“I know we are the country’s future but at the same time why should we stay and pay for someone else’s mess?”

I find this quote, discussed in one of our Friday posts, fascinating and troubling on a number of levels.  It is by a 26 year old graduate on a short term contract.  His girlfriend left for a job in London on Saturday, where she is joining former college class mates.  He’s almost certainly going to follow.  This is the generation that only knew the Celtic Tiger.  A generation that as a state we have invested in heavily through the education system.  A generation that should have been the next wave of Ireland’s economic miracle.  At present, they are the generation that is increasingly disillusioned with the situation they and the country are in and they are leaving.  And with them goes a large slice of our potential future.

A story published last Thursday in The Kingdom newspaper gives some idea of the scale of younger emigration and its local effects on communities.  They report that 197 GAA players transferred their club registration out of County Kerry in the first seven months of the year, the vast majority heading to the UK, US and Australia.  At least the same number again have left without re-registering for clubs at their destination.  And with them goes not only their sporting skills.  Scale that up outside of the county and one organisation and the effect becomes clear.

The next budget and the four year plan are partly predicated on emigration (40,000 in 2011, 100,000 over the next 4 years).  Instead of trying to retain of best and brightest, our policy is to hope they leave!  And they go disillusioned and resentful, feeling that they are not only paying the price for other people’s mistakes but if they stayed that they are expected to carry the burden of debt and woes into the future; hardly the best sentiments for encouraging later return.

There are many, many priorities for action at the minute, but near to the top should be job creation for young graduates such as intern schemes and targeted programmes to incentivize and mentor start-ups (the Union of Students in Ireland have made good suggestions).  Encouraging emigration, on the one hand, and failing to implement a job’s strategy to retain graduates, on the other, does not constitute a policy to build a smart economy.  In fact, there is very little smart about it.  It is just plain dumb.

Rob Kitchin