UNABLE to find a job, more and more young adults are moving out of rural areas such as Garrison and trekking to countries like Australia, Canada and New Zealand in the pursuit of work.
"They see more opportunities and possibly a better lifestyle elsewhere. The lack of job opportunities here is forcing people to emigrate," explains SDLP Councillor Brendan Gallagher who has watched a number of his constituents pack up and move away in recent months.
"As secretary of Devenish GAA you can see the impact this is having on GAA clubs right across the county. However, this is only starting to affect communities, and will only snowball unless the Executive takes action. Our rural population is ageing and the loss of our young people will have serious long term effects on our communities," he said.
Councillor Gallagher says statistics show unemployment in the county has increased by 7.7 per cent and states that over 2,000 people are claiming unemployment benefits here. So why can't people find work? The answer, he says, is simple: "There are no jobs locally. The construction industry is on its knees and the housing market is dormant. Unfortunately more and more people are having to look further afield for jobs. The jobs crisis was most evident when we witnessed the huge number of applicants for the hospital support staff positions at the new hospital. We are in danger of losing a generation of our skilled workforce and graduates who may never return." Councillor Gallagher says people must also bear in mind the potential impact of RPA and the threat of closure on rural schools across the county.
"The austerity measures which are on the way from Westminster will only lead to further job losses and business closures. There has been little resistance to these measure from Sinn Fein and the DUP to date. The worldwide recession must be the main contributor to unemployment, however Northern Ireland's recovery is slower than that of the rest of the UK, which is worrying. The Executive needs to be held accountable for this." He believes the Executive needs to introduce initiatives to get the construction industry up and running, similar to the Warm Homes scheme which Alex Attwood introduced when he was DSD Minister.
"The Executive should be increasing support for Start Up businesses as the SME sector is our best hope of stimulating the economy. We need to find ways to encourage people to spend money. Money makes the world go round. Banks also need to be encouraged to start lending again," he said.