It would be interesting to know how many foreigners have secured jobs in Guyana at a time when Guyanese themselves say there are no jobs. For some time now, people have been saying that they cannot get jobs. So persistent have been these statements that they actually became believable.
There were those who claimed that they spent years pursuing an education and having completed their studies, simply cannot find jobs. Eventually this chant about no jobs became a political statement. The political opposition, with no evidence, chanted that the government is neglecting young people.
I remember the early days of the Coalition Government when there was a massive drive to clean up the city that had become a haven for disease. Garbage was everywhere, because the people responsible for disposal couldn’t care less.
Many of them were going to an office but doing precious little. An overseas-based Guyanese had noted this behaviour and had made the perennial comment, “Only in Guyana.” That is because in the developed world, when people leave their homes, they go to work. They find things to do when their chores are exhausted.
We in Guyana only tend to do something when we have to, and this is our downfall. We get incensed when we learn that Trinidadians are coming and getting jobs that we should be doing. The truth is that we simply do not go after those jobs.
Finance Minister Winston Jordan likened this attitude to Guyanese who go overseas and get jobs while the people in those countries simply live off welfare. We hear talk about Guyanese working for even less than the minimum wage. That is because they have to put food on the table in a foreign country. There is no one giving you anything. But you are comfortable at home. People have been known to walk off jobs because they complain that the pay is too small.
What do they do? They prefer to earn nothing than to earn something. They prefer to rely on others who are working, because there are many of us who do not hesitate to give someone a change because they ask and we have it in our pocket.
Yet I wonder how a man is prepared to live off a pittance than to work for so much more. Sociologists say that even if you pay someone to just sit at a desk for a pay, that person would find a reason to quit. Some people simply cannot work.
There are Venezuelans and Cubans in Guyana who have found jobs. These jobs were there but we, Guyanese, are not interested.
The reaction to Minister Jordan’s comments was that he wanted Guyanese to work for a pittance. The trade unions actually got into the act.
In the United States, the authorities have made it clear that they would provide welfare for a limited period. The individual is compelled to find a job.
Just this past week, I was informed that people want jobs that they are not capable of undertaking. Teaching comes readily comes to mind. Not many professional people get into the teaching profession, so there are vacancies there.
People have come to me for a job and I have directed them to the teaching profession. The reply is that I do not like teaching. Some we employ as reporters, but they lack the ability to think. They also do not read, so they become useless and are let go.
A look at the media landscape would reveal people who have worked at many media houses, simply moving to another when they prove to be inefficient at one. Guyana must be one of the few countries where reporters are not trained.
I was one of the people who having left school had to find a job. I sent out applications and was invited to Bartica. At that school, I had a headmaster, the late Edgar Jordan, who looked at me for about two months and suggested that I go into the teachers’ training college, which I did.
I graduated to the media after seven years and again I was singled out for training. There are not many of us trained reporters around, because not many young reporters seem inclined to be trained. Then again, the private media institutions cannot be bothered with sponsoring their reporters.
There is an employment exchange in Guyana, but I do not know how many people use it. Employers would use it to announce vacancies in their midst. I am not certain that they get many responses from the employment exchange.
The foreigners have come with innovations. I see carts with edibles in the streets, competing with our sedentary food vendors. They are bound to succeed and could displace local food vendors.
When we sat and complained that business had declined, the Chinese came and turned that comment on its head. And the Chinese are expanding. I see people constructing what would later become businesses operated by the Chinese. Why is this so? Guyanese are not prepared to take risks, only going after a sure bet.
Outside the city at places like Diamond, I see Guyanese who have invested and are doing very well, because they insist that they can do well. And they employ locals. The Chinese employ foreigners, largely Cubans, to do the translation.
There is always agriculture, but again, our young people seem inclined, for the greater part, to stay away from this venture. One of my colleagues was in the field on Friday. She returned to the office and proclaimed that she could never be an agriculturist although the field is a gold mine.
So what’s all this about jobs? For starters, our young people should have an aim. If they go after a job, they must know something about it, at least learn something about it.
The days when an office job was the best thing are over. With oil, there are many other jobs that are not traditional. We may not be able to spend the day sitting, but at least we could be working.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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