Ireland: Austerity and the youth - Turning insult into injury

Across Europe it is the sick the old and especially the young that are being forced to pay for the economic crisis. In Spain and Greece youth unemployment stands at over 50%. In Ireland although that figure is somewhat lower at 17.9% but this still means nearly 1 in 5 youth are workless and the statistic covers up the distressing reality that we face; in particular, ongoing attacks to education and the lack of work in Ireland that have led to many young people turning to migration. If people emigrate they don't show up on the figures.

The 2012 budget saw a €132.3m cut to the overall state education budget. This means that Ireland is one of only 3 EU countries to have reduced overall education spending this financial year. A European Commission report suggests this will lead to Ireland failing to meet its target to reduce early school leavers to 10%. <> When the Troika itself is warning over the extent of austerity measures there must be cause for concern!

As well as constituting an attack on the public sector and education these cuts have particularly hit schemes which were meant to create jobs and skills needed for employment. Apprenticeship schemes have been cut by €19 million whilst schemes for the ‘disadvantaged’ have been cut by € 6.5 million. This is tantamount to leaving the worst off on the scrapheap. 

In addition to this the cost of studying at university has risen massively over the last few years. Registration fees at Irish universities have risen from an average of €850 to €2,250 between 2008-9 and 2012-3, and could rise to €3,000 by 2015. Students must bear in mind the situation in Britain where outside of Scotland fees have rocketed, university education has gone from being free in the late 1990s to now standing at up to £9,000 per year.  The IMF is demanding further cuts to education and in particularly that the cost of paying it be shifted from the state onto students with its latest report on Ireland claiming that, “Deeper reforms in health and higher education are needed to identify service priorities and deliver them efficiently.” <>

All this only reads like turning insult into injury when considering the situation facing the youth, including many university graduates. A degree is far from a guarantee of a ‘graduate job’, and especially not of one in Ireland. The research firm Trendence recently polled 6,000 Irish university students and found that 27% intended to leave the country in order to find employment upon graduation.  In 2011 alone over 76,400 people migrated from Ireland, mostly young people looking for work. As the international economy continues to struggle and even China’s growth begins to slow even this option may become less secure. Many young  workers have migrated to Australia which has experienced a boom from selling raw material to China.

We did not create this situation, we didn’t make this crisis but we are being forced to pay for it. Many of us are being forced to leave and we all face the hardships of a tightened labour market, and the threat of unemployment or paying more for education. Unsurprisingly youth have been at the forefront of protest and resistance to the international crisis from the Arab revolutions to Spain to Greece and of course in Ireland. This was seen both during the major public sector disputes and demonstrations in 2009 as well as the student mobilisations against the austerity measures in the 2012 budget. It is quite clear that under capitalism many young people are literally being forced out of the country. Only through socialism, under an economy based on the democratic and public planning of the economy in the interests of the people rather than the profit interests of failed bankers can this situation be reversed. Fightback supports the immediate introduction of free education, a program of public works to provide employment for all and to make use the skills of young people, and a €12.50 per hour minimum wage.