joy, a blow to anyone in receipt of benefits and particularly hard on the young. From 14 January all new Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants under 25 with no kids will receive no more than €100, whilst those already on the allowance will see no increase in their rate. Yet, according to the bigwigs in Leinster House, the economy is on the up. The ministers must have mistaken their giant holiday fund a s a thermometer for the economy. It’s an easy mistake to make.
Joan Burton hoped cuts to the social welfare system would reduce the “culture of dependency” that had apparently appeared. Poor Joan must live in some dole-youth ghetto, afraid to peek past her curtains. The only dependency our generation has is an inherited one.
Dear Joan, my problem is my country has no respect for me or my ideas. I’m constantly battered down by some misplaced perception that I skip to the dole queue and then skip into the off-licence to buy vast amounts of nuclear coloured spirits before hurling abuse at buses full of commuters who do something so silly as work when they could get the dole! What can I do?
To which the reply would be: leave.
‘If I were young, I would leave’
And so the only things that could possibly brighten our darkening days are the glowing posters of distant shores. Australia and Canada have been marketed like cake to a Weight Watchers meeting. It’s just there, you can take it, go on. GET OUT. “If I were young, I would leave” I often hear as I walk down the street like the condemned. But what if I don’t want to? What if I love this country? It’s where my family are and where, I hope, one day things will be better. In fact I hear these whispers so frequently I’m beginning to fear government spies have been tasked to follow me.
What’s most ironic really is that in stripping the country of its young, willing, educated and able they are actually removing the government leaders of the future. Perhaps that’s the point, Enda’s committing a Herod-like cull of anyone that might challenge him and his healthy pension.
Maybe it’s just me – perhaps I’m paranoid – but budgets, bridges and Burton all together, it does look a bit like the Government is trying to give us the shove. Doesn’t it?
Kate Bellamy is a TV and features writer online and in print in Ireland and the UK writing on contemporary women’s issues and television – where possible combining the two. Kate was shortlisted for the Vogue Young Writers Talent Contest this year. She can found tweeting @_KateMate.