Curbing the Jobless Curve

THE recent unemployment figures released by the Department of Statistics are, to some extent, encouraging. Finding employment for many continues to be a daunting task, whether or not the unemployed possess the right skills set for the jobs they seek. So such news deserves some credit.

This week, it was revealed that unemployment had dropped from 25% to 20% during the last quarter of 2015. Undoubtedly, that reduction in the island’s much-talked-about high unemployment figures might be attributed in some measure to the busy Christmas season when several private sector businesses take on new staff or government implements key social programmes.

According to the figures, 5,000 people gained employment within the last three months of last year. However, it would be interesting to know just how many of those jobs would have been lost after the Christmas season as both the private and public sectors readjusted to their normal staff structures.

Youth unemployment, the statistics suggest, went down by 10% to 34%. For a demographic around which policymakers seem to zero in on whenever planning programmes, any amount of in-roads made at finding gainful employment for this grouping must be commended.

With this year being an election year, many people will be expecting at least the basic from the politicians approaching them for votes. For many, if not most, being gainfully employed ranks among the most basic need. Therefore, political candidates need not concern themselves with promising idealistic gifts they cannot deliver afterwards.

Any sensible political party at this juncture should, instead of restricting the school curriculum by focusing more on academics and barely on encouraging innovation, create a climate where first-formers can strip a laptop down to its core and rebuild it. How about more Saint Lucian youths becoming entrepreneurial through a national school of business mentoring?

Aside from being a perennial headache for local policymakers, finding employment – or creating the right environment that encourages business – needs to be about sustainability. Too many people are employed on a short-term basis that poses economic dangers to their long-term planning.

With a few tourism-related private sector jobs set to open up later this year, one can only hope that more Saint Lucians will take advantage of becoming gainfully employed by acquiring the right skills for the job. More Saint Lucians should also take advantages of the opportunities that exist in the agricultural sector.

With every economist and policymaker projecting economic growth for the year ahead, Saint Lucians need to ensure that they get a slice of the economic pie. Too many Saint Lucians are being invited to the party but not being able to sit at the dinner table.

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