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Editor's Viewpoint

Our economic woes hitting young hard

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If you believe the economy is in rough shape at the moment, then think again; it could be twice as bad in the coming 12 months. That is the dire warning from a respected economist as figures were released showing that in the past year 10,720 redundancies were proposed, with manufacturing, retail and wholesale sectors particularly badly hit.

However, the situation could be much worse. At the end of September there were 54,100 people whose employment was underpinned by the Government's coronavirus job retention scheme, which paid 80% of their normal wages. But the economist warns in this newspaper that between a fifth and a half of those jobs could be lost next year if the virus continues its rampage.

It is particularly distressing to note that unemployment among young people in the 16-24 age bracket is running at 11.7%. Understandably, much attention has been on older employees whose jobs were lost or threatened. They also faced the loss of homes or financial ruin if they had invested in their own business.

Already there are serious concerns being expressed about the spread of the virus over the Christmas period and calls from influential medical figures for the reimposition of tightened restrictions. How to balance lives and livelihoods has never been a greater dilemma for our political leaders.

But we must not overlook the plight of young people. Already many have lost a year when they could have been getting on the employment ladder and enjoying the benefits that brings.

Instead they have been locked down, locked out of jobs as more experienced employees came on the job market, and forced to forego the normal holidays and interaction with their peers that they expect. They cannot even emigrate in search of work.

Even those young people who are still at school will wonder if their disrupted education will harm their job prospects whenever they leave the classroom and if their examination results will carry the same credibility as in previous years.

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Being young should be a time of adventure, of new experiences, of broadened horizons and of starting a career. Instead this year it has been a time when horizons have never been narrower and options less.

Today we will learn how the Executive intends to respond to the dire economic and health forecasts. It will be several months before the vaccination programme begins to take effect and no one expects the economy to bounce back rapidly given the huge debt burden. Not much cheer around this Christmas.


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