June 2012        

Youth unemployment to worsen as austerity hits harder


The deepening of austerity measures brought about by the austerity referendum will cause increased hardship for working-class citizens.
     A group who are facing severe attack is that of younger workers. The EU statistics agency, Eurostat, reports that while Spain had an increase of 32 per cent in youth unemployment, with a total of 49 per cent, Ireland in fact had the largest increase, of 53 per cent. And many critics claim that the unemployment rate in Ireland is even worse, because of emigration and the failure to count part-time workers, while the long-term unemployed simply do not get counted.
     And the proposal by the president of the EU Commission, José Manuel Barroso, for a youth plan and support scheme seems doomed from the start, as Ireland has spent 99 per cent of the €906 million allocation from the EU, leaving only €4 million to be spent over the next two years.
     These austerity measures of cuts to the poor—like cuts to dole for the young and increasing attacks on the idea of education for all—are part and parcel of a naked class attack, where workers are subjected to shock therapy to soften up any resistance to their policies of cuts and privatisation. Under the guise of saving economies and offering aid they merely drag a Trojan horse in their wake.
     The response of our capitalist rulers to the crisis has been to shift the burden of debt and risk onto working people’s shoulders while redistributing and transferring capital from the poorest to the richest.
     For the youth of Ireland the future is indeed bleak. The minimum wage is continually under threat, while attempts to cut the dole are trotted out at every chance. The lack of money means there is very little or nothing to hand up to their parents. Social life is restricted, and there is a sense of despair, with no end in sight other than emigration.
     Apprenticeships have become a thing of the past, and work when available means contract work. Trainees are not being taken on by factories after finishing their apprenticeship or training schemes. By increasing hardship, capitalists plan to continue the race to the bottom and maintain their profits.
     Studies have shown that young people face becoming a “debilitated generation” because of irreversible emotional problems caused by record levels of unemployment.
     A survey of more than two thousand unemployed 16 to 25-year-olds showed that being unemployed had driven many to drugs and alcohol. It also showed that being on the dole destabilises family life, with a quarter of young people blaming arguments with their parents and other family members on their unemployment.
     And ruling parties pile the pressure on. Recipients of social welfare benefits who do not participate in the government’s “Pathways to Work” scheme could be dropped from the live register, or have their benefits reduced by €44 per week, according to the minister for social protection, Joan Burton. As one young communist said to me, “We are at risk of being starved to force us to look for jobs that just don’t exist.”
     Meanwhile the daughters and sons of Ireland’s bourgeoisie have no such problems, as they can avail of family wealth, better education and life-style choices that the poor can only dream about. You won’t find many hoodies having a few cans on Shrewsbury Road or in Foxrock or Carrickmines. And there are very few rugger buggers in the working-class estates of Cork, Limerick, and Dublin. It’s all a question of class.
     Austerity by a thousand cuts is designed to ensure the transfer of wealth from the poor periphery to the more affluent centre. It is a classic case of imperialism as outlined by Lenin: of rich predators plundering the poor and disempowered.
     As NL wrote in a recent issue of Socialist Voice, “it is not designed to assist a recovery or to create jobs in Ireland—in fact the very opposite: it is designed to facilitate a massive transfer of wealth from labour in the peripheral countries to capital in the core. Like a vampire, it will suck the life out of labour in the periphery to feed the core and consequently will suck the life out of any meaningful recovery.
     “It is purposely enshrining the deficit-surplus imbalance that exists in the euro zone and is purposely turning peripheral economies into debt-servicing machines. They will cease to function as normal economies and will serve merely as recipients of loans from the surplus-happy core and payers of interest and debt back to the core.”
[MA]

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