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Youth employment – a major challenge for developing countries

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Fri Aug 30, 2013

International organizations agree, world youth unemployment is at an all time high.

The United Nations says this unprecedented rate of youth unemployment is worrying, because it will affect development prospects of countries (see story on page 29). The International Labour Organization too, says the world is facing a worsening youth employment crisis, with young people three times more likely to be unemployed than adults, and almost 73 million youth worldwide looking for work.{{more}}

The global economic meltdown has resulted in many businesses laying off or putting a freeze on hiring, and older people being forced to remain in the job market longer than they had expected to, in order to make ends meet. At the same time, there is no reduction in the rate at which students are leaving school and entering the job market. Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines, this is the time of the year when the large number of youthful job seekers in our midst is most noticeable; employers are bombarded by dozens of applications from recent school leavers, to add to those applications already on file.

The experts say that in addition to the responsibility of governments to develop targeted macro-economic policies to address the problem, it is important that we keep our young people in school or in training, or in apprenticeships, for as long as possible, until they are able to find full time work. When young people are out of school and unemployed, they lose hope and their skills, and begin to retrogress. The longer this situation persists, the harder it is for them to compete and secure long-term employment.

This week on pages 20 and 21 of the Weekend Searchlight, we feature the new facilities and programmes at the Villa campus of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Community College. The infrastructure which has been put in place there is wonderful, and hopefully, will inspire our students to perform at even higher levels. But even more important than the aesthetics of the new campus is the policy articulated by deputy Director of the College Mr. Nigel Scott, who said that no student who qualifies for entry is turned away. This is key, not only because it keeps our students engaged and off the streets, but exposing them to as high a level of education and training as possible, makes them better citizens generally, and more competitive on the global job market. The example of the graduates of the Nursing Division of the SVGCC, who have been finding employment all over the world, even in this tough economic climate, immediately comes to mind.

Initiatives like the YES programme, funded by the Taiwanese government, Youth Business SVG, the Centre for Enterprise Development, the programmes of the Adult and Continuing Education Division and others, are vital to addressing the challenge of youth unemployment. The disadvantaged student loan programme, which allows students from low income homes to access student loans to go overseas to study is also important in our efforts to stop the cycle of poverty.

It would therefore seem that we are on the right track. We however need to change the mindset of our youngsters so that they begin to think more entrepreneurially, and less that someone is out there waiting to employ them. They should be encouraged to think about how can they use the education and training they have received to provide employment for themselves and perhaps a few other friends.

There is no sign that the global economic recession is letting up, but in the meantime, we should not and cannot let down our young people. Let us do what we can to see them through this difficult time.

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