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Celtic Tiger Devours Hopes of Young Workers

Originally published on Youthradio.org, the premier source for youth generated news throughout the globe.

Today 100,000 people took to the Dublin streets last week to protest the government's handling of the recession. Earlier this month, Youth Radio talked to Dublin youth about their prospects for employment and hopes for economic recovery after the crash of the "Celtic Tiger."

By: Pendarvis Harshaw

Ireland's Generation Y has grown up in a prosperous nation, one that transformed itself from a largely agrarian society with a 20 percent unemployment rate just two decades ago, to a technologically advanced magnet for transnational workers and companies. Home ownership shot up, and the Irish standard of living improved dramatically, according to businessman Cormac Lynch. Lynch left Ireland to get a business degree at Stanford University in the 1980s, and watched the economy bloat.

"The government decided to lower taxes and let the Irish population have that money themselves.... then you had rampant house price inflation, and very little investment in services," he said.

Now the country has run out of money, as foreign investment's pulled out, banks saddled with bad loans are being nationalized, and health and education services have been drastically reduced. Lynch said his advice to Irish college graduates today? To leave.

And that's what a 26-year old aspiring lawyer we talked to plans to do. Because she's worried about alarming potential employers, she wouldn't use her real name, and asked us to call her Jessica Byrne. Byrne got a job when she graduated, but the firm, trimming staff, wasn't able to keep her on. She said the hiring situation is so dire, she'd even be willing to take work she's overqualified for, as a paralegal, but "they would be afraid I'd jump ship, so it's a catch 22." Byrne hopes to leave for Australia soon. "I'll probably just go over and see if I can get a job there rather than here. I think I've known for the last year...what was going to happen. But it's still tough to be in this position - very highly educated and be on the dole cue," she said.

Her friend, a 27-year-old lawyer who goes by the name Keira Shaughnessy (for the same reason as Byrne) is secure in her job, for now. But she said her firm, which has lost many development contracts in the past year, has cut salaries by 30 percent. Plenty of Shaugnessy's friends, like Byrne, are planning to leave the country. "It's not a big deal for Irish people to have to go abroad for a couple of years...I think now the difference is, people are being forced to go abroad," she said.

Shaughnessy said despite the contraction in the economy, she doesn't expect that Ireland will close its borders to the new immigrants that entered during the boom time. "One of things about being in the EU is that we've opened borders, and being in the European Union is part of why our economy has been as good as it's been. And we can't just close our doors and say, grand, recession's hit, we only want Irish people here," she said.

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