90% of the labour force lacks higher education
– Minister Nadir
The Minister of Labour, Manzoor Nadir, has revealed shocking statistics that indicate that more than 90 percent of Guyana’s labour force do not have any education above the secondary level.
His information was garnered from what he called ‘Para-statistics’ –statistical information released by Ministries of Government. The separate Ministries all produce a wealth of information on the matters pertaining to their specific portfolios and this information is extremely useful to businesses, NGOs and perhaps even the Government itself according to Nadir.
Such information would assist with investment targeting, since information and easy access to it are the key factors in influencing foreign investment, as it allows potential investors a better opportunity to assess the country and what it has to offer.
Nadir chose to focus on the statistics that his Ministry provides in the context of the labour market through an annual publication called the Guyana Wages and Hours of Work Survey and a quarterly Labour Market Information Bulletin.
The Wages and Hours of Work Survey is based on questionnaires, but according to Nadir, getting information from the Private Sector is “… like pulling teeth”. While this information is ‘freely and readily’ available from the Ministry, if business owners and managers do not want to share this knowledge then it becomes harder for the relevant agencies to produce the reports. He noted that the response rate to the questionnaire in 2008 was 59 from 500, indicating that just 10 per cent of those approached even bothered to submit an answer.
In 2009, however, the figures improved significantly with 251 out of 500 responding to the questionnaire.
Of those 251 establishments, 90 percent were Guyanese owned, while six and four percent had ownership with foreign equity or were completely foreign owned. According to the Minister, this is a result that indicates a need for the sector to move toward increasing foreign investment in the country. Further, he noted that only one per cent of these businesses was in the export sector, making it abundantly clear that the nation needs to earn more income from the export of goods through an expansion in this sector.
In the survey year, US$400M came into the country’s economy as remittances, which Nadir categorised under the exporting of services.
The government trains people and they go abroad, work and send money back home – hence the country is exporting their services.
Of the 251 establishments, a cross-section of almost 9000 persons was covered. The number of interviews done last year was 2,246 as the Ministry studied the workforce from the perspective of gender, ethnicity and education.
In terms of the academic strength of the labour force, 29 per cent of the workforce do not have primary education and only 52 per cent of the sample had completed secondary education.
This represents 80 per cent of Guyana’s labour force being exposed to a primary or secondary education. Nadir stated that these figures are a serious indictment for the country, not only for those in the education and labour sectors but also from a business perspective. Poorly educated workers will affect the quality of labour that can be expected from such persons. The entire nation has an obligation to keep children in school, he said.
He urged that greater encouragement be placed on enabling potential workers to acquire a higher education, noting that of the respondents to the survey, only 9 per cent have some sort of technical qualification while only 8 percent have a university education.
Nadir said an unhealthy economic environment which is not conducive to the earning expectations of the country’s university graduates is being created and it causes them to seek economic opportunities elsewhere. “There simply aren’t enough jobs that will let them live the kind of lives they want to enjoy after all their years of studying,” the Minister stated.
Following from this trend it can be seen that almost 57 per cent of the work force today has been on the job for just between 1 to 5 years–indicating that there is a serious problem with retaining workers. Of the rest of the workforce, 10 per cent have been in one job for 10 to 14 years, while another 10 percent have held on to one job for over 15 years, the net result being that only 20 percent of the country’s work force is actually stable.