The pandemic and the associated lockdowns have obviously had immediate repercussions on Ireland’s economy and daily life for its citizens. Staggering job loss, business closures, and lagging debt payments are just a few of hardships being faced. However, there is another, perhaps less immediately apparent economic consequence of the pandemic: that is, what the disruptions to students’ educations will mean for Ireland and the world in the near future.
Schools in Ireland have been closed multiple times and the country has been repeatedly forced into lockdowns to fight the spread of the virus. On March 12th of last year, schools were forced to shut down until the 29th, which was later extended to the start of the next academic year in September. During that stretch of time, students were not allowed to attend in-person classes. Even when schools did eventually reopen, periodic outbreaks in certain schools and the additional restrictions put on students ensured that the school year would not go smoothly. The total losses in education are difficult to gauge; some countries have reported that time spent on school-related activity was halved during lockdowns. Despite difficulties in measuring this for Ireland, it seems likely that the negative impact the lockdowns and restrictions have had for students cannot be understated.
The question remains as to how these disruptions will affect students’ livelihoods in the long term and what implications they have for the future of Ireland’s economy. One needs to consider that school is where students are equipped with the skills they will need to be productive workers in the future. This predicted drop in productivity is expected to result in a loss of 1.5% GDP for most countries. Further, losses in learning will probably lead to losses in earnings for current students: an OECD report suggests that average students could expect to see a 3% drop. Those from disadvantaged groups will likely face an even greater drop.
Though the exact effects the pandemic will have in the long run are yet to be seen and hard to predict, it seems apparent that the current generation of students will struggle more than they would have otherwise. Beyond just their own livelihoods, countries around the world will see drops in productivity caused by the interruptions to their education. With that in mind, Irish businesses and the government should be mindful of this when crafting future policy, in order to mitigate some of these effects.