Youth joblessness and crime
Kaieteur News
August 14, 2004

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A study by the United Nations (UN) labour agency indicates alarming links between youth joblessness and crime, showing why poor nations like Guyana should focus unwaveringly on creating more jobs for youths.

According to the UN, youth joblessness has now reached an all-time high of 88 million, fueling frustration among youths and possibly boosting crime, even terrorism, in poor nations. The International Labor Organization (ILO) says total global unemployment reached 186 million in 2003, with youths aged 15-24 accounting for 47 percent of the jobless.

Findings of an ILO study of global youth unemployment, released this week, specifically noted that in many regions of the world, whenever there is an increase in unemployment, illegal activities rise as well.

Researchers also found that in the world economy, economic downturn is exacerbated by high birthrates. "The growth in the number of young people is rapidly outstripping the ability of economies to provide them with jobs," the study said.

The report found direct links between youth unemployment and spiraling law-breaking, from petty crimes to serious criminal activities such as drug trafficking. While researchers were careful to point out that rampant unemployment among youths is not the only reason for rising crime rates, they emphasised that very frustrated and disillusioned youths are especially attracted to criminal activities.

In light of these findings, there is every reason to believe that chronic youth unemployment in Guyana contributes significantly to the rising crime rate. Therefore, the Government and people of Guyana must lose no time and let nothing stand in the way of cutting youth joblessness in Guyana.

However, unemployment among the country's youth must be understood in the context of Guyana's overall political and socio-economic realities. Joblessness among the youth is disturbing, but it is important to look at the poor quality of education and skills among the youth which has given rise to the current situation.

The Guyana government spends a high percentage of its budget on education, but despite the investment, educational standards are lacking. Very often young people leave the school system without the basic educational entry requirements for the jobs that are available.

Critics of Guyana's education system have long argued that there has been an overemphasis on increasing access to schools at the expense of providing learners with the kind of education that may be useful in the labour market. While literacy rates in Guyana may be high - about 95% by a recent estimate - they do not reflect the quality of the literacy levels.

Also, one of the biggest problems regarding the unemployment of Guyanese youths is low salaries. Poor educational standards directly affect the kinds of jobs Guyanese youths can get. Many find themselves in low-paying employment and are unable to seek better compensation or benefits. Many others price themselves out of the job market because they have unrealistic expectations and want to earn far in excess of what their services are worth.

Therefore, to address youth joblessness, one priority area must be to reform Guyana's education systems so that it produces youths with skills that are more relevant to the needs of the labor market.

There is also a pressing need to encourage young entrepreneurs by smoothing their access to loans from financial institutions and by giving them training in marketing and other key aspects of business.

It is clear from UN and ILO studies that any society that does not take urgent measures to eliminate chronic unemployment of youths, is looking for big trouble. Creating more jobs for Guyanese youths is not an option, but a vital necessity.