Donegal Thomas Pringle has said the Government must create opportunities for young people to remain in their rural home areas in Donegal.
He said children are going to college with their parents knowing full-well that they will not return home to work locally.
Deputy Pringle said: “Many of us in Donegal have encouraged our wains to go to college and university, knowing that it is highly unlikely that they will return to their hometown to live and work after graduation.
“Where are the job opportunities in the forgotten county? Many people work in the North. Many people used to travel back and forth between Donegal and Glasgow, Scotland but Brexit and Covid have changed everything.
“There have been some initial positive reports of people moving back to their hometowns during lockdown and while they can work from home. The re-population of rural Ireland is very welcome and I hope that the necessary infrastructural resources are put in place to continue this trend.”
However, he said, people must be given the right to “switch off”.
Deputy Pringle said: “My concerns with the working from home phenomena is employers will continue to blur the lines of when they expect work to be done. As long as proper boundaries are being put in place around the right to switch off, then the pandemic creates an opportunity for job opportunities to be decentralised.”
Deputy Pringle was speaking in the Dáil yesterday (Thursday) in support of a People Before Profit motion to tear down all barriers to further and higher education.
He also welcomed the Minister’s announcement of a Central Application Office (CAO) revamp, which would allow applicants to access options on apprenticeships and further education and training.
Solas, the State agency that manages a range of further education and training programmes, is to lead on this strategy.
The deputy said there are reports on the Solas website from a network of regional skills forums and a Skills and Labour Market Research Unit, which conducts regular research on employer needs and programme development.
The border area comprises the five border counties, which make up just 7.4% of employment in Ireland.
Between Quarters 1 and 3 of 2020, there was a 4.5% drop in employment with the biggest decline in industry (down 21%) and male employment (down 6.9%).
The border region had a higher unemployment rate for people under 25, those in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, with 27.1% of young people under 25 years unemployed compared to 25.3% for this cohort in the rest of the State.
Deputy Pringle said: “The bottom line is that Donegal is in crisis. There may be some opportunities for higher and further education but then what? Unless investment is put into the forgotten county, we will become an ever-dwindling population with our graduates moving on and out.”