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To ask the Minister for Social Protection the way she plans to respond to recent calls by the OECD for Ireland to do more to tackle youth unemployment; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

- Mick Wallace.

For ORAL answer on Thursday, 17th October, 2013.

In the first instance, the Government’s primary strategy to tackle all forms of unemployment, including youth unemployment, is to create the environment for a strong economic recovery by promoting competitiveness and productivity. In the first instance, the Government’s primary strategy to tackle youth unemployment is to create the environment for a strong economy recovery by promoting competitiveness and productivity through the Action Plan for Jobs. Economic recovery will underpin jobs growth and thus reduce unemployment and long-term unemployment.  Past experience suggests that youth unemployment, which tends to rise relatively rapidly in a downturn, can be expected to fall relatively rapidly during the recovery.

The Government is also implementing a number of programmes to assist young unemployed persons and keep young jobseekers close to the labour market. There are five main approaches being taken to tackle youth unemployment: education, training, job search assistance/guidance, work experience, and encouraging job creation.  These actions range across a number of Departments and Agencies and include:-

·

The Youthreach programme providing 6,000 integrated education, training and work experience for early school leavers without any qualifications or vocational training who are between 15 and 20 years of age;

·

The Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme scheme, which provides a range of courses to meet the education and training needs of unemployed people over 21 years of age, particularly focusing upon early school leavers;

·

The Back to Education Allowance scheme run by the Department of Social Protection provides income maintenance for unemployed people returning to further or higher education. Over 6,500 young people participated on this scheme in the last academic year;

·

Approximately 12,000 persons aged under 25 completed a training course with FÁS in 2012. This excludes apprenticeships and evening courses;

·

This year MOMENTUM, a scheme for education and training interventions, which is part of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs initiative, is currently being rolled out by the Department of Education.  MOMENTUM will support the provision of free education and training projects to allow 6,500 long term jobseekers to gain skills and to access work opportunities in identified growing sectors.  Over 1,250 of these places are assigned specifically for under 25s;

·

The JobBridge National Internship Scheme is focused on providing work experience to young people with the total number of placements of young people on JobBridge during 2012 at 2,700;

·

Long-term unemployed youth will also benefit from the JobsPlus initiative which is designed to encourage employers to recruit long-term unemployed people. Under this scheme the State will pay circa €1 of every €4 it costs the employer to recruit a person from the Live Register;

The most recent statistics available from the CSO’s Quarterly National Household Survey show the level of youth unemployment has fallen from an average of 75,000 in 2010 to 63,000 in the most recent twelve months for which data are available. The level of employment of young people appears to have stabilised, and indeed the employment rate (proportion of the population with jobs) for those aged 20-24 years rose from 46.5% in mid-2012 to 49% in the second quarter of this year. With regard to the expected future impact of existing policies, the original Action Plan for Jobs sets out a target for 100,000 net new jobs to be created by 2016, many of which will be filled by young people.

Looking forward, in addition to current initiatives, policies to increase youth employment will be supplemented by additional measures under the Youth Guarantee which will be rolled out in 2014.

While the Recommendation for an EU-wide Youth Guarantee Scheme was adopted during the Irish Presidency earlier this year, the implementation of the scheme across the EU has yet to begin.  It is recognised, both in the Youth Guarantee Recommendation itself and more generally, that the pace of implementation must take account of the scale of the youth unemployment and inactivity challenge and consider the fiscal capacity of each Member State.  At the same time, Member States should take all possible measures to ensure that the Recommendation is swiftly implemented.

The scale and nature of any additional measures required for the implementation of a Guarantee at national level will depend on the trend in youth unemployment, and in particular the number of young people likely to experience periods of unemployment of more than four months under current policies.

The Department of Social Protection has set up an interdepartmental group with officials and programme managers from the Department of Education and Skills, Department of Jobs Enterprise and Innovation, and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs,  to review the current range of youth employment policies in Ireland to assess what measures will need to be taken to commence the implementation of the Guarantee. The Department of Social Protection has also engaged the assistance of the OECD in developing the Youth Guarantee Policy.

It is intended to produce a concrete plan for the implementation of the Guarantee for consideration by the Government in December before being transmitted to the European Commission by the end of 2013. Development of the implementation plan will include identification of the costs of implementation, and how it is envisaged that these will be met (how much can be provided from domestic sources, and what is the likely requirement from EU funds, e.g. European Structural Fund and Youth Employment Initiative).  The amount that will be required for Ireland will only become clear when the implementation plans are drawn up.

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