We may have turned a corner, but there are plenty more awaiting us in what’s going to be a long and winding road to recovery.
The Wall Street Journal this week extensively praised the ‘belt-tightening’ measures taken by the Government, and advocated that the rest of Europe follow suit.
Fair play to us – international approval, begorrah! Sure isn’t it great that the Yanks are happy with what we’re doing; we must be getting it right if they think so. After all, aren’t they doing great; unemployment of only, um, 9.5 per cent; a deficit of only, er, $82.69 billion. Obviously an example we should be following – free market capitalism all the way.
But, just when we were all cosily adapting to the idea that this poverty thing was a temporary blip, Fianna Fáil have got it right, and we’d all be back in our jeeps by next January, along came the Live Register for May.
The Live Register increased by 6,600 in May, the largest increase since last August. Larger even than January, a month most of us will remember with a shudder. The unemployment rate is now 13.7 per cent.
And the figure doesn’t take account of emigration. While it’s not a hardship for many, as Mary Coughlan was pilloried for saying earlier this year, choice is always a plus, and most emigrants haven’t got one. They may be surfing on Bondi but perhaps they’d rather be in Ballycotton; they don’t have the luxury of choosing. There are rather a lot of them scattered throughout the world; more of my college friends live in London than in Limerick, where we went to college, and there’s no prospect of them coming home.
One, who visited last weekend, wistfully asked me did I think there were any jobs in Cork in her industry; her mother is ill and living alone, but she can’t afford not to work, and if she moved home to be with her, that would be the case.
The idea that we’d turned a corner now looks a bit like e-voting; embarrassing, and costly in the long run. And before you start adding up job loss announcements in your head – Pfizer, for example – remember that they’re not gone yet. The jobs lost last month are just more of the steady leaching of employment that don’t involve headlines, or major announcements, or Government commitments to apply for EU funding to retrain workers and replace jobs.
The congratulations of the Wall Street Journal, while a good sign in some respects, have to be taken with a pinch of salt. The same august newspaper cheered wildly as the debt bubble expanded. It’s the newspaper of big business, owned by Rupert Murdoch and read by the type of big businessmen who’d eat our crowd of builders for breakfast.
Every newspaper caters to its readers, and it’s in the interests of WSJ readers to cut budgets, bail out banks, and ignore the low-level suffering of people living on slashed welfare payments, people waiting for cancer diagnoses and people who can’t move home to live with their lonely parents, to keep talking up the economy. We may have turned a corner, a couple of corners even, but there are plenty more ahead.