From its typically conservative stance, the Department of Finance has moved to embrace a very pessimistic outlook projecting an unemployment rate of 15.5% in 2010 – up on a current level of over 11% and a projected figure of 12.6% in 2009. These figures are shocking. How many of the unemployed are at risk of becoming unemployable after years of being out of work? What about families dependent on social welfare with nobody in paid employment for prolonged periods and without the escape valve – for the foreseeable future – of emigration to the UK or the US?
The projected drop in GDP is now set at 7.7% for this year. The projected decline in GDP is increasing at a steady rate since last Autumn in each successive update of the figures. Have we seen the end of this upward slide? I think not, unfortunately. This is probably going to be the biggest (and fastest) drop in output of any advanced industrial country since World War 2. The implications for social well-being, social partnership, the state of public services, health, crime, civil unrest are profound. We should not panic but the scale of this downturn, its speed and its likely gathering impact on peoples' lives is shocking.
We are about to learn more hard lessons about the legacy of free-riding capitalism and its domestic application to Ireland in the last quarter century.