Young people must not be left behind as society begins to emerge from the impact of Covid-19, a Fine Gael TD has said.
Cork North Central TD Colm Burke is calling for the establishment of a National Youth Support Service to support young people finding employment and to stimulate the economy.
Deputy Burke said: “While the COVID-19 virus itself does not pose a significant threat to the health of young people, they are particularly vulnerable to the secondary impacts resulting from the disruption to our economic prosperity. We must ensure they are not left behind as society begins to emerge from the impact of COVID-19.
“The pandemic has come along at a vital period in the personal development of many young people, not only in terms of their social well-being but also in their education and career path.
“Economists estimate that up to 300,000 thousand jobs may be permanently lost. The hospitality and leisure sectors where many young people work have been very badly hit. At the beginning of the year, youth unemployment was 14%; it now stands at 51%. CSO figures show that 158,000 people under the age of 25 are now out of work. This is a very concerning figure.
“The establishment of a National Youth Service should be considered while the employment crisis continues.
“Young people joining the service would be supported by a whole of society effort to include internships, training and mentoring across the public and private sector. As part of this I envisage volunteer organisations, sporting and cultural organisations, community organisations would be grant aided to provide the necessary supports.
“As well as helping young people, this is the kind of practical stimulus for organisations that would support a faster recovery in the wider economy.
“The Service could also engage with the higher education sector to support young people as they embark on college courses in the new era of online learning.
“In the midst of the crisis urgent attention needs to be paid to the needs of the next generation. Youth and long-term unemployment were major factors of the last recession but Fine Gael’s Action Plan for Jobs was hugely successful in reducing both. With the right focus to our efforts, we can do so again.
“People in the age group 15 – 24 have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. A few months ago they were looking forward to holidays, J1 visas, travel, summer jobs, concerts and a busy sports calendar. But now all that has been taken from them. Their personal and social horizons have become much narrower.
“The impact on job prospects for young graduates, particularly in the private sector, is unclear. Many part-time summer jobs so popular with students have vanished.
“During previous recessions young people emigrated to look for work and overseas career development. With travel restrictions and every country in the world in deep recession, emigration is not currently an option.
“It is time for a broad conversation, directly involving young people, their parents, youth organisations and the wider community around the needs of our younger generation and to inspire in them a sense of hope for the future. I recommend this type of broad consultation take place in advance of setting up a National Youth Service.
“As we begin to ease the lockdown and get on the path to recovery, young people must not be left behind.”