Change Behind: Change Ahead
Darragh Moriarty looks for answers to the past and the future of Ireland’s wellbeing
Now that the Christmas break has ended and semester two has commenced, generic it’s time to start learning, studying and worrying about your future, once more. Since you’ve gone and spent your couple of quid buying presents for people you don’t really like or buying various unnecessary items on ‘sale’ that you didn’t really need, you’re back to being a broke student counting down the days until the grant is lodged. For us students who have invested our time, money and effort in choosing to attend college in the first place, our future certainly looks to be more uncertain than we had planned.
For the vast majority of us our future prospects in Ireland at the moment seem to be bleak. We owe so much mind-boggling amounts of money that my little Arts head gets hurt when I attempt to watch the Frontline or Primetime. We had it so good for so long that any change was always going to negatively affect the lives of all people. Not everyone reaped the benefits that Ireland’s dramatic economic growth had to offer, but the majority did, the ‘good times’ as they’re now referred to could never ever be sustained and now a lot of people have fallen from grace and are stuck with houses worth half of what they paid. Life in Ireland though, day-to-day life in general may not be as bad as it’s made out to be according to some reports. An OECD study, released in 2011 found that the average Irish person when asked to rank their all-round ‘life satisfaction’ from 0 to 10, ranked themselves at 6.9, above the 6.7 average compared to other developed countries. Despite this, if you were to listen to any given phone-in show on any particular radio station some people of Ireland would have you believe that this government has pushed people into poverty with their austerity programme, ‘people can’t afford food’ some might say. How can the average person rank their life at 6.9 out of 10 and then claim that they can’t afford to eat? There may not be enough money to have steak every night but people could surely sacrifice their Sky or UPC every month if they really faced going hungry.
“This is a case of two steps forward, one step back. The government, as unpopular as they are, have made a difference. We’re on target to become economically independent in the not too distant future so perhaps the future for us students does not look as desperate as it seems.”
Indeed, all people, right across the country have been adversely affected by the policies of our government and yes the people at the bottom are always going to feel it that bit more, but Labour have abandoned their core voter base and allowed Fine Gael to safeguard the money of the people in the upper echelons of our class structure – that’s a story for another article. Dear Enda on the other hand is off earning brownie points in the EU for being such a good little austerity imposer. He’s lapping up the plaudits for overseeing a relatively smooth running austerity programme that has ticked along nicely without much meaningful or sustained opposition. He will continue to do so until Ireland ca
n re-enter the markets and start borrowing again. Ireland’s international creditability has been put back together piece by piece by this government, not to the liking of the people but to the liking of the people that we owe the ridiculous sums of money to.
The report also found that young people aged 15-24 in Ireland face difficulties with an unemployment rate of 28.7% compared with the OECD average of 16.7%. It doesn’t take a genius to surmise that this statistic is correlated to the fact that this age group lived off the fruits of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ for a number of years and now they appear to be reluctant to get up and go get a job. This is because too many jobs are beneath our young people. I’ve personally known people who have not taken jobs because they’re only minimum wage. More statistics show that the average person in Ireland works 1,664 hours a year (32 a week), less than most people in the OECD who work 1,749 (34 a week) hours on average. According to this statistic Irish people work less than our developed counterparts. Despite this however, the average person earns 24,156 US dollars a year, more than the OECD average of 22,387 US dollars a year. According to this particular report we work less and yet we earn more.
There’s no doubt most people in Ireland were earning more than they deserved over the past ten to fifteen years. Of course this is not why we find ourselves where we are economically. Today, despite our recession we are still earning more than other developed countries. The report found that in overall comparison with other countries, Ireland has come a very long way in a short space of time. Compared to the actual poverty (such as a family of ten living in a two bedroom flat) that people had to live through in the 1980’s, we are now a different country. 94% of people in Ireland claimed that they were satisfied with their living conditions, much higher than the OECD average of 87%, but perhaps more crucially, higher than Germany’s 93%. When asked about their general health perhaps somewhat typical of the Irish disposition, 83% of people claimed they were in good health, compared with the OECD average of 70%. This is despite the fact that our obesity rate has soared to 23% compared to the OECD average of 17%.
What do these statistics mean and why are they being written about? This is to show that Irish people are doing well compared to what they’re saying on the Adrian Kennedy show. In 1988 Ireland was ranked as the 15th best place to be born in the world. Since then the US, France, the UK, Germany, Italy and Japan who made up six of the top eight have all fallen behind Ireland. Ireland is now ranked as the 12th best country to be born in 2013, this is despite our apocalyptic economic situation. We’re not doing as bad as we think. We came a long way in a very short space of time, what’s gone on here over the past five years or so is that we did not know how to manage our new found wealth. All we can do is learn from this. This is a case of two steps forward, one step back. The government, as unpopular as they are, have made a difference. We’re on target to become economically independent in the not too distant future so perhaps the future for us students does not look as desperate as it seems. Perhaps we won’t have to get a one-way ticket to Canada or Australia.