The Blog

Stormont Ministers are Putting Political Prosperity Ahead of that of their Posterity

Stormont legacy builders, 3 months into a 4 month summer recess, are risking the demographic health of Northern Ireland through patent policy inaction.

Stormont legacy builders, 3 months into a 4 month summer recess, are risking the demographic health of Northern Ireland through patent policy inaction.

The youth unemployment figures for Northern Ireland, the second highest of the UK regions, have made grim reading: 22.3% youth joblessness.

Jim Allister came out in response to the figures and said: "It is about time that the political establishment put the interests of ordinary people above their own political concerns and got serious about addressing the unemployment crisis."

However it looks like inertia will prevail; and it's readily apparent that politicians are putting their own self-interest ahead of the long term welfare of this region's posterity.

Ultimately as we look forward we can see that, unless more immediate steps are taken, many 1000s of ambitious and ready to work young men and women will simply languish on the sides, disenfranchised and left to mourn over their failed potential.

But Stormont Ministers aren't looking forward: they're patting themselves on the back and looking to the work they've done; the seeming peace, prosperity and stability that they've brought to this land. They're talking about relatively trivial matters with the perception that youth unemployment is not a salient issue.

Economic commentators have already said that the youth unemployment crisis in Europe will exceed the euro zone crisis because of the endurance and scarring effects of such a phenomenon.

On the NEETS aspect: by failing to grasp the magnitude of the youth joblessness crisis, not only is Stormont inaction sweeping aside the aspirations of a generation, but the collective lack of action is storing up an anger, division and resentment that could bring back the violence and conflict that plagued Northern Ireland for decades.

Uneducated young men and women who lack basic levels of numeracy and literacy and the basic facets of real world literacy cannot find work. Because of this they cannot find a place, a role or purpose in society through the job market; but they can find a family, a role and a purpose through paramilitarism and other gangs that threaten civil order.

And so the cycle of division and sectarianism continues.

On the unemployed graduate aspect: if Stormont ministers don't address promptly the huge number of highly qualified, highly skilled and highly ambitious graduates we risk losing a great many through either, the killing of an entire aggregate of potential to skills atrophy and inaction, or, forced emigration.

Stormont politicians also need to correct the ill-conceived and dangerous perception that sees vocational work and study as second to that of university. To put it simply: it is equally important, can pay equally if not more and should be equally regarded. If they don't Northern Ireland will have a vast surplus of failed arts and teaching graduates, and a killer deficit of suitably skilled IT graduates and skilled trades men and women.

Furthermore, by failing to address the poor performance of universities and the fact that university graduates are often equally as real world illiterate as their NEETS-peers, Northern Ireland policy makers are going to leave a nasty legacy.

I also want to add that young people in Northern Ireland need to look to the political activism of our American and European counterparts and see the power of their collective voice - whilst we young people in Northern Ireland are essentially mute on the issue.

I further want to note, following the theme of my last blog post, that the devolution of corporation tax is necessary to give Stormont real political expression and more importantly, necessary for giving our young generation and those to come a real and meaningful chance in life.

I'm going to echo Jim Allister and say that Northern Ireland politicians must get serious about addressing the youth unemployment crisis and add to that, if they don't get serious they risk not only the long term demographic health of our province but also the peace of this divided territory.