Youth employment

The grim reality facing many Guyanese youths is the perpetual state of unemployment in which most find themselves. I wish I could state here that things will be looking up job-wise in the future for youths, but, based on the prevailing economic slowdown, both domestically and globally, this predicament will only get worse before it gets any better.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in its 2016 World Employment Social Outlook (WESO) report, “The economic weakening has caused a further increase in global unemployment. In 2015, the number of unemployed people reached 197.1 million – approaching one million more than in the previous year and over 27 million higher than pre-crisis levels. This increase in the number of jobseekers in 2015 occurred mainly in emerging and developing countries. The employment outlook in some of these countries, notably those in Latin America, as well as some Asian countries (especially China) and a number of oil exporters in the Arab States region, is expected to have worsened in recent months”.
The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), in 2015, reported that Guyana’s youth unemployment rate is among the highest in the Caribbean at a staggering 40 per cent. The report also stated that youth unemployment in the Caribbean is the highest in the world at 25 per cent.
Every year the University of Guyana churns out thousands of students, who studied in varying fields with the expectation that upon making the sacrifice of bettering themselves they would find a decent job, one that could support them as they move onto the next phase of life. This expectation could be a plausible reason why our unemployment rate is so high. There is simply not enough decent jobs available for the youths who then have to sell themselves short, becoming overqualified and underpaid or alternatively lose hope and give up looking for work, or worst seek unlawful means to finance their ambitions.
“When there is a shortage of decent jobs, more workers may give up looking for work. In 2015, the number of working-age individuals who did not participate in the labour market increased by some 26 million to reach over two billion. Participation rates are expected to stabilise at 62.8 per cent of the global working-age population (aged 15 years and above) but then to follow a moderate downward trend, reaching 62.6 per cent in 2020 and falling further in subsequent years,” says the WESO report.
We then scratch our heads and ask ourselves why is it that we have a brain drain in Guyana with a mass exodus of young brilliant minds leaving our shores and enriching others; well, from an economic perspective that is the only way to address the unemployment equation. Wherever there is a need that is where the supply will go. So we lose our labour force to emerging and developed countries, while Guyana and the “developing” Caribbean suffer from secular stagnation.
The only foreseeable remedy to our employment woes is for our decision-makers to put effective long-term mechanisms in place to foster economic growth. To be blunt, we need industries, we need Foreign Direct Investment; this colonial mantra of more farming is clearly not flying with the youths who have educated themselves along different criteria.
Rationalise the industries that we already have: we have sugar in abundance and the world market is drying up, why not push for ethanol production from sugar so as to diversify the sector, creating a need for more chemists and agronomists. Or are we going to wait until oil prices start surging again and we are caught in a vortex.
We need to lower the cost of producing electricity so as to attract foreign businesses, that should be paramount in the long- and short-term agenda, how else are you bringing down the 40 per cent unemployment rate? Rallying a set of youths with $8 million to clean the trenches and parapets for a major event that will provide a short economic boost can’t work.
Although we are going through turbulent economic times, we should still be thinking of creating an enabling environment for sustained growth that will lead to the provision of decent jobs. That can only happen with long-term macro-economic planning.