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Young people need jobs
Where are the jobs?
It’s a question being asked by hundreds of young people across T&T, as they attempt to find their way in an economy they feel now lacks opportunities.
Last week, the Central Bank of T&T released its annual economic survey for 2016, which recorded increased rates of unemployment among the youth population.
The report noted that the highest rates of unemployment were recorded among youths, elementary workers and secondary school leavers with zero passes. The 15-19 age group recorded an unemployment rate of 13.3 per cent, while the rate for the 20-24 age group was 11.2 per cent. Meanwhile, all other age groups showed unemployment rates ranging between 0.9 per cent and 6.5 per cent.
The report said within occupational groupings, elementary workers had the highest unemployment rate of 6.6 per cent in the second quarter of 2016, more than double the unemployment rate recorded for this occupational grouping in the corresponding quarter of 2015 (3.0 per cent).
In terms of educational attainment, people who attended secondary school but achieved no subjects had the highest unemployment rate in the second quarter of 2016 (8.5 per cent)¿—much higher than the unemployment rate (3.6 per cent) recorded in the same quarter of 2015.
President of the Trinidad Youth Council Shanice Webb said it was clear even before the published report, that the number of young people facing unemployment and underemployment was growing.
In an interview last week, Webb said when it came to finding and keeping employment the cards were stacked against young people, particularly during a recession when employers are usually more likely to let the newer employees go in retrenchment exercises.
“It is something that we are trying to formulate plans toward tackling,” Webb said.
“There are young people who are qualified and certified, went through GATE but they aren’t employed or they are underemployed.
“We had a project called ‘Take a Seat, Take a Stand’ where we went into communities and asked young people what was bothering them. The top two answers were crime and unemployment.”
Webb said when her NGO went to 15 communities between 2015 and 2017, they recorded high numbers of unemployed youth.
“I think there is the economic downturn, but there is also a fear of employers willing to hire more people in terms of instability in the market. People are trying to downsize and in LIFO (last in, first out)-type policies, where the newest members of staff are the first to go, young people are going to be the ones at a disadvantage.”
The youth council often works with the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs on projects to address youth issues, but said financing these projects have always been a problem.
“Finance is a big issue in terms of funding going to youth development. I think the funding goes to sports as opposed to youth development. People see sports as a greater tool but there is a need for other initiatives.”
Webb said in a culture where young people were not judged based on performance but on experience, the cards were already stacked against them at the start.
“Some fall through the cracks. They try to be positive and open businesses, even though it is difficult to access funding or loans.”
One such person is Timothy Ali, a 29-year-old shop-owner who is currently pursuing his Masters degree and finding it difficult to find employment.
Ali, who has a BSc in Sociology with a minor in Criminology and Psychology, signed up to be a teacher with the Ministry of Education in 2012. After not being called for an assessment, he opened a stationery business but is struggling to sustain it.
“I started the stationery shop as a way to earn income when I got married. I had applied for jobs online, signed up with Ministry of Labour, looked at jobs in the newspaper and got nothing,” he told the Sunday Guardian.
“I planted a kitchen garden to sell to family and friends in the neighbourhood to make extra money. I do car washing on a small scale to make extra money.”
Ali recalled that when he was attending university he had received job offers but had chosen to dedicate time to his education.
“When I went into UWI in 2009, it was a dream come through but now I watch my friends who have less qualifications and are employed and I see how better off they are. With the way the economy is going it is a lot harder.”
They can create own jobs
Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Darryl Smith says while the ministry is monitoring unemployment among young people, it is his opinion the way to combat rising unemployment rates is through innovation and entrepreneurship.
“Unemployment among youth is a problem that not just T&T is seeing. There has been an increase in unemployment among youth across Latin America and the Caribbean. Add to that the current economic downturn and that is why you will see these numbers increasing,” Smith said.
He said in speaking to NGOs that deal with youth development and youth issues, they had highlighted a culture of “adultism” which contributes to unemployment among youth.
Adultism is a prejudice against children or youth.
“People stereotype young people and hesitate to hire them. They label them as lazy and unproductive and that is just not true,” Smith said.
He added that he thought the young people in T&T were naturally innovative and encouraged them to use the programmes available through a number of government ministries, such as the Ministry of Labour, Social Development and Agriculture, to start their own businesses.
The international community celebrated International Youth Day yesterday.