THE ISSUE: Jobless rate – a global concern
UNEMPLOYMENT – especially joblessness among the youth – is an international problem. It has been exacerbated over the last decade by the world economic downturn and financial crisis.
As hard times have persisted in Barbados many companies have reduced their workforce, largely as a result of reduced business transactions. Government too, has also sent home thousands of workers, and hiring in the private and public sectors have not reached the heights of previous years.
The unemployment problem and its impact on the youth was illustrated by figures from the Barbados Statistical Service (BSS), which showed that the majority of people unemployed up to the end of last year were between the ages of 15 and 44.
According to the BSS, of the 16 400 people unemployed at the end of December 11 100 were between ages 20 and 44, while there were 1 300 unemployed between ages 15 and 19.
The 45 to 74 age group had 4 000 people among the unemployed.
It is likely, however, that there is a larger number of young Barbadians not working. That is because the BSS uses a specific set of criteria to determined if you should be considered unemployed.
The state agency said Barbados used the “international standard of unemployment”, which was based on three criteria: without work (not in any paid employment or self employment), currently available for work (for paid employment or self employment during the reference period), and seeking work (have taken specific steps to seek paid employment or self employment”.
“Thus in Barbados, to be classified as unemployed, an individual must not have worked at all during the reference period, but must have taken some steps during the preceding three months period to find a job. Examples of such steps are writing applications, asking friends or relatives or people in authority, going from one company to the other, or preparing to start their own business,” the BSS explained.
Barbados’ unemployment rate for the fourth quarter of 2014 was 11.5 per cent, which was a decrease of 1.5 percentage points compared to the 13 per cent recorded during the fourth quarter of 2013. The unemployment rate for males was 10.8 per cent, while the rate for females was 12.2 per cent.
“The actual number of unemployed persons totalled 16 400, 2 900 persons less than the figure of 19 300 recorded during the corresponding period in 2013.
“The total number of employed persons was estimated at 126 000, 2 400 persons less than the figure of 128 400 persons recorded during the corresponding period in 2013,” the BSS reported.
Information from the World Bank stated that up to the end of 2013, unemployment among Barbadians ages 15 to 24 – as a percentage of the overall labour force – was 27 per cent. It was estimated to be 30.4 per cent for young females and 24.4 per cent among male youth.
In 2011 the Commonwealth Secretariat released a report in which it recommended several strategies related to employment, entrepreneurship and employability.
This included facilitating “re-engineering of the education system, including the infrastructure, so that education becomes more accessible to all young persons”, “promoting culture, sport and agriculture as mechanisms for employment and income generation”, “fostering a culture of entrepreneurship and increasing the number of support mechanisms for entrepreneurs”, “fostering direct linkages between the education and employment sectors”, and “re-engineering of national apprenticeship or service programmes that also address work ethics/healthy attitudes to work, productivity, civic responsibility and nation building in general”.