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A Partnership for National Unity is warning the People’s Progressive Party/Civic administration that this country is sitting on a ‘time bomb’ of youth unemployment. The Government’s delay in dealing with the jobs crisis and its disregard for measures to defuse the jobs crisis could cause a social explosion which could have dangerous consequences.

The National Employment Report published by the International Labour Organisation, estimated that, based on Guyana’s Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) which was last undertaken over a decade ago, about 44 per cent of the population of working age are “not economically active.” The Report also indicated that young people suffer the most, owing to the fact that school-leavers are inexperienced and have a long wait before they find their first job.

The report of the CARICOM Commission on Youth Development – Eye on the Future: Invest in Youth Now for the Community Tomorrow – noted, among other things, that the primary education dropout rate was “at a staggering height.”  Joblessness among young people in the Caribbean Community, at an average of 23 per cent, was higher than many other developed and developing countries

APNU is of the view that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic administration, despite being aware of these facts, continues to pay scant attention to the issue of unemployment affecting youth preferring, instead, to prescribe a series of palliative remedies which do not cure the chronic disease joblessness.

Unemployed young people feel that they are in a cul-de-sac. They find themselves ensnared in a position from which they cannot move forward or backward. This has been made worse by the crisis in the public education system and the failure of the PPP/C administration to promulgate and pursue a coherent and comprehensive national youth policy.

Dr Frank Anthony, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, soon after he was appointed in 2006, publicly announced that the National Youth Policy, which had been promulgated in 1994, would be reviewed. That was seven years ago! Dr. Anthony later admitted to the National Assembly that the PPP/C Administration still does not have a functional National Youth Policy. The Minister has also been conducting consultations for the introduction of a five-year action plan for Youth Development and Empowerment Programme (YDEP) for over six years!

The ILO Report also stated that 77 per cent of educated persons of working age migrate because of the lack of employment opportunities. They feel that they have become entangled in a web of bureaucratic programmes which generate lots of certificates and diplomas but provide few jobs.

The unplanned responses to the youth unemployment crisis by the PPP/C administration – such as the President’s Youth Choice Initiative and the President’s Youth Award: Republic of Guyana, copied from the British Duke of Edinburgh International Award for Young People – have never provided employment. There is, however, a baffling array of schemes.

Five government ministries – the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs; Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport; Ministry of Education; Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Labour – continue to jostle each other to offer a variety of glamorous, ad hoc, training courses for young people. They all promise short-term remedies, but do not provide the long-term careers that youths desperately need.

The Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, for example, earlier this year launched $200M Youth Apprenticeship and Entrepreneur Programme (YAEP). The programme, actually a six-month attachment, targeted youths to be trained in culture, education, governance, health and sports. The Ministry of Culture Youth and Sport conducts the Youth Entrepreneurial Skills Training (YEST) programme for out-of-school, unskilled and unemployed youths. YEST seeks to prepare participants for entry into other institutions of learning, employment and self-employment. The Ministry of Education conducts its own Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) programme which require a sound base in mathematics, science and English language.

The Ministry of Home Affairs offers training in what it calls “life skills” under its Citizen Security Programme (CSP). The Ministry of Labour, through its Board of Industrial Training (BIT) conducts a two-year apprenticeship programme now called the National Training Project for Youth Empowerment (NTPYE) for youths who have not completed high school.

The tragedy is that, despite the ferment of schemes – CSP; NTPYE; PYCI; PYARG; TVET; YAEP; YDEP and YEST – there have been insufficient employment opportunities. Too many Guyanese youths still leave school unskilled, enter the workforce for the first time and are obliged to resort to the informal sector for employment in low-paying occupations. Four out of every ten youths face a jobless future and the PPP/C administration is still to announce a plan to deal with this crisis!

APNU calls for the construction of permanent institutes for agricultural and technical education in every region. The Partnership calls for the promotion of an integrated programme for job creation. It calls on the PPP/C administration to promulgate a national youth policy for Guyana’s youths in order to avert a dangerous social crisis.

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