How do you spell "Knowledge Economy"?

I was just queueing in the post office to send a letter. Not the most cheerful places at the best of of times.

In the few minutes I was there, at least 5 young lads came in to pick up dole money. Two of them were driving the typical “too much, too young” heavily modded, now worthless Honda Civics. One of them was filling out a form very slowly and had to ask the person behind the counter how to spell “Galway”…

My Dad volunteers to teach reading and writing to adults with literacy/numeracy problems. During the boom times he had a surprising number of students - young and old - who had quietly been ignored by the education system. The younger ones in particular surprised me, because they were products of our 21st century schools, Celtic Tiger cubs.

Now that the boom is over, he has a shocking number of students, all of them former construction workers. Most of them with mortgages and massive car loans for “toy” cars that have been modded to the gills. Some were people who couldn’t even sign their names on loan applications.

Tragically, the ambitious ones think that within a few months of starting to learn reading/writing, they will get “computer jobs”. These are the most depressing cases, because they start with great enthusiasm and slowly become disillusioned as they realise just how far behind they are.

Think about this, if your hours are cut back or you struggle to buy the house that you want. Most people here probably have some qualifications or skills. Everyone here can read. Most people here haven’t got crippling debts. Things might get bad, but there are always options.

Now, think about these people who grew up in a Celtic Tiger economy and never learned to read or write. Think about these people who were encouraged to leave school early and go labouring on the sites. Think about these people who had bank managers lining up to throw money at them to buy rice rockets and starter homes. Think about how utterly unrealistic their view of the world must be.

These. People. Are. Fscked.

We have created a vast new underclass in this country, a new generation to continue the tale of misery we spun in urban planning nightmares of the 80s. Undereducated, hugely indebted and with no clear sense of how money/wealth/skills work in a properly functioning economy. The knowledge economy is a fiction anyway, we have no engineers or scientists, and we barely pay the ones we do have. But, these people cannot read or write. There are tens of thousands of them. They can’t even spell knowledge economy…

…where the hell are they going to work?

Yeah, as I said on another thread, we now have a lower literacy rate than we had when we had class sizes 50% larger & our education budget was a fraction the size.

I’m not laying the blame at any one groups door, but as you’ve said the Knowledge Economy line was just that, a line.

If they weren’t hugely indebted, there would be work for them doing something. As it is, they cannot afford to come off benefits, so the best we can hope for is to keep them occupied at the state’s expense. I suggest putting them to good use improving tourist facilities all over the country, putting footpaths and cycleways into all the minor towns and villages, learning REPS related skills (hedge-laying, for example), anything to keep them actually working while at the same time doing the adult education bit a couple of days a week full-time.

I disagree!
Can’t read, can’t write, that’s a huge knowledge economy.
Any more economising in their knowledge and I doubt they would even remember their names.

If you’re on Job Seekers Allowance (this is the one that’s means tested), if you don’t find work fairly quickly, you’ll be forced into attending a FAS course or doing street cleaning type duty anyway.

How can they afford to stay on benefits? If they have all that debt to pay off?

What’s the old saying?
“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance”.

I’m not sure how much I’d worry about these guys to be honest.

If the last budget told us anything it’s that the government will do anything it can before it cuts the dole, or even fails to raise it by less than inflation. Raise taxes, take medical cards away old people, refuse vaccines to 12 year olds. Whatever it takes.

The dole might not be a lot, but it’s steady income. Find a few nixers to bring in the extra cash to pay for a new spoiler for your Civic and you’re sorted.

There are worse places in the world to be illiterate and unemployed. That’s for sure.


Because, as long as they haven’t lied about their income, the state will pay the interest on their mortgages rather than have to rehouse them. If they didn’t have these debts, they could do lower paid work and just live off it, but as it is, it is impossible to service a large mortgage and live on state benefit. I am assuming, though, that this is available on jobseekers allowance (as I presume most of them were self-employed). For many of them, personal bankruptcy will be their only choices with respect to the rest of their debts as they will be unable to keep up with car loan, credit card or other payments.

Would this work, though? I mean, did it work in the 80s? I remember watching a team of people spend 18 months building a small wall around part of a local park (and planting a few bushes) - as part of some work-for-benefit scheme operated by Fas. To say that they didn’t take it very seriously would be a huge understatement.

I suppose the wrinkle nowadays is that there are fewer unskilled jobs than there were in the 80s (no factory work riding in to save us), and the illiterate are hugely indebted - with corresponding need for huge incomes. It’s very, very hard to teach 20-year olds how to read/write, even if they’re enthusiastic. Why would they bother learning now? They’re not going to get “computer jobs” out of it. If they’re really, really, lucky - they might get to work in call centers. Easier to just give up, no?

Or, turn to crime, which is another section of my Dad’s students - criminals facing convictions who need to be able to tell judges that they’re turning their lives around, in training, etc. etc… These guys have even nicer cars, and remarkably few money problems. Oh, and they drop the literacy thing as soon as their legal issues are resolved.


By freezing the dole, we could have saved €500 million. That would have more than paid for medical cards and education.

I have a job, so it’s probably easy for me to wax lyrical. I did spend a few weeks on the dole awhile back, even then, I thought €180 p/w was an obscene amount of money to pay someone for sitting on their holes.

Is that you David?

Yikes, how much is that going to end up costing the tax payer? another bill for the government to pay.

Really? I did not know that. Are you sure? What scheme is this covered by?

EDIT - crossed posts with WB there :slight_smile:

How wide can you stretch your arms? Well, it’ll be bigger than that.

Sure everything these days is in text speak!!! who needs to spell it corectly! :angry:

Just because you can’t spell or stand up in front of a room to give a presentation doesn’t mean you’re sworn to a life of poverty.

I know chauffers, crash repair men, bin men, groundsmen, technicians, baggage handlers, field service engineers, etc. who all do an honest days work and have better pay and conditions than most 22 year-olds on “graduate programs” can ever aspire to.

I still like to think here in the midst of this brave new world, that if you’re honest, reliable, hard-working and well-mannered, there’ll always be honest work available.

There’ll always be demand for sound blokes in any organisation. You don’t have to worry about them the way you have to worry about the IT gimp with a PhD in computers when he opens his mouth to one of your customers. … supplement
Mortgage interest supplement is what it’s called. Read all about it in the link above. It does reduce the amount of other benefits you get, i.e. you are supposed to still contribute if you can, but you will be left with a minimum amount depending on your means.

Well look at that. You’re quite right. I’m relieved to see that at least we’re only paying some of the interest. The taxpayer isn’t expected to buy the house for them. Still though - thats not going to be fun to pay for since some of these guys are probably on jumbo mortgages on quite ordinary houses. sigh

Granted. However, we’ve been “competing” internationally on the quality of our highly educated, cheap workforce. In latter years we’ve justified our higher costs by going on about our “knowledge economy”. As jobs in manufacturing and agriculture leaked away, we said “it’s ok, they can retrain into our knowledge economy”. How do you retrain if you can’t read?

In another country, one that was still developing, illiteracy mightn’t lead to such extreme relative poverty. However, here in Ireland, we’re supposed to be past that stage. And my contention is that we have a much, much bigger literacy problem than anyone realised. In part, exacerbated by the boom, which enticed young people out of school earlier - into low-skilled construction jobs - saddled them with debt, and then abandoned them to their fates as 20-somethings with young families and severe literacy problems.

I would like to think that too. Hell, I’d reckon that people would like to think that they live in a society where house prices always increase and pension funds are well managed. Liking to think something does not make it so, sadly.

Lucky for us then. We don’t have anywhere near enough gimps with CS PhDs (and we accord them little or no respect) and plenty of “sound blokes” who chanced their way through the boom. How gratifying, if someone wants to start a business here in Ireland that we can make up for a lack of graduates with actual skills with an overabundance of “sound blokes” who can talk to customers without scaring them. Who needs world class R&D when you can open another call centre?

Sadly, if we’re still pretending that we’re a developed economy, we need to find some gimps with real skills and qualifications (import them if need be). They’re the ones that will be paying the taxes and buying the services that might keep some of our sound blokes in employment.