One of the greatest challenges facing small island developing states is the lack of employment opportunities for young people.
United Nations Under-Secretary General Rebeca Grynspan noted that every region in the world was presently facing its highest rate of youth unemployment ever.
Grynspan, who was in Barbados for the just-concluded Third Preparatory SIDS Conference, told a news conference at United Nations House in Barbados that the global youth unemployment statistics were “a deep worry”.
“If you look at the numbers, not only here in Barbados and in the Caribbean, if you look at the numbers there is the highest rate of unemployment of youth that we have had ever in the world right now. This is sad; a deep worry because it will affect the development prospects of the countries,” she said.
She said estimates are that approximately 10 per cent to 40 per cent of Caribbean youths were unemployed and across the region. Those figures were also expected to change and potentially increase given the current impacts of the global economic crisis.
Grynspan, a former Vice President of Costa Rica said that in Latin America “25 per cent of young people are out of school and out of work”.
She said that in response to those figures, the United Nations Development Programme (Barbados Office) developed its “Youth-IN Project with outputs that tackle high levels of Caribbean youth unemployment”. The programme promotes entrepreneurship and enterprise among the region’s youth through the Caribbean Innovative Challenge. A second edition of the CIC will be launched by November this year.
The UN envoy said there was “no magic bullet” to youth unemployment and it had to be approached from many angles. Some of these she suggested were maintaining youth in training so they didn’t lose their skills. She also suggested they be encouraged to form associations and networks so they felt supported by their communities and were not left on their own.
Grynspan said it was crucial that young people had access to employment even if it was only short-term since it gave them the vital experience needed for longer term employment. She warned that the longer a person remained unemployed, the harder it became for that person to secure employment.
“We are working very strongly with the governments of Barbados and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States to bring programmes that will help the youth today with opportunities for entrepreneurship, for training, for temporary employment so we could really prevent long-term unemployment,” she added.
The 3rd Preparatory conference, attended by Grynspan and dozens of other ministers and top level heads, was held at the Hilton Barbados from August 26 to 28, ahead of the high level SIDS summit to be held in Samoa in September 2014.