Private Members' Business. - Youth Policy: Motion (Resumed).

Wednesday, 11 May 1977

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 299 No. 5

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Debate resumed on the following motion:

That Dáil Éireann condemns the Government's neglect of young people as exemplified by its failure to provide adequate employment opportunities for them and by its lack of concern for youth organisation and development generally.

Mr. O'Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  Last night I said that one cannot deal with youth in isolation, that one must tackle the youth unemployment problem as part of the overall national programme or plan to create opportunity. Secondly, I said that one cannot deal with youth unemployment in isolation, that it is part also of the educational programme and I instanced, as effectively as one could in the circumstances, how we in Government, had tailored the direction of education at primary, post-primary and third level towards the opportunity there would be at the end of technology, the National Institution of Higher Education and the National Council for Educational Awards, that young people with third-level qualifications would make the maximum contribution to the development of our society. I noted with regret that, for one reason or another, the Government had changed all that at every stage of the line. Those are fundamental decisions that must be corrected and that hopefully we will correct in the very near future.

Having said all of that, people always tend to ask: What precise plan do you have? I regard the overall plan as being more important but one must have also precise plans to deal with what one might call the immediate emergency of young unemployed [709] people. Perhaps I might be allowed to refer to a written reply given yesterday to a question tabled by Deputy Brennan to the Taoiseach. On the face of it the question might not seem to have much to do with youth unemployment because it asked the Taoiseach the present estimated population of County Donegal. The reply was that reliable information on the population of individual counties is available only for years in which censuses of population had been taken. Therefore the population of County Donegal in April, 1971, was 108,549. There is no reliable information on the population of any county since 1971. If we want to plan for our future economic development we must be able not simply to count heads in Counties Donegal, Tipperary, Kerry, Dublin or Limerick, but to look at the structure of our society—agricultural and industrial—and ensure, as any businessman or farmer must do, that when we plan for the future we know about the present. The Taoiseach, on yesterday's admission, acknowledged that we do not even know the number of people in each county on any reliable basis. He was asked only for the estimated population.

First of all, that regrettable decision would have to be changed and a census taken. I know the political consequences which no doubt were in the Taoiseach's mind—that there would have to be a review of constituencies. If we are to think simply in terms of our narrow interests in this House and ask our economic future, and young people in particular, to suffer because we want to secure our positions on one or other side, it is shameful, and it seems to be the only reason. I am talking of one precise area alone. Let us assume £500,000 for administration, and that is very high—£1 million would employ 1,000 young people at £1,000 per annum for one year. Did someone suggest that we do not need that? Did someone suggest there was any more appropriate activity in which our young people could be involved at present than that of taking a census of this nation, the consequences of which would be a plan for their future? Could there be anything more appropriate? About three times the cost of [710] that advertisement by the Minister for Labour—and I do not know what the cost of that nonsense would be—would have given employment directly to our young people, on the undertaking of a census, if there was any sense of direction or commitment.

If we say it will take six months, then they have £2,000, or 2,000 young people at £1,000. How vital it is that this plan be undertaken because they are the people who will be involved in our future and it would be important to give them even some short-term hope. That is the number one, short-term, emergency proposal shamefully overlooked. I suppose, because of the rather buoyant receipts from the inflationary VAT returns, at present the Government are sorry they did it because they now recognise how important it was. For the sake of that small amount they killed it.

Our young people have a commitment to our society. Fianna Fáil have stated their commitment in relation to our Garda Síochána to maintain order and peace in our society. I carefully avoid using the phrase “law and order” because that has been a term abused from South Africa to the North of Ireland. Perhaps in some people's minds it means what we would all like it to mean but it has been abused to represent, sometimes, the State controlling, directing and disciplining all of us in every aspect of our lives. But I do say the “peace and security” of every citizen in their individual homes. That is a constructive contribution our young people can make, and there are thousands of them at present waiting to get into the Garda Síochána. An extra 500 of them are to be taken into the force to be able to contribute to the welfare of our society and pay taxes accordingly. I know that in Templemore, in my constituency, where these people should be trained they are not being trained. We are still waiting for them. The position of Fianna Fáil is quite clear on that: we will, as a matter of emergency—because it is an emergency—correct that.

Then there were the emergency economic proposals we made—and I am including them all in the context of my general comments—[711] which would be related to community youth projects. We have the example of Canada and what they have achieved there. When we stated this in our economic emergency document we had studied the Canadian precedent. Young people are at present creating opportunities for themselves in projects, such as those going on in this city under which our young boys and girls, through the Catholic Youth Council, are providing off-the-street employment, if one wishes to term it as such, in 124 clubs. They must be supported through a State agency. They do not qualify for the goodies of the Minister for Labour who will give them £20 for nothing. They have a little more intelligence than to respond to that type of thing.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Is the Deputy trying to undermine the employment incentive scheme?

Mr. O'Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  I am trying to underline that kind of undermining of our young people. It is shameful. If I hear any more of that advertisement it will turn me against the kind of society it represents. It is dreadful to think that our young people especially should be subjected to it at present.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Deputy is mistaken.

Mr. O'Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  If I have a sense of urgency, I am entitled to have it. If I have a sense of shame that that is being done in our name, I am equally entitled to have it. There are so many young boys and girls at home, having finished their education, waiting for work. We will all meet them. Why should they have to come to me or to any Deputy but if they have to one thing should be acknowledged: it is no fault of theirs that they are being kept in their parents' homes while they await work. They should not be assessed in a manner as if what their parents provide for them in the way of food and clothing were income. They are entitled at least to the independence of thinking that for two years they will not be drones on their parents. That is the saddest part of it all. We pay unemployment assistance [712] to others but we put an estimate on the value of upkeep of young people who have to be maintained in their parents' homes and we say: They have a comfortable bed, a good suit, they get their breakfast, dinner and tea and that is estimated as being at least £14 a week and, therefore, they do not qualify for assistance. That is sad and regrettable.

This is a debate that could continue for a long time. At least I hope it will have aroused something. I started last evening by saying I did not attach any personal blame to the Parliamentary Secretary. However, I do question a Government who will ask any man to be responsible for everything from consumer prices to industrial promotion, to a fair trade commission; to be assistant to a Minister in all of those spheres, and take him from the responsibility we created when the need was much less than it is now—a responsibility I was glad to shoulder—of full-time Parliamentary Secretary with responsibility for youth out of school. If the Government want to show an earnest of their commitment they will restore some responsibility to that position so that young people will be rendered a focal point in Government they do not have at present.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. Bruton): Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I intend to curtail my remarks to the extent necessary to allow the Minister for Labour to contribute to the debate. I intended to deal firstly with the preparation which takes place in the educational system of young people for work and to the improvements made in that area in recent years. Secondly, I will deal with some general measures taken to improve the economic performance, and thirdly I will deal with out-of-school education.

As Deputy O'Kennedy said, it is very important that young people should be properly guided in choosing the right careers. For too long young people have tended to go into academically oriented jobs. Clearly there exists other opportunities in the skilled trade area and in business, and it is therefore necessary to provide the right [713] kind of advice for young people to make this most important and difficult decision. It is for that reason that the Government have significantly in-increased the number of guidance teachers in our schools. In 1973-74 there were only 214 guidance teachers, of whom three were in community schools. In 1977 the number has been increased to 370 of whom 30 are in community schools. This is of great value to our young people in making career decisions.

It is very important also, and here I am in agreement with what Deputy O'Kennedy said, that there be an emphasis on technological education because it is in that area that the greatest opportunities exist, because there we can develop entrepreneurs and we need youthful entrepreneurs to provide initiative in our economy. It is people with technical education who are best fitted to meet this need.

I should like briefly to outline the expansion that has taken place in this area in the past four years. The most apt figure to quote in this connection would be the number of young people who have had whole-time student enrolment in technician courses in the regional technical colleges, Carlow, Letterkenny, Waterford, Limerick, Sligo, Athlone and Galway. In 1973, the number taking technical subjects at leaving certificate level was 13,051 and in 1977 the figure was 25,900. Further expansions are planned and it should be remembered that in these schools there is a commitment of Government resources amounting to more than £8 million. Therefore, there has been a massive increase in the number of young people with employment potential.

From the figures I have just given it will be noted that the number of young people with these skills has practically doubled in the past four years. That is the result of increased financial provision, more teachers, more woodwork rooms and more rooms for the various technical subjects being taught in these various schools.

It is also important—and I have spoken of this before in similar debates —that before leaving school young people should if possible have an opportunity to work for short periods [714] in a variety of different jobs. In this connection I mention particularly Navan, in my own constituency, where a pre-work year has been laid down for pupils as an experimental measure. The pupils can go out to work in various factories in Navan while still at school. I am proud that this initiative has been taken in my own constituency. In 1975-76, 139 pupils took part in this sort of pre-employment, mixed study-work programme. In 1976-77 this number had been increased to 390.

In regard to performance, and in particular to the provision of job opportunities for young people. I should like to indicate some of the measures taken by the Government. In 1972-73 as a result of IDA grant commitment of £30 million, a figure of 12,455 new jobs was aimed at. As against this, in 1976, when it was less easy to get firms to agree to set up a grant commitment of £66 million led to the sanctioning of projects with a job potential of over 18,000. This was an increase of 50 per cent in the number of jobs being created in 1976 as against 1973 with the aid of the IDA. This is the result of increased assistance and powers given by the Government to the IDA through various legislation in this House. Approximately 25 per cent of the new jobs created by the IDA go to young school-leavers. The President of the Irish Management Institute said that in his opinion the opportunities for business in this country were never as good as at present and he felt that the ball was now firmly in the court for business to respond to the opportunities provided.

Another indication of an improvement in our economy has been an increase in 1976 of 11 per cent in productivity in manufacturing industry. This compares with an average annual increase in that field of only 6 per cent. That increased productivity has enabled us to increase exports vastly. If we are to increase exports still further and avail of the opportunities presented to us by the devaluation of sterling, it will not be enough just to increase productivity. There must be increased employment. The indications are that production in 1977 [715] in manufacturing industry will go up by approximately 10 per cent, and that must mean more jobs. This will be assisted by the new measure announced by the Minister for Finance to provide corporation tax relief in relation to certain manufacturing companies as an incentive to raising employment. This provides for a reduced rate, namely, 25 per cent, of corporation tax on profits for manufacturing companies who achieve in the coming year an increase of 5 per cent in volume of sales and 3 per cent in employment. This tax incentive to an increase in employment will accelerate the growth which is already taking place, and is one of the most important features in the Finance Bill currently before this House.

In the very few minutes that remain to me as a result of my intention to ensure that the Minister for Labour has an opportunity of speaking, I will outline the measures which have been taken in the out-of-school provision for youth. Since this Government came into office the amount of aid to youth organisations in the form of grants-in-aid has been increased by 225 per cent from 1973 to 1977. That is a very substantial real increase which far exceeds the increase which has taken place in costs which had of course affected these organisations. This is a real increase in the resources available to youth organisations. We have not satisfied ourselves solely with increasing the money for their general programmes. I would like——

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  What was the increase from 1976 to 1977? The Parliamentary Secretary interrupted me last night and said I was wrong.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  This is not in order. The Parliamentary Secretary must be allowed to make his own speech in his own way.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  The Parliamentary Secretary interrupted me and today found that I was right.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It was 12 per cent.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  It was not.

[716]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  Order.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  There was an increase this year as against last year. In addition to the general increase since 1973—a very substantial increase in aid of youth organisations—there have been a number of specific new initiatives which I would like very briefly to recite. First of all, we have given aid to the provision, which was not made before, of holiday activity centres for young people in County Westmeath and County Kerry. We have provided a special counselling service for young people in Dublin through the Agency of CONTACT which will assist them with the problems which face young people coming to a large city for the first time. We are providing too, through the recently-announced Youth Encounter Projects—and these projects have initiated in Cork, Dublin and Limerick—for youth organisations to assist other young people who have school attendance and other problems which involve them in conflict with the law. We have introduced a new training programme for the various leaders in the uniformed organisations such as the scouts and guides. We are introducing a training programme also for full-time youth workers in the various organisations. Furthermore, an instruction is being issued to the vocational education committees to ensure that in their adult education programmes a special place is given to training for volunteer youth leaders.

Another very important measure which has been adopted in the youth field has been a young achievers' programme in Macra na Tuaithe which is again substantially aided by the Department. The emphasis in this programme is on encouraging young people to develop a spirit of initiative and entrepreneurship. In the long run I believe that the prospects of employment for young people will be greatly enhanced by young people developing such a spirit themselves. The educational system can provide them with the skills but they alone can take the risks and the initiative in the business field which will create jobs for themselves and for other young people. The type of programme being developed by [717] Macra na Tuaithe and also by other youth organisations in this context is the type of programme we wish to encourage, with young people helping themselves. In any endeavour that young people may make to help themselves, particularly in the employment field, I can assure them of my Department's and the Government's full support.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  It will take some assuring now.

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  One can only be appalled at the contribution by the Parliamentary Secretary. He has outlined studies, schemes, programmes, circulars but no work. That is what this motion is all about:

“That Dáil Éireann condemns the Government's neglect of young people as exemplified by its failure to provide adequate employment opportunities for them and by its lack of concern for youth organisation and development generally.”

The Parliamentary Secretary tends to treat this motion very lightly. We on this side and many thousands of young people also would like to know what programme the Government have for immediate employment. Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that in addition to those school-leavers who will come on the labour market after the next Leaving Certificate examination, school-leavers who have left school in the past two or three years are still in the unemployment queue? Are those people in the unemployment queue meant to be fobbed off with studies, schemes, programmes and circulars? This Government seem to be absolutely subsumed with the idea that if you give people studies, schemes, programmes and circulars you are doing something for them. It is very shattering to hear the Parliamentary Secretary in a cynical fashion pretending that the Government are taking care of one of the most grave social problems confronting this nation of ours.

We are talking about the next generation. The future and the continuity of the nation depend on the generation coming after the present generation. If the Parliamentary Secretary [718] thinks for one moment that by providing the various matters he has outlined he is engaging in some achievement he should examine his record. What young people want is hope, not based on false promises but on realisable, deliverable promises. I concur with what Deputy Fitzgerald says, that the Parliamentary Secretary is a decent and honourable man. Nobody can gainsay that, but we are talking about the Parliamentary Secretary's contribution to this very serious motion. If this is the best that the Government can offer, God help the future generation of this country. Their job prospects will be poor. It is not my intention to embarrass either the Parliamentary Secretary or any other Members of this House, but I hope the Minister for Labour will give the needed injection of hope to young people who are listening to and who read the contributions to this debate. Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware of the situation in a family where there are one or two young people finishing school having sat for their leaving certificates? These young people when looking for jobs will almost invariably find that five, six or seven hundred people are applying for the same job. That is my experience in the Dublin area and I believe Dublin is representative of the whole country. Many young women seek careers in the nursing profession but there is a very limited number of jobs available and all the applicants cannot be catered for. Is the Parliamentary Secretary and the Government aware of the frustration and disappointment that results in that hopeless situation. I do not want to inject a sense of hysteria into this debate, because as Deputy Fitzgerald said, we wish to achieve a solution to the problem. There is no point in introducing an element of panic but this problem is serious and it must be recognised as being serious.

I described rising prices as a recipe for revolution among the housewives. That is a fairly adequate description of the lack of job opportunities for young people. Young people with too much time on their hands, who look to the established institutions for guidance and leadership, are not getting that leadership. This could turn [719] them against the established institutions. That is a really dangerous aspect of the lack of job opportunities. Young people are subjected to pressures all through their school years while taking examinations but now they have the added almost insurmountable problem of seeking employment. There is pressure on the family unit because of this. A family unit may be attacked from within or without. In the case of a widow whose husband has died recently where there is a child of school leaving age, there is considerable pressure on that person to get a job. It would have cost the parents a considerable amount of money to put the child through school but the widow must now do the best she can for herself and the remaining younger children. If there is no employment for the child of school leaving age, she must endeavour to find employment for that child and she must also look after the remainder of the family and there will be considerable financial pressure. Such a situation was outlined to me no later than yesterday where this constant strain and worry are placed on young people and on families. That person may find a job that is not suitable to his or her talents but, due to financial and other pressures, he or she must take up employment which may last for the rest of his or her life. This in turn causes frustration and the person may work in a cul de sac type of job to the detriment of the nation and to the detriment of his or her physical and intellectual development. That is a tragedy which is almost worse than not having any job. When one is out of work there is an aim to get into a suitable job and there is some degree of hope but a dead-end job offers no hope. The Parliamentary Secretary has not dealt with that problem to any great degree. In addition to the pressures on families living in urban built-up areas trying to exist on a day-to-day basis against crushing price increases and the other challenges that arise living in modern-day society, we now have the added ingredient of young families with no job prospects. The Government have a lot on their conscience.

[720] The Parliamentary Secretary told us that the recession is easing off. Since this Government came into power we have been hearing that. The Minister for Industry and Commerce came back from America recently and amidst all the usual Government propaganda we were treated to a cacophony of the prospects of new jobs. I am pleased the Minister came back with these jobs under his belt. Hopefully, they are there and the opportunities which the Minister says will arise will arise. Can the Parliamentary Secretary say what type of training is being given now to equip people for those jobs? Is it a continued haphazard development plan? Have the Government any development plan in relation to the type of education young people require to fulfil those job opportunities?

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  There are more young people under AnCO training courses than ever before.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  Training for what? The Parliamentary Secretary should not be so silly. We had an example of the true position earlier today in relation to welders.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Deputy Andrews asked if the training was being given for the jobs that are coming and I gave him an answer.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  We have the situation in Cork where we have to bring in trained welders from other countries because of a lack of proper planning by the Government.

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  The Parliamentary Secretary spoke of AnCO, an excellent organisation. He should also bear in mind the local authorities, the IDA and the regional development bodies who are all doing excellent work and going about training young people in their own way but where is the co-ordination? Where is the cohesiveness that is required? Clearly, the Government have no plan as far as youth employment is concerned. They are clutching at straws and that, for the future of this nation, is not good enough. The Department of Labour is allegedly engaged in programmes for young people while the Department of [721] Social Welfare pay unemployment benefit to young males; we know that unemployed young females are not catered for by the Government.

I do not want to submerge youth employment with the need for job opportunities for all our people irrespective of age. The Government have an obligation to create an economic climate which will give everybody the right to a job but they are not creating such a climate. The Parliamentary Secretary made reference to an organisation for which we have great respect, Macra na Tuaithe. As far as Fianna Fáil are concerned, young people who embark on a programme of self-help will receive all the financial backing and encouragement they require from us. Macra na Tuaithe is one of the leaders in the field of self-help and encouraging young people to help themselves. Members of that organisation are not like the Labour councillor in a part of rural Ireland who said that the young people never had it so good, they had the dole. That appears to be symptomatic of a certain element in the Government; they think young people never had it so good because they have the dole. That was a Labour councillor's solution to youth unemployment and it seems to be the general attitude of the Government as far as young people are concerned. The Government are more interested in propagating themselves personally at the expense of the taxpayer than in providing employment.

The Minister for Labour spoke about the cost of the advertisement in which he propagandised himself under an employment scheme to ensure his re-election in the next general election. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach told us that that advertising programme cost £20,000. How many young people could be employed by a proper deployment of that money? The Minister for Labour must, as a matter of urgency and in order to prove his sincerity, introduce a youth employment programme. Under that programme he must ensure that all the agencies I have mentioned co-ordinate their efforts and that all the information goes to one area. The difficulty is [722] that these well-intentioned organisations, while appearing to be doing an excellent job, do not appear to be achieving the results they were intended to. It is possible that I am being unfair to them because in the final analysis the buck rests with the Government.

While all these programmes are good if at the end of the day there are no jobs all the programmes the Government may start and all the schemes and studies they set in motion are worthless. In an economic recession— we are experiencing one of the worst ever to confront this country at present —the first to suffer are the young men and women, those who are attempting to contribute to the economic life of the country for the first time. We want to give these young people hope. Fianna Fáil have outlined their policies on many occasions and suggested many schemes. One suggestion was that the retiring age in some areas of employment be reduced on a project basis from 65 to 60. This could be done on a voluntary basis. The Minister for Labour should give our young people some hope. He should give hope to the thousands of schoolgoers who are about to sit for the leaving certificate and to the thousands who sat for the leaving certificate in the last two years.

According to the magazine, the Young Citizen, dated April, 1977, a National Manpower survey revealed that of the young people who left school in June, 1975, 9,300 did not find employment in Ireland by January, 1976. Of that figure, 1,200 emigrated, 4,600 continued to look for work while 3,500 returned to school. Many stay at school to improve their employment prospects but do not succeed in doing so, according to a comment in that magazine. The most serious aspect of this is that if these people were taken into account some say the job shortage for young people would be in the region of 15,000 rather than the suggested figure of 9,000 per annum. These are appalling figures. While the Parliamentary Secretary came in here with programmes and schemes, he did not suggest any hope for the immediate future for young people. If this motion did nothing else than provide [723] a message of hope for the future for these young people, it would certainly achieve a great deal.

We hear of the brain drain of academics in other countries due to greater awards offered because of their intellectual or scientific attainments. There is a very serious brain drain here, with the compliments of the Government. It begins when the last word is put to the examination papers by the school leavers taking their leaving certificate. In addition to the young school leavers who find themselves without the prospect of a job, there is also a brain drain where the young school leavers find themselves in jobs which are not suited to their talents.

These are some of the worrying features we on this side of the House see. Much has been made of the crime figures in the recent past and the breakdown in law and order. It would be very easy and, indeed, very wrong to charge young people with responsibility for those figures. I do not agree with blaming the young for everything that happens in our society. Quite the contrary. There has been a noticeable trend in the recent past, particularly in the centre city areas, to have quite large groups of young people roaming the streets and literally accosting people and demanding money. In the main, these young people are unemployed. They have nothing to do and nowhere to go. Apparently they have no prospects.

In a city towards the south of the country, I came on such a scene minutes after it had happened. Young people had just accosted a friend of mine and demanded money with menaces on a bright afternoon. That is the type of legacy lack of job opportunities may create. Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí. Praise the young and give them hope in the future, but do not give them false promises. A young person in the sensitivity of his or her intellectual development, if let down once, will become distrustful. We would like to get from the Minister for Labour this evening hope based on real promises, not hope based on schemes which may or may not come to fruition. We want schemes and programmes which can be put into effect [724] for the betterment of the individual— that is what this discussion is all about —and for the economic betterment of the nation.

During the course of this debate we have been discussing the future of this country. If we let this opportunity go past us, if we let the future go astray on us, there is every prospect that the Government will be accused of losing a generation, and one can only say the country must look out for its future. This is the real crisis: a young person with a lack of identity, with a lack of hope, with a lack of respect for his or her family, and these lacks brought about by an indolent Government. The message is quite clear from the contributions made in this debate. We look to the Government for the time being to assure the young people of Ireland that not tomorrow or the next day but today they will get the opportunities which are so badly needed.

Minister for Labour (Mr. M. O'Leary): Information on Michael O'Leary  Zoom on Michael O'Leary  The last speaker was right to pitch his comments in the serious vein in which he did, because undoubtedly unemployment has been and continues to be a problem. It is fair to say that the unemployment figures show signs of improving. The rate of unemployment and the numbers out of work are falling. Compared with last year, in absolute terms there are 2,500 people fewer out of work. We can say of an economy which recorded a growth rate last year of 3½ per cent, and which this year is confidently predicted to record a growth rate in excess of 4 per cent, that the stagnancy of the recession is over and people, if not back at work, are in prospect of an early return to work. We can point to other demonstrable indicators of an economy returning to a permanent growth path. We can look at the volume of exports in the first four months of this year and see they are up 40 per cent on the comparable period in the previous year, that year in itself recording very substantial export gains.

It must be conceded that with unemployment figures at the level experienced here, no one can exult and say our problems of unemployment are over. They are not. Nor are they [725] over in any of the larger economies of the industrial west. Without being excessively partisan, I want to make the point that the leaders of the leading western economic nations at a meeting in London last week-end stressed the importance of obtaining an adequate answer to the problems of the unemployed young in all their economies. I make that point briefly because sometimes the point is made somewhat unfairly by commentators that we are alone in facing the problem of unemployment. We are not alone, but the dimensions of unemployment faced in this country have always been extremely high by contrast with other economies with whom we trade. If our economy is returning to a growth path, if our economy is moving out of the stagnation of 1974 and 1975, itself part of the world stagnation and recession, it could be said that to meet the full dimensions of the Irish problem of unemployment our efforts will have to be that much better than those of even stronger economies. Our economy has never measured up adequately in its performance to the task demanded of it in the context of the size of our unemployment. I would like to quote The Economist, which ran a special issue on this country in April. It is not a partisan publication but I think it fairly expresses the kind of problem we have always had in relation to unemployment in our economy, even in our best performance period. The Economist of the 9th April under the heading of “A question of Numbers” stated:

In the 1960's, when economies throughout the developed world were experiencing an unprecedented boom, Ireland's gross national product grew by an average of 4 per cent a year. Yet, at the same time, 135,000 people, or roughly 8 per cent of the then labour force, were forced to emigrate. They went because new employment opportunities in the Republic grew at a net rate of only 250 jobs a year. New jobs created in the manufacturing and service industries were only just enough to absorb the continuing drift from agriculture—a trend that [726] began in the previous century. The surplus population, swollen each year by school leavers, was effectively exported through emigration.

That is The Economist of April this year talking about our economy which still, after this period of recession, understandably enough, suffers from this problem of unemployment, which we have always had with us. If I were to say one thing to some Opposition speakers it is that I am astonished at the note of discovery which enters their remarks, but when they come to this question of unemployment one would not think that theirs was the Administration that presided over this period in the 1960's when all economies were doing well and which presided over a picture which was as dismal as that painted by The Economist of the employment situation over that period. They failed to create sufficient employment for our population at that period.

The question before us now, just coming out of that recession, is: “what must be our approach to the problem now and in the future?” I believe we can say with confidence that unemployment will drop below its present figure, that it will drop below 100,000 in the coming months. The trend shows a continuing improvement over this year. There will continue to be a necessity for the creation of so great a number of new jobs over the next few years that the size of the task before the economy can be described thus. If we are to halve the present unemployment rate by the middle 1980's we will require to create each year 35,000 new jobs. That would require roughly double the rate of growth achieved in our best years repeated year on year continuously. We have never succeeded in doing that. If we are serious about providing employment for our population, young, not so young and all those capable of working in the country, those are the kind of jobs we will need to create.

We must, first, discard the idea that there are any easy slogans for the creation of sufficient jobs for those in our economy who are looking for them, because there are not. We do not have time in this short debate, which [727] addresses itself exclusively to the present unemployment problems created for young people, to go into the requirements of the kind of planning that will be necessary in our economy over the next few years if we are to come anywhere near those necessary targets in job creation. We can say, however, that as an Administration we have, in our management of the economy over a very difficult period, pursued a policy designed to maintain employment at its maximum in a period when it was in greatest peril from forces to a great extent outside our control. At this point of recovery going back to a definite 4 per cent growth in the economy we have as a Government attempted to channel as much of public funds as possible into the area of job creation.

I am sure other speakers on the Government side have referred to the public capital programme for this year, which represents a very large increase over that for 1976, which was historically high, in an effort to create conditions in which a maximum number of jobs would be created for those looking for them. In our budget programme we set aside an extra £56 million for job creation. Of that sum £36 million is to be spent under the public capital programme on such items as the construction of schools, hospitals, office buildings, training centres, harbour and telephone development, and £14 million in current expenditure is to be spent on creating additional jobs in health, teaching services, roads and so on, all areas calling out for this kind of investment.

We announced, as part of that programme, the details of an employment incentive scheme, which has been receiving some attention in the House this week. I believe that the attention it has been receiving in the House will be of assistance in publicising the advantages and the provisions of that programme. It is important that as many employers as possible in the community should know its provisions and that as many as possible should answer our appeal to participate in the provisions of that [728] programme. Our target in the employment incentive scheme is the return of 11,000 people to work, 6,000 adult workers and 5,000 under the age of 20. It is only a start if unemployment will drop this year below the 100,000 figure.

It is a move in the right direction, but there is no cause for exultation in seeing unemployment drop from its present figure of 113,000 to below 100,000 in the next few months. It is better than the contrary tendency, seeing it increase, which we have seen during the height of the recession. Our employment incentive scheme will mean that any person under 20 years of age, who has left full time education for at least seven months and has not yet succeeded in finding permanent employment, will from the 1st January, 1977 qualify under the scheme. A premium of £10 per week will be paid to employers in manufacturing industries and in agriculture who employ such workers who qualify in this fashion.

I should explain that for the first time we have extended this scheme to school leavers in an effort to help that category of workers. I believe that our answer to our employment problems must be a total answer rather than one that can be described as answering the needs of particular categories of workers. I do not deny that young people have found themselves without sufficient work in this period of recession. They have never had sufficient work in the Ireland I have known. During the fifties and sixties large numbers of our young people had to emigrate to Britain. However, the exodus to Britain and other places in search of work has come to an end with the result that for the first time this State is faced with a great challenge, and if that challenge has a political aspect—the sort of challenge we have dealt with successfully—there is an even more serious challenge. I would agree with those people on the opposite side who have said that the real challenge is not to democracy as we know but relates to our ability to meet this demand for employment on the part of our people. This is the real economic challenge to the continuation [729] of our democratic state. For the first time the demand is for sufficient work at home.

In this Bill we are making provision for direct employment creation in the capital area of between 7,000 and 8,000 jobs. Under the Employment Incentive Scheme, a scheme that has been the subject of much comment here in recent days but comment which I expect will at least draw attention to the scheme's features, we hope to see 11,000 people returned to work. The amount of money set aside for the purpose of the scheme is £4.1 million. It operates from February of this year to February of next year. All employers, either in manufacturing or in agriculture, are eligible for participation in the scheme. To each employer engaging an extra adult worker who is over 20 years of age the State will pay £20 per week for the duration of the scheme and, in respect of school-leavers, the figure is £10 per week. This is in addition to the 11,000 workers we hope to put back to work. In addition, provision was made in the budget, under the community youth project programme, for the return to work of 1,800 people. This year, also, we have provided for record sums of money for AnCO, the bulk of whose trainees are under 25 years of age. These, then, are the responses of a concerned Government, but I would join with other Deputies in admitting that for the State to answer this problem of continuing unemployment in the years ahead will require a better arrangement of our resources. I submit that we are acting on the matter.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  When we realise that as we speak here there are 44,000 teenage boys and girls who, removed for the moment from what can be regarded as the normal pursuits of citizens who are young and free, are applying themselves, in a spirit of self-sacrifice, to their leaving certificate examination, we realise the seriousness of the problem we are discussing. We realise, too, the tragedy of those young people, a tragedy which has been dismissed rather cursorily by the young Minister for Labour who says that this [730] problem cannot be treated in isolation, that we must talk about the totality of unemployment. In this I would venture to differ with him and to say that this generation owes as much to the coming generation in respect of employment as we owe to the adults. Regarding the scheme referred to so often by the Minister, we have a perfect example of the contrast in what he is saying, even on the point of taking the whole matter of unemployment in its totality. That scheme, ab initio, discriminates against the young person, since for those under 21 the amount payable to an employer is £10 per week or half of the amount payable in respect of an adult.

Two years ago when this matter was not regarded with the same urgency as is the case now, I recall referring to what I described as the outstanding failure of this Coalition. I do not mind repeating what I said then, which was that this Government have shattered the dreams of so many of our young people. Of the 44,000 sitting for the leaving certificate there will be the average failure rate of 10 per cent, which leaves a figure of about 40,000 young people with the leaving certificate either coming on the market for employment or going on to third-level education. The maximum that can be absorbed in the third-level area is about 10 per cent. In other words, there will be at least 30,000 with leaving certificates seeking employment. I am disregarding for the moment those who will opt out at intermediate certificate or group certificate stage, but we may take it that up to 15,000 in that category will be available for employment.

I noted that during the Minister's 15-minute contribution the only reference to these young people was a mention of young and not so young persons. I do not wish to be personal, but I am wondering whether the Minister, by reason of his not having been subjected to the normal and traditional anxieties of parents in watching their children pursuing education which is supposed to lead to their being fitted for jobs but seeing them at the end disillusioned, frustrated and disappointed, is in a position to appreciate the problem. In [731] many cases the pursuit of education is taken so seriously by the children that it can injure their health. Yet, the Minister thinks that we should not concern ourselves with young people alone. That is more indicative of the attitude of old people.

I am grateful that the teenage members of my family have been fortunate enough to find accommodation at third level education and I am not thinking of the chance or good fortune which allowed them in this extraordinary type of examination to get the adequate number of points to entitle them to enter university. I am thinking of the other less fortunate students who, with two or three honours in their leaving certificate, could not get into a third level institute and, even if they could, their parents could not affort the expense. These students, with a great ambition realised, with this great leaving certificate in their hands, in their pockets or on the wall—wherever they keep it—cannot get employment behind shop counters. We have employed by Dublin Corporation a graduate emptying bins.

What is it all in aid of? As far as the Minister for Labour is concerned, it does not seem to rate in his priorities. Here, I would criticise slightly the attitude of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education whose only contribution apparently is that he will help young people who help themselves to get employment. What exactly does that mean? He boasts of a scheme he has for adult youth leaders. In heaven's name, what will these people live on while being trained as apparently adult youth leaders? Is this the attitude of the Parliamentary Secretary? I know he is not to be blamed for the fact that he was forced out of an area where he could have been gainfully employed whole-time and was obliged to take upon himself duties in Industry and Commerce. I am not blaming him for that. I blame his Taoiseach. Whatever one may say about the Fianna Fáil Party, they saw the need for the appointment of a person whose total and absolute responsibility would be in the field of youth. I am not going to indulge now in any [732] criticism of the holder of that office. I will not, as I could, castigate him for the fact that as yet we have no youth policy but neither he nor the Government can deny in the matter of the importance of the office that they are treating it with only half the importance with which the previous Government treated it in so far as they ask the holder of this office to apply himself to another office in another ministry.

Schemes are attractive. I accept there is need for planning but I am motivated by the realities of what I see around me. In anticipation of this debate, knowing the scene as I do, wondering whether or not the area in which I live has been singularly unfortunate in respect of an utter inability on the part of leaving certificate students to find employment, I made some general inquires. I inquired from Bord Fáilte, from Bord Iascaigh Mhara, from Bord na Móna, from the ESB, from CIE and from Aer Lingus as to how they saw the scene this year and in every case they told me it would be worse than last year in the matter of employment for young people. Aer Lingus are going to recruit 13 or 14 air hostesses. There are 4,000 or 5,000 applicants. CIE, contrary to their giving any hope of employing young people, have advised that the position there is they will be reducing their numbers.

What is all this talk then from the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary about the new day dawning and what will happen? What is all this talk about the provision in the Estimates? Where is the proof? Where are the jobs that are supposed to have been created? What hope can one hold out to the successful leaving certificate student? I use the word “successful” advisedly. I do not accept that there is any great virtue in giving to a student who has sat his leaving certificate and who did not reach the required standard—in passing, may I say I abhor the whole idea—a certificate as to his failure. And that is what we are doing. However, that is by the way.

I am concerned with the successful, with those who for 13 or more years have been travelling hopefully [733] towards a point at which they believe they will have a guarantee of gainful employment. What has the Minister for Labour, and the Parliamentary Secretary and this Government—it must be admitted that whatever other failings they have they do not fail in the matter of promises—to hold out to those students? What promises have they, what prospects, what hopes for these children? As I said initially, the answer is “None”. That is quite obvious from the attitude of the Minister for Labour. He did not indicate one single area where a group certificate student, an intermediate certificate student or a leaving certificate student could get employment. He reflected. He said he knew when times were as bad. I suggest to him he is entirely wrong. I am quite familiar with the educational scene of the 1960s and early 1970s when, if one had a leaving certificate, it automatically guaranteed employment. Out in the vocational school in Blanchardstown students with a group certificate could select apprenticeships in the ESB, in Posts and Telegraphs and many other areas of employment. There was an [734] availability of employment then. There is no employment available now. The pattern in the 1960s and early 1970s completely contradicts the attempt by the Minister to relate present circumstances to those which obtained in the 1960s and early 1970s.

I recollect meeting the present Minister for Foreign Affairs outside this House—I was concerned too—with a group of graduates who had been successful in their H.Dip. and because there was some fear that the Minister for Education, Deputy Faulkner, could not guarantee them positions there were scenes outside this House. Actually the Minister found employment for every one of them. I am citing that episode to show the appalling change that has occurred. I am not blaming the Government for creating these circumstances but I am blaming the Minister for Labour who has nothing to offer. He should at least hold out some hope we could take from this House to the many children who are waiting for some guidance. Apparently there is none and, equally apparently, the Minister for Labour could not care less.

Question put.

Allen, Lorcan.
Andrews, David.
Barrett, Sylvester.
Brennan, Joseph.
Breslin, Cormac.
Briscoe, Ben.
Browne, Seán.
Brosnan, Seán.
Brugha, Ruairí.
Burke, Raphael P.
Callanan, John.
Calleary, Seán.
Carter, Frank.
Colley, George.
Collins, Gerard.
Crinion, Brendan.
Cronin, Jerry.
Daly, Brendan.
Davern, Noel.
de Valera, Vivion.
Dowling, Joe.
Fahey, Jackie.
Farrell, Joseph.
Faulkner, Pádraig.
Fitzgerald, Gene.
Fitzpatrick, Tom (Dublin Central).
French, Seán.
Gallagher, Denis.
Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
Gibbons, Hugh.
Haughey, Charles.
Healy, Augustine A.
Hussey, Thomas.
Kitt, Michael P.
Lalor, Patrick J.
Leonard, James.
Loughnane, William.
Lynch, Celia.
Lynch, Jack.
McEllistrim, Thomas.
MacSharry, Ray.
Meaney, Tom.
Molloy, Robert.
Moore, Seán.
Murphy, Ciarán.
Noonan, Michael.
O'Connor, Timothy.
O'Kennedy, Michael.
O'Leary, John.
O'Malley, Desmond.
Power, Patrick.
Timmons, Eugene.
Tunney, Jim.
Walsh, Seán.
Wilson, John P.
Wyse, Pearse.

Barry, Peter.
Barry, Richard.
Begley, Michael.
Belton, Luke.
Belton, Paddy.
Bermingham, Joseph.
Bruton, John.
Burke, Joan T.
Burke, Liam.
Byrne, Hugh.
Clinton, Mark A.
Collins, Edward.
Conlan, John F.
Coogan, Fintan.
Cooney, Patrick M.
Corish, Brendan.
Cosgrave, Liam.
Costello, Declan.
Coughlan, Stephen.
Crotty, Kieran.
Cruise-O'Brien, Conor.
Desmond, Barry.
Desmond, Eileen.
Dockrell, Maurice.
Donegan, Patrick S.
Dunne, Thomas.
Enright, Thomas.
Esmonde, John G.
Finn, Martin.
FitzGerald, Garret.
Flanagan, Oliver J.
Gilhawley, Eugene.
Governey, Desmond.
Griffin, Brendan.
Halligan, Brendan.
Harte, Patrick D.
Hegarty, Patrick.
Hogan, O'Higgins, Brigid.
Jones, Denis F.
Keating, Justin.
Kelly, John.
Kenny, Enda.
Kyne, Thomas A.
Lynch, Gerard.
McLaughlin, Joseph.
McMahon, Larry.
Malone, Patrick.
Murphy, Michael P.
O'Brien, Fergus.
O'Connell, John.
O'Leary, Michael.
O'Sullivan, John L.
Pattison, Séamus.
Reynolds, Patrick J.
Ryan, John J.
Ryan, Richie.
Spring, Dan.
Staunton, Myles.
Taylor, Frank.
Timmins, Godfrey.
Toal, Brendan.
White, James.

Question declared lost.


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