Huge numbers of our young graduates have had to leave Ireland in recent years due to lack of employment opportunities. The government has only compounded the problem by bringing in measures that make it harder for them to stay. Firstly it has reduced the level of social welfare for those under the age of 24 to a maximum of €100 per week. Secondly, the government insists on sticking with its JobBridge programme. There is of course motivation behind their actions. Reducing social welfare payments is reducing costs and JobBridge numbers are being used to massage unemployment figures.
This is not a new phenomenon, the JobBridge initiative has been around since 2011. What is new is the number of mature graduates that are now seeking employment. Since the beginning of the recession mature students have been going back to education in record numbers. Lack of work resulting in free time has given many of our citizens the opportunity to retrain, go back to third level education or go to college for the first time. According to HSE figures from last year more than 10,000 people in full time education in this state are over 30.
On a personal level for people, this is one of the most positive things to have come out of this recession. Education is vitally important for society as a whole. While it’s far from ideal; most younger graduates will at least have the financial support of their family. The majority of them can go abroad without the constrictions of property or children of their own. Many of them will probably be in a position where they can take an unpaid internship, albeit for a short period of time.
Most mature students however, have families and mortgages and find it very difficult to leave the country for work. JobBridge is compounding their problems. One of the main difficulties is that many of the internships offered are for six or nine month periods. With an extra payment of only €50 on top of a social welfare payments, it is very difficult for people with houses and families to live on such low levels of income. Many mature graduates will have used whatever savings they had to go back to education, and to support themselves while doing so. This may go some way to explaining why 58% of all JobBridge internships were not fully completed in 2013.
Another well documented fact is that most of the internships offered by JobBridge don’t result in paid employment when completed. While figures vary from different sources on this matter; the employment success rate at the end of JobBridge internships is somewhere between 20% and 35%. It is also questionable in a lot of cases whether these positions even constitute internships. Often they are just positions that companies would of hired someone to take had the JobBridge scheme not been available. This scheme is strangling many paid positions in the jobs market.
With years of austerity and the culmination of taxes like the household charge, LPT and water charges, there is no way that homeowner mature students can afford to work in a Jobbridge internship for any prolonged period of time. Any company taking someone on for three to nine months without any intention of giving them a job is just exploiting people. Yet again however, it is the government that is enabling this exploitation. The government is encouraging a culture of unpaid employment.
Something has to be done about this scheme. The length of the internships could be shortened considerably. More stringent rules need to be put in place in relation to companies employing a % of their interns. The type of companies using the internships and the amount of interns they are using also needs to be reviewed. Recently, the Gardaí availed of the JobBridge internship programme. Is it right that our police force is using another government body to avail of cheap labour?
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