Barbados is at a tipping point when it comes to crime and violence, Minister of Economic Affairs and Investment Marsha Caddle has declared, suggesting that failure to invest in young people may be to blame.
She also slammed persistent and pervasive lack of equity in levels of pay between men and women in Barbados and the Caribbean, which also contributes to gender-based violence.
“We have this notion that because we are seeing more women in classrooms and because we are seeing more women matriculating and coming out of university, or even represented in the university, that it means women are doing better. I just want us to caution ourselves that increase enrollment that we see in universities by women is not matched by income in the labour market.”
In a speech to the 19th annual Career and Life Management (CALM) programme at the office of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on Monday, she pointed to research that showed that while more Caribbean women were in tertiary learning institutions and more women were graduating with degrees, men were “still earning more, and there is a high male participation rate in the labour force than female”.
“It means that men can earn more at a lower education attainment level than women.
“It is something that we need to pay attention to. We need to pay attention to who is earning income and we need to make sure that there is gender equality and gender equity in the education system, yes, but that it also translates into the labour market in terms of who is earning and at what level.”
But with a spate of murders in the past week bringing the death toll to 30 so far for the year, Caddle said the “crisis with respect to violence among our young men” was another “gender-based” issue that had to be addressed.
The minister said: “To resist the tendency to over-simplify the issue, I will say this, that countries get to these tipping points when they fail to invest in young people in the ways that they value.
“And I am not going to go into the short-term responses… but I will say that we have to look at some of the long-term and medium-term responses that are in our control, and it means that we have to get very flexible about how we provide opportunities.”
She said the restoration of free tertiary education was one way her one-year-old administration was providing such opportunities.
But acknowledging that not everyone would go to a university, Caddle said Government also recognized the need to design programmes “for people where they are”.
Government plans to launch a National Training Initiative in the areas of new and merging industries and in life learning and skills area, as well as a National First Jobs programme, she said.
Caddle continued: “A lot of the young men in my constituency in St Michael for example, are not going anywhere for a year to sit in a classroom.
“So one of the things we have been trying to do as a Government is to link learning and training to immediate job opportunities so that you are able to look next door and see that the persons who came off the programme four weeks ago is working right there and be able to deliver training that allows them to feel productive and to be productive,”
The annual CALM programme, continuing at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Campus in The Pine, St Michael over the next ten days, is being held under the theme Employ-Ability.
Students from secondary schools will engage in discussions about the job market and preparation for the world of work.