Republic of Opportunity or State of Insecurity?
On the day of his election as An Taoiseach (June 14th 2017), Leo Varadkar T.D. spoke about creating a ‘republic of opportunity’.1 Although an admirable vision for the country, the evidence suggests that Irish society has a long way to go to make such noble ambitions a reality, particularly for unemployed young people and those struggling to find decent employment. Nearly a decade on from the economic crisis of 2008, Ireland is a different country; the scars of the economic recession are felt through unemployment, debt, cuts in income supports and the withdrawal of social services. As noted by both the National Economic and Social Council (NESC)2 and OECD3 young adults were particularly hard hit by factors such as reduced employment opportunities and insufficient quality education and training opportunities. Ten years on, some analysts argue that Ireland has recovered from the ‘lost decade’ and with this, there may be a perception that the situation for young people in Ireland has improved.4 However, many young people in Ireland still feel marginalised by the economic crisis,5 and increasingly, young people are at the frontline of a radical change in the nature of the labour market, such that in many sectors, the old model of permanent contracts and fixed hours has been replaced by precarious employment.6