The Freundel Stuart administration has been told that this island’s youth require a bit more than just fetes and football.
The warning came today from a top official of the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) who expressed concern about the high level of unemployment among Barbadian youth.
Delivering remarks at the opening of the BWU’s Youth Congress at Solidarity House this morning, Senior Assistant General Secretary Gillian Alleyne further cautioned that the situation was likely to worsen because of the Government’s recent “cut back on education”.
She also noted the Caribbean continued to have the highest rate of unemployment among the young people in the world.
“In 2012, [of the] nearly 75 million young people between the ages of 15 and 24 who were unemployed, almost 12 million of those 75 million [are] right here in this region,” Alleyne said.
“In Barbados, a snapshot of unemployment for 2014 shows that while the general unemployment rate was 12.3 per cent, the youth unemployment rate was 33.7 per cent with a higher number of females being unemployed.”
Alleyne referred to a recent Caribbean Development Bank study on the impact of youth unemployment on sustainable development that identified a number of contributing factors. Among them, the state of the economy, lack of adequate skills and lack of experience.
Alleyne said: “The economic crisis has resulted in cut backs to everything, including the all important education. The youth have been the ones most significantly affected by these measures. With cut backs in education, there is an impact in the long term on job acquisition and youth unemployment will be exacerbated.”
The BWU official also expressed concern about the kind of language young people were using when applying for jobs, how they were responding during job interviews and the attitude of those employed, saying that some of the behaviour was “killing the island’s productivity”.
“When those of you who are employed exhibit these negative behaviours . . . you make it difficult for other youth to get a chance,” she said.
“The Barbados Workers Union agrees with the International Labour Organization that a lack of decent work, if experienced at an early age, threatens to compromise a person’s future employment prospects and frequently leads to unsustainable labour behaviour patterns that last a lifetime. Something must be done,” she said.
Addressing Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture Stephen Lashley, Alleyne said the BWU wanted to see interventions that would result in “job-led growth in an economy that is diversified and sustainable”.
“What we don’t prefer is what happens in too many instances unfortunately; governments end up spending more money in correctional facilities, security, crime and drug prevention and unemployment benefits.”
Alleyne said that while the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture was doing “a great job”, the youth required “a bit more”. “We are more than just fetes and football,” she added.
The BWU official said high levels of youth unemployment were known to inhibit economic development with adverse social consequences including poverty, risqué behaviour and concomitant negative outcomes such as psychological scarring, crime, unplanned pregnancy and lost future earning capacity.
She called on the youth arm of the labour movement to do their part in helping to bring about positive change, adding that they would get the full support of the entire BWU.
The Youth Congress chose as its theme Uplifting & Motivating Our Nation’s Youth, the Future Leaders.