– New Education Minister says “unacceptable”
A recent study coming out of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has shown that Guyana has a youth unemployment rate of about 40%.
The revelation was shown in the CDB report, “Youth are our Future: The Imperative of Youth Unemployment for Sustainable Development”. In the study, Guyana and 7 other regional countries were surveyed in regards to their youth unemployment. The report indicated that out of the reviewed countries, Guyana’s rate was the highest.
According to the report’s findings, the regional countries with the highest persistent youth unemployment were Guyana and Suriname. Since 2000, these rates have been consistently above 30% with Guyana’s rate hovering around 40% this time.
The CDB report covered a period from 1991 to 2012 for selected countries in the Caribbean.
In regards to Guyana, the report showed that rates have been steadily rising over the years. From 2005 to 2006, the country saw a noticeable decline in the youth unemployment rate. The rate held relatively steady from 2006 to about 2009 when it started increasing.
Between 2001 and 2002, Guyana saw a staggering 50% rate of youth unemployment, a figure far above that of any other country. Since then, the country has been hovering between 30% and 50% but never below the 30% mark. The only time in just over 20 years Guyana fell below 30% was between 1991 and 1992 when the rate was about 27%.
Furthermore, Guyana has been the country with the highest level of youth unemployment in the reviewed countries for more than a decade; the country was topped by other countries only thrice in over two decades: these were in 1991, 1992 and again around 2000.
Meanwhile, Guyana was 1 of 4 surveyed countries which demonstrated a ratio comparing the youth unemployment rates with those of the general population below the world average. However, the report said, “These data do not necessarily indicate that these countries are performing well generally, simply that the disparity between the youth and the adult rates is not as severe as in other countries.”
The report also showed that the total unemployment rates in Guyana are also “persistently high”.
New Education Minister Rupert Roopnarine has deemed Guyana’s unemployment rate as “unacceptable”.
In an interview with this newspaper, Roopnarine said that the rate is not only “really unacceptable” but must be addressed as speedily as possible.
He said his ministry will devise serious policies to bring youths into the workforce. He said too that the ministry will move right away to develop strategies with expediency.
“I can’t say yet what these strategies are but the youth unemployment will be handled with extreme urgency,” Roopnarine emphasised.
The Education Ministry now overlooks the youth and sport sectors in Guyana following the institution of the APNU+AFC coalition. Roopnarine was only recently sworn in as the Minister of Education.
Youth unemployment in the Caribbean
In the Caribbean, youth unemployment rates are among the highest in the world, the CDB report showed. According to the report, the data for 8 of the regional countries reviewed showed that only in Trinidad and Tobago did youth unemployment rates fall below the world average. However, this was during the period of 2006 to 2010.
Between 1991 and 2012, all other Caribbean countries had youth unemployment rates above the world average. The average youth unemployment rate in the region was higher than for all of the other groupings, and was only lower than all Small States between the late 1990s and 2011.
While the 2012 rate for the Caribbean was over 25%, the world average was 10% and, apart from Small States, all regional groupings had a youth unemployment rate of less than 20%.
Outside of Guyana, most other Caribbean countries have had a relatively consistent youth unemployment rate over the 1991 to 2012 period. However, The Bahamas, Barbados and to some degree Belize demonstrated significant increases in their youth unemployment rates since 2007. The CDB report posited that this significant increase might be linked to the recent global economic crisis.
In contrast, Guyana, Barbados, The Bahamas and Belize are the only countries in the region which demonstrated a ratio below the world average. Once more, the report emphasised that these data do not necessarily indicate that these countries are performing well generally, simply that the disparity between the youth and the adult rates is not as severe as in other countries.
Male vs. female youth unemployment
Meanwhile, in looking at differences between youth and adults by gender, the CDB report demonstrated a large differential in unemployment rates in the selected Caribbean countries, with a youth rate of approximately 25% as opposed to an adult rate of approximately 8%.
However, the gender differential is much more severe, the report showed. For male youth, the unemployment rate is approximately 20% as opposed to the female youth rate of over 30%.
“Overall, youth unemployment accounts for over 35% of total unemployment, while female youth unemployment accounts for over 40% of male unemployment,” the report stated.
Furthermore, the unemployment rate for the 14 to 19 age group is higher than for other age groups, the report showed. Specifically in Belize in 2009, the unemployment rates for the 14 to 19 and 20 to 24 age groups were 33% and 20% respectively as opposed to the general unemployment rate was 13%. Further, the situation of women is more severe in Belize, with the female unemployment rates for the two lowest 5-year age cohorts being 43 and 28% respectively, and the overall female unemployment rate being 20%. This 20% rate is more than twice that of males which was 8%. Overall, women comprised 62% of the unemployed.
Across the region, such findings were echoed; the unemployment rate in the region is higher for the lowest age cohort, and women generally experience higher unemployment rates than men.
“Despite women’s educational gains in the Caribbean over the last two decades, this has not necessarily translated into employment security for them,” the report said. It continued, “Men tend to experience unemployment in the short term while women’s experiences are over a longer period. One of the concerning issues is that, on average, youth comprise 38% of the unemployed, while being only 25% of the adult (25+) population.”
According to Warren Smith, President of the CDB, high levels of youth unemployment inhibit economic development, with adverse social consequences, including poverty; risky behaviours and concomitant negative outcomes such as psychological scarring, crime, unplanned pregnancy, and lost future earning capacity. He added that it is a critical development concern that requires urgent attention and durable solutions.
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