‘Thousands of jobs available, no workers’ –Labour Ministry
By Zena Henry
Labour Minister Nanda Gopaul has disclosed that there are thousands of jobs available countrywide, but no workers to fill vacancies. His statement was made at the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) head office on Wednesday during the observance of World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) International Action Day 2014.
The Minister’s utterance addressed claims that Guyana is facing serious unemployment issues, which seems to be affecting mainly younger citizens.
Gopaul said his Ministry’s recruitment agency records far more employer requests for staff than unemployment registrations. He described this as a positive sign that unemployment in the country “is not as chronic as portrayed”.
Another issue raised was that many persons, particularly young people entering the working arena, are seeking professional careers in academia, while there is a significant lag in technical areas. This is a growing dilemma, the gathering of trade unionists and supporters was told following the march which ushered in the International Action Day celebrations.
Minister Gopaul explained that measuring unemployment is a difficult task, depending on how it is measured. “In Guyana’s case, when you search for workers and can’t find them, it means we are going somewhere,” he opined.
The World Bank has reported a 22 percent decline in the country’s unemployment rate, and while the Minister said he could not give the exact figure, he assured that, “There are thousands of vacancies around this country and we cannot find workers to fill those vacancies.”
He said the country is developing in an unprecedented manner and working conditions have improved tremendously, to the point where every single worker is protected under the law, including the national minimum wage, national work week, and working hours of eight hours per day, 40 hours per week.
He said his Ministry has been able to ratify International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 189 which deals with legal coverage for domestic workers’; entitlements, working hours, and other regulations against them being exploited.
The Labour Minster asserted that the country has made strides in industrial relations legislation protecting workers. Additionally, as of yesterday, work commenced on the creation of an unemployment benefit scheme, the Minister said. He explained that the idea is in the infant stage, but modules of such schemes are being looked at in other countries. However, applicants seeking this benefit will have to indicate clearly that no job is available for which he or she could be employed.
“We are saying the opportunities abound where many, many persons claiming to be unemployed could be employed.”
For the past five years several persons have been trained for jobs, especially young people out of school. In cases where persons were not trained or placed in a job, the Ministry was able to assist in self-employment by providing training in areas such as block building, cosmetology, heavy duty equipment operators and home economics, among others.
The Minister said last year 1000 were registered as unemployed, but 1500 persons were placed. He appealed to persons feeling a sense of helplessness in gaining employment to “come to the Central Recruitment and Manpower Agency in any region and we will be able to place you because we have opportunities. Do not waste your life on the street corners,” he said, specifically in relation to young men.
Guyana Labour Union President Carvil Duncan in his remarks indicated that many job seekers are seeking top brass positions. He believes that persons are pursuing academic careers, and not careers for jobs that are available. He said the fight against unemployment is recognized around the world annually, but questioned whether in Guyana there is unemployment or underemployment.
“It’s a fundamental question,” he said, “but it cannot be answered without considering whether citizens are training for employment of just professional careers.
“Thousands go to the local university, but they are not going to seek technical jobs…who doesn’t want to be a doctor, wants to be a lawyer; who doesn’t want to be a lawyer wants to be a public servant and who doesn’t want to be a public servant, wants to be a manager. Who will we manage if there is no training for technical people?”
Duncan said that around the country, authorities hear statements that refer to qualified university students gaining qualifications, but can’t find work. That is the dilemma, he advised, “there are a lot of jobs for a lot of people, but we are concentrating in the wrong way.”
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