Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Young and jobless need urgent help

There are tens of thousands of young people in the province today who are wondering what the supposed new Northern Ireland has to offer them.

More than 36,000 of those aged between 18 and 24 years are unemployed - one in five of the generation on which the future will be built. But what will that future be if they cannot obtain a job, gain the experience to build a career and contribute meaningfully to society?

It is no exaggeration to say we are in danger of creating a lost generation. Economists believe that it will take at least a decade for the economy to recover to the level it was at three years ago.

By that time where will those young people be? Undoubtedly many will have left Northern Ireland as they did in years past to seek a career in more prosperous parts of the UK or even further afield. Those will be the most talented and the best qualified, the very people we need to form the foundation for the future.

Part of the blame lies with not making enough of the good times - and the international goodwill - that followed the ending of violence and the creation of relative political stability.

In the first decade of this century there were opportunities to build the economy faster than actually happened. Then came the global recession and the inevitable rise in unemployment. Put at its simplest, there are very few attractive jobs available at present and the local economy is one of the most sluggish of any region of the UK.

This newspaper has repeatedly highlighted the fragility of the economy here due to its over-reliance on the public sector. We have also urged the coalition Government at Westminster to recognise our predicament and to initiate innovative measures to stimulate the economy.

So far those pleas appear to be falling on deaf ears. Promises of cuts in corporation tax and the creation of enterprise areas continue to be made but not delivered.

The sight of ever more young people joining the unemployment lines should spur the Government into action - but will it?

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