The Celtic Tiger is the term used to describe the period of rapid economic growth in Ireland, where it swelled at an average rate of 9.4% between 1995 and 2000. It continued to grow at an average rate of 5.5% during the following decade until 2008, when it fell into recession. In 2009, the Irish economy experienced high unemployment, deflation, and a widening government budget deficit.
Since the recession took hold three years ago, 300,000 jobs in Ireland (14% of the total) have been wiped out. This is the biggest fall in employment of any highly developed country since the crisis began. Young people aged under 25, particularly males have been worst hit by these job losses. This is mainly due to the sharp decline in the construction, industry and the primary production sectors. Over 200,000 have lost their jobs in these three production sectors.
The number of people signing on for unemployment benefit rose from just over 157,000 in 2006 to over 450,000 in June 2010. The latest unemployment trends highlight the importance of mobility in its broadest sense. This includes mobility between jobs and sectors, as if you look at unemployment by sector, very few people have lost their jobs outside of industry and retailing. Finding new jobs for people coming out of posts that won’t be replaced any time soon means making sure they have the right skills. It also ties in with mobility between towns and regions and the issue of negative equity and the property market more generally. Also, the government should explore schemes that will help those with a mortgage rent out their home in one location and become a tenant elsewhere, closer to employment.
Ireland’s newly elected government are beginning to put measures in place to get Ireland back on its feet. These include cutting welfare benefits for any long term unemployed unwilling to re-educate themselves or train for new jobs. Other initiatives include the National Internship Programme, Second Chance Education and Keeping Young Talent at home.
This economic downturn has forced many people to leave the country and seek for work in other countries, mainly Australia and North America. Recent statistics recently reported thatIreland’s emigration rate is the highest within the European Union. In the year to April 2010 65,300 people left the country, about the same number as left in 2009. This is just below the 70,600 people who emigrated in 1989, a year when unemployment stood at almost 18 per cent.
Could 2012 be the year that Ireland’s economy begins to grow again?