When is an adult not an adult?
When they are Irish, and made to depend on their parents until the age of 25.
When I moved to Sweden, I discovered an almost unseemly haste when it comes to parents getting their fledglings to fly the nest.
To ensure the chance of a decent rental apartment when they get older, children are put on housing lists as infants.
As soon as they’re finished school, the lists are perused. Trips to IKEA are booked. Unless you’ve a very good reason, you’ll be made to fly the nest reasonably quickly.
Yesterday’s Irish budget reinforced one of the more backward national notions – that your children are your children, even when they are adults.
For those under 24, their entitlement to unemployment assistance has now effectively been cut to €100 a week.
If they can’t afford to live on that, their only other viable alternative is to stay at home – or move back there, as the state insists on continuing to treat adults as children. And problem children at that.
Probably the greatest disappointment in this (or any other) government, social protection minister Joan Burton says that the worst start for any young person is to wind up on the dole.
It is now, Joan.
Because a young person who has come out of school, gotten a job and paid PRSI – an insurance premium – for three or four years is no longer entitled to equal treatment if they do become unemployed.
Instead, they become prey for the odious Jobbridge scheme, exploited by many employers for cheap Labour. This will give them an extra €50 a week – or an effective hourly wage of €3.80 per hour, in a country where the minimum wage is ostensibly €8.65 an hour.
In the boomtime, the mammies and daddies signed the guarantees to get their children on the property ladder.
Now, with their properties worth less than nothing, they are asked to take back their children, not because they failed, but because their country failed them.
It is a skewed system that addresses the problem of youth unemployment by hiding it in our childhood bedrooms.
By mammies taking their children back, we are hiding the true extent of Ireland’s youth employment problem.
We are once again telling them that the government cannot create an economy where they can be self-reliant, nor can they rely on the state. It is family, or nothing.
Given the national shame of entering the bailout, we should be acutely aware of what it means to be dependent on others, and seek to avoid putting our young people – those who eventually be paying our pensions – in the same position.
Rather than forcing families to accept responsibility for the failure of the state, it’s time for the government to cut the apron strings of mammynomics and start behaving like adults, and treating young adults as … well, adults.
Because we cannot ask our young people to behave like adults when we continue to treat them as children.