Why wasting the talent of 400,000 people is a mistake

With unemployment expected to reach 400,000 it tells you one thing instantly: among the group you will have a cross sector encompassing every facet of society. Scientists, builders, finance workers, bus drivers, fast food employees et al will stand shoulder to shoulder in the dole queue, likely with little or no interaction because, quite frankly, unless you’ve signed on before then you know not the frustrating depression that comes with it.

So what could we do? Does it even make sense to allow such a waste of talent? If we have a state that pumping money into the system so that we can be saved from ourselves then should this extend into how we think about welfare? I would say the answer is yes.

There are many people who have lost jobs who probably didn’t love what they did to begin with, obviously they love it more than the dole but if this is the case then why not use this juncture to help them pursue something that may be closer to their passion and profitable all at once?

If there was an internet site where people could post business ideas, and then show up in their locality to talk about ways to implement them then it is likely that new companies would form and new industry would be rolled out. Just make sure that everybody who signs on gets a flier pointing them to that site every week and you’d have instant traction.

‘Where does the funding come from for these ideas though?’, good question, and the answer is that you could have private and government spending involved. Private individuals could also view the site and if they saw something they thought was marketable then they could offer to invest in it. A form for creating business plans as well as showing the backgrounds of the purveyors would be easily assembled and allow private investors to browse sectors they are knowledgeable in and that they could support.

Then of course you could use an existing operation like Enterprise Ireland to help allocate resources to other viable ideas, and if there could be grants made to new companies if they took on people on the dole, the fact is that state lead solutions not only take forever to enact but they are also inefficient, there could be a secondary market in private investors helping to build up a company – help finance it too, and then one day sell their share back to the other shareholders (who were previously unemployed) or to another investor.

The mix of ideas would come about rapidly and yet holistically through a grass roots approach to solving the economic dilemmas of the day. With all this talent out of work does it not make sense to put some of it together in order that they have an opportunity to do something meaningful? It might result in the next big idea, and the ability for previously disparate groups to mix and discuss ideas would also be quite powerful, there are likely synergies out there that we don’t even know existed up until now.

The problem is not a traditional one, thus the solutions we use must equally not rely totally on tradition either.


  1. marcus

    So here’s a thought – why can’t we find some really labour-intensive projects/production to provide jobs to people at a rate just over the dole pay? Easier said than done, I know, but surely it’s a possibility? They only need to add enough value per worker to cover non-labour costs (which would be paid out by dole anyway).
    If, as you say, they find the dole that depressing, surely a good number would opt to do some sort of work for their keep? I’ve a funny feeling I’m wrong – but I’ve no idea why…

  2. Gerard O' Regan

    The idea of providing labour as part of receiving the dole has been used since the 80’s & I think a liite earlier – Local councel/community projects etc.

    We have recently read about using a bank (in this case could be Anglo, as the Tax payer now owns it) to hold the Toxic depts: in one side & suggested recently, to provide the business expertise from Enterprise Ireland – this could be expanded to use the bank to hold “Clean” funds that can be utilised for the support of SME’s – The bank structure/workings are in place (talking about the way a bank should work)& using the Enterprise Ireland model to provide the business supports through its model – Development Advisors & TechnologistsHuman Resourse Development etc to disseminate the funds as requested by the SME’s – what form of return would have to be decided – interest/shares.

  3. @Marcus – I suppose there is some merit in what you have said, it is a keynesian response to a downturn, one issue is this: if a person is merely a ‘worker’ and not a potential ‘owner’ would they be willing to work for a marginal increase over welfare? And that is what I see as the crux of this, people need to be empowered at the same time and the way to do that is by them being stakeholders in the project. Governmental projects may work for some but where will the money come from? This plan will have front loaded costs to implement but the future value is bigger and that would be the justification.

    @Gerard: workfare and talent mixing are different than community projects which in essence were a dole-alternative as opposed to something that was a way out, largely this was because the projects, and any skills learned in doing them were only relevant to that actual job and if there is not a private sector version it provides no solution at all.

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