ON THE LEFT: Lack of data a challenge
Although the information on unemployment by age in the region is scarce, the evidence shows that in most countries youth unemployment doubles the total rate. Among the worst cases with available data are Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and The Bahamas where youth unemployment is about 2.4 times higher than total unemployment.
According to the 2010 Survey of Living Conditions of Barbados, the youth unemployment rate was 27.6 per cent compared to 11.1 per cent for the entire population. In Trinidad and Tobago, the unemployment rate for youth was 12 per cent in 2012 while it was only 4.8 per cent for all.
In the same lines, youth unemployment rates for Jamaica (2011) and Barbados (2007) were 30.1 per cent and 18.9 per cent versus 12.7 per cent and 7.9 per cent for the whole population respectively. Other countries like Guyana (2011) and Dominican Republic (2007) have experienced youth unemployment rates around two times as high the total unemployment rates while Grenada (2008), St. Lucia (2010), and St Vincent and the Grenadines (2008) have experienced youth unemployment rates around 1.7 times higher than for the total population.
Also, in St. Lucia 40 per cent of unemployed was younger than 25 years old in 2011.
Individuals younger than 20 years old fare the worst in terms of unemployment. In Barbados, individuals aged 15 to 19 years old face unemployment five times higher than the rest of the population. In fact, the unemployment rate for this group is 47 per cent while for those aged 20 to 44 years old it is 14 per cent.
Both male and female youth unemployment rates are about twice (in some countries even more) the total unemployment rates. Second, youth unemployment rates are higher for female than for males.
Third, the difference with total unemployment rates is greater for males than for females.
Caribbean countries are no exception to the global phenomenon of high youth unemployment, not even those with low national unemployment rates: youth make up for 17 per cent of total population but for 40 per cent of the unemployed.
As observed, in practically all countries youth unemployment doubles that of the total population.
Thus, following the global trend recorded in the World Development Report (2013) on Jobs, in the Caribbean the youth are about twice as likely to be unemployed even in countries where total unemployment is low.
This is the case of Trinidad and Tobago where the national unemployment rate is as low as 4.8 per cent but the youth unemployment rate reached 12 per cent in 2012 (2.5 times higher).
The lack of information is a challenge for better diagnostics of labour markets in the Caribbean that should be further addressed.
It would be useful for the region to produce detailed statistics of labour markets conditions and outcomes that help answering simple questions like how the labour force look like and what the quality of jobs in the Caribbean is.
It is important for countries to collect micro data on a regular basis to estimate basic indicators of employment status, by gender, age group, education level and sector of work for the employed.
• Mónica Parra-Torrado is an international researcher.