by Jerry Roker
for Bahamas Press
Unemployment among our young citizens is estimated at approximately 30%. Many economists and commentators have described that statistic as “staggering.” It is even more perplexing, when one considers that this level of unemployment has occurred in an economy that has been hailed as one of the strongest in the Caribbean.
Governments are fond of holding up the growth of the economy as its principal achievement. But we cannot be proud of such high level of unemployment among our young people. And just as they own the growth rate, they must own the unemployment rate.
The puzzling question for the layperson is how is it possible to have a positive growth rate of the economy while there is a high unemployment rate among such a large and pivotal demographic in our country. If wealth is generated in the country but 30 percent of your young population cannot find work, then who is benefiting from this wealth?
The economists have their work cut out. But what is certain is that it is difficult to maintain that incongruence over a long period of time. There is a relationship between unemployment and social ills such as poverty, crime and other forms of social delinquency. The signs are clear for us to see. The real poverty rate has to be related to high unemployment among other factors.
Very shortly, the Government is expected to present its budget for the next fiscal year. I dare say, that some sort of stimulus package may be forthcoming. If it is, it will be good news indeed.
Such a package should help to stimulate employment, particularly for our young people. In fact it does come, it ought to be specifically targeted at our young people.
The youth have generally not participated fully in the political process. This is a global trend. But at the last two elections, they voted in larger than usual numbers. There is obviously a larger sense of expectation among them now that the next election cycle is near. Failure by the Government to deal with the issue of unemployment could result in the youth returning to a state of apathy and cynicism which in the long run is not healthy for the democratic process.
I, therefore, call on the Minister of Finance to craft a budget in which the problem of youth employment is addressed. This cannot wait; invest in our youthful human resources. There is dire need for both a long and short term strategy. There can be no youth empowerment without youth employment. Let us put our young people to work.