16 Apr 2014

The Economics of Employment

The Economics of Employment In this unfortunate era of economic depravity and disaster, there appears to be only one escape for today’s hopeful (or indeed, hopeless) youth; Education. From birth Parents are preoccupied by their child’s progress against other children: from the maternity wing, to the Montessori, and later in the classroom. Virtually every respected Broadsheet in the Western World carries a school ranking supplement, in which every school in their jurisdiction is rated and ranked. Students educated in the most prestigious establishments will receive the best chances in life, such as places in the best Universities, and later, contracts with the most illustrious employers. Money talks. It appears that Education does too.

In an economic crisis, educating oneself becomes essential. In the last three years, Ireland’s national Universities received more applications through the CAO than in the eight years previous to that. Now, it appears that everyone has a degree of sorts, and that you are not fully qualified until one has at least studied for a postgraduate qualification. Ireland’s young workforce is undeniably extremely skilled, with 44% of our population under 35 attaining a third-level qualification. This is the highest proportion in all of the European Union, and has saturated the employment (and unemployment) market. Currently, we have too many qualified individuals for jobs available; creating another Irish exodus of youth abroad, and straddling the social welfare system.

Would the outcome have been the same if the Irish were not so concerned with academically bettering themselves and adding conspicuous letters to the end of their names? This remains to be seen, as the situation for those without a higher education has been equally hampered by the poisoned economy. It would be possible to say that it hasn’t made a difference. Social Welfare won’t favour an academic over someone who left school at 15. However, History will. Traditionally, under British rule, education was seen as an escape from the crippling poverty experienced by Irishmen and women of the time. Even with literacy, you could offer your family a brighter future. Now, this custom lives on, and is something we can be proud of; it is what initially showcased our little country on the world stage. Unfortunately, that would stage has crumbled under a banker’s and builder’s errors.

The irony of the Irish situation was, while we have the highest proportion of graduates in Europe those running our country and those physically constructing it were uneducated and usually unskilled. The richest people in the country were not economists, but ignorant bankers and builders. Once again this contradicts the case for education. I am not trying to argue that education should retreat into obsolescence, but I would say that a university degree isn’t everything. As Geraldine O’Callaghan of the Apprentice eloquently puts it, “Daddy can’t buy you cop on in Trinity College.”


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