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Kenny says digital economy key to dealing with youth joblessness

Ireland can avail of a ?200 million fund to create a youth jobs guarantee over the next two years, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said following an EU summit on youth employment. Under the guarantee, no unemployed young person will be allowed to go longer than four months without a job offer or training.

Asked whether the four-month deadline might have to be extended because of insufficient funds and inadequate training capacity, Mr Kenny said ?The plan will be ready (next month) and we will live up to the four-month commitment. We are absolutely focused on this.?

The Taoiseach said that approximately ?200 million would available over the next two years, of which about one third would be contributed by Ireland. Jos? Manuel Barroso, the president of the EU Commission, had promised their would be no delay in making the money available.

Mr Kenny said Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, who attended the summit with him, would present the plan. It will be discussed in the D?il before the end of December ?and we?ll proceed to implement it.? Regarding Ireland?s pending decision on whether to apply for a post-bailout line of credit, Mr Kenny said he briefed ?at least eight of ten? of the 24 leaders at the summit, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He told them the government was still consulting people and would make its decision before December 15th. ?The leaders were happy to be updated on that.?

In his speech in the ?lys?e Palace, Mr Kenny stressed the importance of the digital economy. ?I?d like to emphasise the enormous potential of the digital economy,? he said, quoting an EU Commission report saying it grows ?at seven times the rate of the rest of the economy.?

The last EU Council talked about ?creating a digital single market? and acknowledged that information and communication technology could create 900,000 jobs by 2015, Mr Kenny continued. ?Upskilling our young jobseekers to fill in demand digital roles is a win-win for the EU economy. It will kick-start young careers. It will spawn new fast-growing tech companies.?

Joan Burton placed the emphasis elsewhere, on learning from the experience of Austria - ?small like us? - and Germany, which have the lowest youth unemployment in the EU. She praised their ?dual system? where training and education are combined with on-the-job work experience.

Asked if the recent cut in the jobseeker?s allowance, from ?188 to ? 100 a week, indicated a shortfall in funds for Ireland?s 65,000 unemployed young people, Ms Burton said training, education and in-work experience were ?a much better investment? rather than have young people shifting onto the dole and being left there without much hope for themselves or their family.?

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