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Young in NI 'could suffer most' if UK votes to exit

By Cate McCurry

Published 06/06/2016

Young people in Northern Ireland could be the first to suffer if the UK leaves the European Union, a business chief has warned.

Nigel Smyth, director of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in Northern Ireland, claimed that if a Brexit triggers another recession, school-leavers and university graduates will be the biggest casualties in job losses and lower wages.

Following the last recession, the employment rate for 22 to 30-year-olds fell by four percentage points, while remaining unchanged for 31 to 59-year-olds and the same age group saw real pay fall three times as much compared with over 30s, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

Now the UK's premier business group and ManpowerGroup, a leading global recruitment firm, are warning that in the event of another serious economic downturn young people will likely be hardest hit again.

Youth unemployment here is currently 17.2%, according to the latest figures, which CBI says demonstrates the "challenge faced by the region's young people" in the event of Brexit.

Mr Smyth said: "It's abundantly clear that if leaving the EU triggers another recession those leaving school and university in the coming years will bear the brunt of job losses and lower wages.

"We know the majority of small, medium and large firms want to remain in the EU because it helps their businesses to grow and their staff become more prosperous.

"While it can be time consuming to wade through the claims made by both sides of the debate, it's undeniable that the youngest were hit hardest in the last recession - and will be again if the economic shock predicted by most credible forecasters becomes a reality by leaving the EU."

Mark Cahill, managing director of the ManpowerGroup, said: "Young job seekers are facing one of the toughest markets in recent times as hiring slows in the face of concerns over the impact of the national living wage and the forthcoming referendum.

"They will be first in line to pay the price for any lost investment in Britain, with obvious risks including a fall in entry-level jobs and greater competition from more experienced workers."

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