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Joan Burton : We must give hope to Europe’s youth


Ireland’s welfare system should be a springboard as well as a safety net for our unemployed, writes Joan Burton

Let’s start with the figures, because they’re simply horrendous. Across Europe right now, 5.5 million young people – one in five of those aged between 15 and 24 who are on the labour market – are without a job. In some individual member states, the situation is even worse.

In Spain and Greece, it’s one in every two young people on the labour market, with youth unemployment rates above 50 per cent. In Ireland, the rate is 32 per cent, which corresponds to about 61,000 young people.

This is not just a problem. It’s an existential crisis for the European Union. The economic cost has been estimated at more than €150bn a year, or 1.2 per cent of EU GDP. But how do we measure the social cost, the terrible and potentially lasting effects of unemployment on the young people themselves?

The internationally respected economists David Bell and David Blanchflower found that even a short spell of unemployment when young can have devastating effects throughout a person’s life.

Youth unemployment increases the lik...

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