I am hoping this letter will generate some healthy discussions and commence the steps to finding viable solutions to this very real problem being faced by professionals like myself in this country.
We are a forgotten lot, we are up to our heads in debts from the numerous student loans we would have acquired to receive an education, we are constantly under threat from the Student Revolving Loan Fund for lack of failure to pay back said loans.
We are living in households that are running on empty because of our inability to maintain these households. We are faced with children that are in need of resources such as meals, school books, clothing and the like. We are rendered unable to purchase homes, pay rent and even obtain a mortgage, and we are without a safety net for two reasons.
These reasons are that we are surrounded by aging parents that are in no position to assist us because they are pensioners and must make provisions for their deteriorating health, and two, because of our professional status, welfare assistance is not readily available to us and so is the plight of the unemployed professional.
We have become the new face of the poor in this country, yet we are overlooked because when society hears the word “poor” they do not conceptualise the young man or woman with the degree or masters, they do not visualise a doctor, an engineer, an accountant or even a social worker,
No, who and what they visualise is the young lady with five and six children with no means of providing for them adequately, the elderly man or lady living in a home that is falling apart around them. What they don’t recognise is that poor is not just a visual, poor is a way of life for the jobless masses.
We may not have four or five children, we may have only one, but does it really matter how many children you have if at the end of the day you do not have any money to feed them. Our houses may not be falling down around our heads, but is there any difference between a house that is falling down and being on the verge of homelessness because of your inability to pay your rent or the mortgage.
This is our plight. Why? Because getting a job here is like searching for the proverbial needle in the haystack –jobs for us are nonexistent.
Politics drive this country. Obtaining that long sought after job after years of dedication to our studies we realise comes down to two simple things — if the party you support is in power and if the persons charged with the responsibilities of running the various Government departments, agencies and institutions like and appreciate you.
It is difficult to sit on the fence because rewards in terms of jobs are mainly forthcoming when you align yourself with a party, or if you are willing to pucker up and kiss you know what or if you are willing to pay the ultimate price as sung by Singing Francine and that is to throw away your dignity to get through.
And contrary to popular belief, there are many persons like myself who are unwilling to do either of these things to get by and so this leaves us out in the cold so to speak.
We have fallen prey to a Government and a system that either doesn’t care or appear to be dumb, deaf and blind to the very real plight that has befallen this country’s best and brightest. We have unions that have lobbied Government successfully to gain certain rights for their members and so often times the word “superseding” is thrown around, but what of the rights of persons like myself who are unemployed and will remain this way because the doors to the inner sanctum of the civil service are effectively closed.
We are unable to get our foot in the door because that would be tantamount to superseding someone who is already on the inside. So how can we begin to compete for the jobs that are out there when the only way to be eligible for consideration is if you are already a member of the civil service and this effectively places us between a rock and a hard place.
Sad to say, we have never been a country that places much credence on qualifications, and so we have many of our institutions and departments staffed by persons who are not as qualified as many persons they are managing and this presents a problem in itself as more often than not these persons feel threatened and due to their own insecurities are often times the chief culprits.
This relates not only to thwarting a subordinate within their department from moving up the ladder, but also in preventing skilled and qualified individuals from getting their feet in the door in the first place, in a desperate attempt to minimise what they perceive as a threat to their power base, and unfortunately these said individuals are aided and abetted, whether knowingly or unknowingly, by the unions and each successive Government.
It is not unusual to hear the odd suggestion being thrown out that we should cast our nets further afield, after all the CSME is suppose to be a fully functioning, well oiled machine, but many like myself will tell you that opportunities gained outside of Barbados are just as hard to come by as the other islands only hire outside of their local work force as a last resort.
One such example is a recent email I received from Bahamas informing me that although there is a need for social workers they will only be advertising within the Bahamas. It would appear from my limited observations that CSME is only beneficial for persons seeking employment within Barbados and not for Barbadians seeking employment within their borders.
So what am I and the many like me are suppose to do? It is easy to say leave, but leave and go where? And how can we leave when we have aging parents to see after, and young children that need the stability that comes with a permanent home? What options are available to us?
Some might say we need to think outside the box, consider the option of self employment but not all of us can be self employed. Perhaps a better solution would be to take a long hard look at the present hiring practices and level the playing field, make employment targets achievable for all.
I shouldn’t be knocked out of the race before I have even thrown in my hat all because I don’t have any connections or because I refuse to use the ones I may or may not have, unlike many persons that reach high offices in this country or as the saying goes “gained entry via the back door”.
I want to be able to go to sleep each night knowing that I am in the position I am in because I am qualified and I was seen as capable of doing the job and I often wonder if I may be the last of a dying breed because it appears that the type of mindset my aunt (the late Myrtle Jones, former Registrar of Cooperatives) instilled within me is no longer seen as desirable in my country.
There are many persons like myself in this country, who are suffering in silence and it is time we stop. It is time that we stop burying our heads in the sand and pretending that all is well because it is not. It is time we stop fearing reprisals for calling out Government on the flaws in our system and in our country.
We are already jobless, what further reprisals are we afraid of? We never had anything to lose in the first place, change can only occur when we agitate, change can only occur when we advocate.
It is time for Barbados to wake up and realise the face of the poor has changed.