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Those Jobs Won't Be Coming Back

One Day DigI SUSPECT IRELAND will do like Germany and start shaving anybody over 50 from the unemployment records because personnel officers know most of the older jobless people who pass through their books won't get a second look.

I lived in the old West Germany when the old East merged. To the delight of the statisticians there, the unemployment rate was throttled. That happened because one fat pencil lined out tens of thousands of Germans whose factories laid idle in the 90s. The same thing has happened in Ireland as large factories shut down and former factory workers sit on their hands, going from course to interview to course for years on end. By age 50, that has to stop because the factories aren't coming back. And neither are the construction jobs reappearing.

Plenty of Irish politicians chant "jobs, jobs, jobs" like a mantra of hope. More than 14% of working age Irish are out of work. Many of these jobs are gone for good because they're in factory or construction work. A few job announcements won't fix the core problem because if you believe Ireland is moving to a smart economy, then we're looking at a new economy based on technology and efficiency.

The Sunday Tribune closed its doors and won't arise from the ashes. Today's news industry leverages an online ecosystem that employs fewer people. Consumers want their news, but delivered in far more efficient formats.

At least a dozen High Street book stores have closed in Ireland since mid-2010. They won't be replaced. Even though bibliophiles like flicking through new books in person, Amazon has the market cornered in both price point for hard copies and convenience for the e-book version.

Transparent pricing online has pushed down margins in retail sales points throughout Ireland, forcing merchants into greater efficiencies. Irish record shops entered a decline five years ago, closing one after another, as consumers gravitated towards streaming or portable copies of their music collections.

The housing market has left behind a legacy of toxic loans and will not return to its giddy heights for at least 20 years. This is good news for buyers (if banks start lending) and bad news for anybody with sheds of construction equipment (like the one in my photo) on hand. 

I hope Ireland can shift away from the old model of enticing foreign direct investment for factory floor positions. I wish the Irish government would take the bold steps and downsize itself, winding down most of the semi-states authorities and improving transparency. Taking those steps will help trim the size of government down to a Republic in line with the reduced tax take.

I hope the current Irish government turns a spotlight onto the perilous condition of maths and science in primary and second level education. Ireland can get the head table of top-performing economies only by increasing the number of graduates with high aptitudes in science and math. 

These kinds of priorities will not enjoy a populist applause at a time when nearly every evening news bulletin deals with bank losses, unemployment, emigration, or declining government services. But these are strategic targets that will get Ireland out of the muck and into a better future.