0

11,000 Youth Jobless On New Providence

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Nearly 11,000 young Bahamians on New Providence are unemployed, of whom 13 per cent have given up looking for work and are helping to feed the rising crime and murder rates.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), in a report for the $20 million Citizen Security and Justice programme that launched yesterday, said the increasing youth unemployment rate in the Bahamas had “a positive correlation” with rising levels of violent crime.

With more than 1,300 unemployed New Providence residents, aged between 15 to 29 years-old, having given up actively looking for work, the IDB report blamed this on a “skills mismatch” between employers and workers.

It also slammed the “fragmented workforce development policy and low effectiveness of existing labour intermediation initiatives” by the Government.

While praising the National Training Agency’s launch, the IDB reserved its harshest criticism for the Government’s Skills Bank and Labour Exchange.

It said these referred just 9 per cent of job seekers to existing employment vacancies, and placed “less than 2 per cent” of unemployed Bahamians who are actively seeking work.

The IDB report effectively amounts to a damning indictment of how Bahamian society, the education system and government agencies are failing to adequately equip almost one-third of young adults for the workforce and a productive life.

“In New Providence specifically, 10,605 youth between 15-29 years old are either unemployed or discouraged, and out of these, 13 per cent are discouraged,” the report said.

Based on that percentage, some 1,379 young adults in Nassau and elsewhere in New Providence have given up seeking work, something that the report implied fed into the ever-growing crime rate.

“Youth unemployment rates (15-24 years) and robbery, murder and burglary rates have a positive correlation, all of them showing increasing trends,” the IDB report said.

“In The Bahamas, youth unemployment rates are high and have been increasing for over 10 years (from 15 per cent in 2001 to 30.8 per cent in 2014 for 15-24 year olds).

“The country also faces high rates of long-term unemployment, where 50 per cent of youth remain unemployed for more than a year.

“High youth unemployment is a worldwide phenomenon to which the region is not immune, but according to the most recent data available in household surveys, four Caribbean countries (Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas and Barbados) are the ones that face the region’s highest youth unemployment rates (32.5 per cent, 28.3 per cent, 30.8 per cent and 26.1 per cent, respectively).”

The Bahamas thus has the second highest youth unemployment rate in the Caribbean, something the IDB said was exacerbated by the absence of job-specific and technical skills among potential employees.

Drawing on the findings from a 2012 survey of 505 Bahamian businesses, which was undertaken to determine their labour needs, the IDB report said: “Employers report the lack of specific skills as the most important barrier to recruit workers (34 per cent), followed by applicants’ lack of experience (29 per cent) and applicants’ lack of soft skills (28 per cent).

“This reality is associated with the lack of relevance of the education and training system. Finally, the fact that employers do not find the right skills among job seekers is more worrisome for young people, since the combination of lack of skills, training and work experience can lead to a vicious cycle of unemployment.”

The IDB report said the 2012 survey found that 34 per cent of the surveyed firms, all from different industries, hired foreign labour to fill jobs “which could otherwise be occupied by Bahamians, including youth”.

A deeper analysis of the 2012 survey found that, in the case of worker dismissals, 65 per cent - almost two-thirds - were related to ‘behaviour/conduct’ issues and a lack of ‘soft skills’.

Around 80 per cent of companies interviewed provided a new worker with training once they were hired, with almost 50 per cent giving training to improve staff “productivity, sales and soft skills”. Around 79 per cent of employers always put new staff on probation.

“The lack of skills (particularly soft skills) is identified with productivity losses due to unsatisfactory performance, absenteeism, lack of responsibility and commitment to the job,” the IDB analysis added.

“The lack of specific skills increases the time spent on recruiting workers. The lack of soft skills is the main reason for dismissals, increasing turnover costs for the firms.”

It added: “Overall, the analysis tells that more integration is needed between the private sector labour demand and the provision of training in the country.

“On-the-job training strategies can align workers’ skills with specific skills demands, benefiting both the labour force and overall productivity. Focus on soft-skills training is key to enhancing worker employability and retention, and job seekers must be told what skills and training the current labour market demands.

“Investing successfully in labour force skills development can be a main driver of economic and social growth, and will demonstrate that upgrading both technical and soft skills is key to increasing productivity and competitiveness, adapting to new technologies and creating stable work opportunities for workers.”

Still, the IDB gave the Bahamas some credit for introducing the National Training Agency, but added that Public Employment Services (PES) - the Labour Exchange and Skills Bank- were far from adequate.

“The Bahamas has limited resources to support youth at risk in order to improve their opportunities in the labour market,” the IDB report said.

“In general, existing youth training programmes focus on engaging youth through activities such as art, sports, foreign languages and music, while only a limited number are targeted at developing specific skills for increasing employability and job placement in particular industries.”

It added: “The Bahamas also has a PES under the Ministry of Labour with limited capacity - in terms of qualified personnel, soft and hard infrastructure, and articulation with the private sector – to be aware of current vacancies and be able to respond to the demands of current and potential employers.

“Currently, the PES only refer 9 per cent of job seekers to vacancies, and place less than 2 per cent of unemployed individuals.”

Comments

TruePeople 2 years, 5 months ago

11,000 without job, 1500 in jail, and gov't taking next $20m loan to start a parole system?

In Feburary Perry say JunkCarn would make the Bahamas $30m..... but we still ein got money or jobs... muh bey...

0

Well_mudda_take_sic 2 years, 5 months ago

The estimate of 11,000 jobless youths is grossly understated.....the real number is much closer to 35,000. One must ask: Why in the world does the IDB continue to make loans to our government that other international lending and/or credit rating agencies like the IMF, World Bank, Moody's, S&P, etc. all say the Bahamas will have great difficulty in repaying as a result of the very high foreign currency portion of our national debt and the critical level of our debt to GDP ratio? The developed countries know that they can count on greedy, incompetent officials within the governments of much smaller lesser developed countries like the Bahamas to suck heavily on the lending teat put to their lips, thereby making their citizenry (us Bahamians) vulnerable to the rug being pulled out from under us at any time down the road. And to think Christie and Maynard-Gibson have the nerve to say that their backing of the Chinese enterprises in the Baha Mar debacle is to protect our sovereignty.....the very sovereignty that they are giving away to foreign lenders every time they enter in loan agreements like the one mentioned in this article! What a flippin' joke!!

1

Reality_Check 2 years, 5 months ago

When was the last time our government applied $20 million to reduce the level of our foreign currency denominated debt? All of these relatively small $20 million loans added up amount to death for the Bahamas by a thousand cuts, as intended by the foreign lenders controlled by the developed countries of this world! As the saying goes: "You must do as you are told when you allow yourself to be hawked in debt you cannot repay!" Just ask the Greeks in Greece today how true this is.

0

banker 2 years, 5 months ago

Concur with the assessment of much higher number than 11,000.

A bunch of us were sitting around the other day, discussing the huge amount of school leavers, and no where to employ them, and their lack of literacy and basic skills. One economist opined that all major problems present a money-making solution. Ergo, there must be a way to tap this unexploited human capital of unemployed youth in some way.

Quite frankly, we came to the conclusion that the problem is unsolvable. Someone mentioned getting foreign investment for setting up a call center. One can easily see why that won't fly by watching tourists buy stuff at the Burger King by Sandals or the fast food places on Paradise Island. In many cases the tourists cannot understand Bahamianese spoken by the young people. Here is a direct quote from Facebook about the Swindling statue: "It ain't da fact of hearin da truth we dan know all of dis y bring it back up come on man an een no one under no one spell but can we go a day with out pointin fingers". So call centers are out because of fluency skills in the Queen's English.

Someone else mentioned that maybe we can train some programmers and export software. Again, the education system is horribly deficient in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Our high school graduates cannot do the math that fifth graders do in North America. Grade 11 students participating in non-general courses (university bound) in Canadian schools are doing advanced Integral Calculus. A techie among argued that we couldn't even begin to explain computer science concepts to these kids like polymorphic inheritance, and recursion. You just can't take functional math illiterates and English illiterates and get them to perform knowledge jobs that require a range of varied advanced thinking skills.

Then someone else suggested light assembly type jobs, which would be a perfect fit, except that the power to run the facilities is too expensive, and the labour here is unionized and Asians work for a lower wage. So that idea was out.

The BAMSI idea of making farmers won't work. The failure of various farming ventures throughout our recent history (egg and chicken production etc) won't work because of the high cost of fertilizers. The only thing that will work is the Lucaya greenhouses that require minimal labor and huge investment. So that is out.

The bottom line, is that there is probably no answer to the huge numbers of unemployed. We couldn't think of a single thing that would employ anything like the numbers that Atlantis puts up. And it is doubtful that if Baha Mar gets built, it will not be sustainable because of airlift and Cuba.

So there are no real answers and unfortunately the country is on the road to wrack and ruin.

2

GrassRoot 2 years, 5 months ago

I get the impression that here in the Bahamas, all has to be big to be good. Big power generation, big hotels, big projects. In reality it should be the opposite. It has been proven ad nauseam in many other national economies that the only job creators are the small and medium size enterprises (SME). The food stand at the corner, the courier service, the web design shop, the print shop. Its hard work, life is hard. The resources used to build a colossus such as Baha Mar could generate 5x more jobs, if the money were invested in SME. 30 to 50 small hotels in Nassau and the out island would generate and contribute more to the GNP with all the rippling effects than building a white elephant and beyond that is more sustainable and manageable by local talent and requires less foreign workers from construction to management. But no, all has to be grandiose here. This is a typical 3rd world mentality and unless we change our approach fundamentally, the situation will not change. Unfortunately there is a huge time lag for the positive effects to kick in, once the policy changed. I agree with Banker, I am not sure whether the Bahamian economy has the power to overcome such a gap. But all this can start, if we come off the high horse and start doing what s doable, not what we may thing is desireable. First we need to start learning to walk before we try to run.

0

My2cents 2 years, 5 months ago

Just for comparison Banker...try communicating with a customer service or technical rep from India, Sri Lanka or the Philippines. It's very frustrating. Their grasp of the English language is not impressive. In fact, it's below average; and the extra long pauses imply they are using some translation service to correspond. Our "D"students, with training and practice, could easily blow them out of the water. But somehow, they make it work...So can we.

0

Zakary 2 years, 5 months ago

  • “In New Providence specifically, 10,605 youth between 15-29 years old are either unemployed or discouraged, and out of these, 13 per cent are discouraged,” the report said.

This is not surprising at all if you are not living in a bubble. The sad truth however, is that unemployment numbers do not paint a clear picture of what’s really going on, labour participation rates do.

In light of labour participation rates you’ll find that young people are working less, while the older folks are spending more time working. The young ones are progressively spending more time getting an “education” and as you know students are not necessarily considered “unemployed”.

There has also been a massive paradigm shift in the value of education, and as a result, trade work and other manual labour jobs have been demonized and belittled. Everyone now wants to be in the office. Finally, the mismanagement of wealth among the older generation has converted institutionalized education into a holding pattern.

Junior High School? No not enough! Stay a little longer!
Senior High School? No not enough! Stay a little longer!
Associate's Degree? No not enough! Stay a little longer!
Bachelor's Degree? No not enough! Stay a little longer!
Master’s Degree? No not enough! Stay a little longer!
Credentialism and Educational Inflation? Don’t Worry! We’ll retire soon!

Summary: Every time students graduate from high school unemployment rates increase substantially because most Bahamian graduates cannot ride out the storm in the house of credentialism and educational inflation. Older folks work longer and retire later, thereby obstructing the basic flow of labour. Students who graduate simply become unemployed. No one wants to do manual labour since trade work is for dimwits, and office jobs are for winners.

  • It also slammed the “fragmented workforce development policy and low effectiveness of existing labour intermediation initiatives” by the Government.

Let’s get right to the point here, “politicians” don’t create jobs, “initiatives” don’t create jobs, “policies” don’t create jobs, and you bet “governments” don’t create jobs. To believe that is to believe in a fairy tale.

Production and incentive create jobs, but that’s for another day.

1

baldbeardedbahamian 2 years, 5 months ago

i have been in management of small/med size businesses for 30+ years in Nassau. Every election cycle has brought additonal regulation, employee protection, and state taxation making it harder to open and profitably run small businesses. The underlying problem is that we have too high a ratio of state employed workers to private enterprise workers. if you work for the state you do not create wealth for the country but in fact suck money out of the system. Obviously we need some state workers, firemen, police, etc. but these workers while valued are still economic parasites living on the wealth created by the private sector. Our country has only survived economically by borrowing huge some of money from however would lend it to us, the writing on the wall is that source of deficit financing is coming to an end, see puerto rico and greece. Until we have a government brave enough to deal with our bloated civil service the country will continue to sink. a case in point of the mentality of out civil servants, last year a state employed zns manager proudly put out a press release that they had hired a talk show host by poaching him with the lure of more money from a private radio station. In the private sector this talk show host would have been an asset to the bahamian economy, as a state employee he is a liability. Of course at the govenment run zns radio station he will not have to work on the days that parliament if broadcasting and will have many more days off than in the private sector. Multiply this example by the tens of thousands of state employeed, figure in the (ignored so far) pension obligation and we have an unsustainable situation. i hear more and more talk of exit from the bahamas stategies amongst by contempories. We are marching on bahamaland but i dont like where we seem to marching to.

1

Zakary 2 years, 5 months ago

  • Every election cycle has brought additonal regulation, employee protection, and state taxation making it harder to open and profitably run small businesses.

Yes, more policy, more initiatives, more regulation. The same nonsense over and over again, only with another name.

Incentives for the creation of businesses are maximized where there are the fewest restrictions, fewest regulations, and little to no government interference, all within what is feasible.

  • The underlying problem is that we have too high a ratio of state employed workers to private enterprise workers. if you work for the state you do not create wealth for the country but in fact suck money out of the system.

You’re completely right! I had discussed this with a friend a while back, and we talked about how we have a tendency to forget that the government produces nothing, and only takes from others!

This could be a factor that encourages the absurd entitlement mentality among employees, and the lack of “soft skills” in the younger generation. Government jobs happen to be some of the most secured jobs in the country but attitude still goes a long way.

  • Until we have a government brave enough to deal with our bloated civil service the country will continue to sink.

I agree, but that is one hell of a beast. There is no one that I can think of that has the political will, and the political balls to pull off something like that.

Trade Union Congress, Airport Airline & Allied Workers Unions, Bahamas Electrical Workers Union, The Bahamas Communications Public Officers Union, Bahamas Union of Teachers, and another 40+ more unions.

The government tied their own hands a long time ago. We might have to sink first.

1

banker 2 years, 5 months ago

We might have to sink first.

Not, might. We will have to sink first, and clear the dead wood first.

0

sheeprunner12 2 years, 5 months ago

Every year, a thousand youth graduate from Family Island high schools and 95% leave and NEVER return .................. no wonder why the Out Islands are dying .......... no Family Island development means that the country will certainly fail ........... how many more can we cram onto New Providence????? ..................... and please don't tell me that BAMSI in Andros is the answer

0

Sign in to comment