The voluntary idle
The findings of the recently published Country Living Assessment Survey which was funded by the Caribbean Development Bank, and conducted by the University of the West Indies’ Sir Arthur Lewis Institute, can best be described as alarming, disturbing, unbelievable but true.
It is hard to digest the fact that of the 7,000 persons reportedly surveyed, that 38 per cent identified as youth, were classified as voluntary idle. What is referred to here as voluntary idle, was captured in a more precise term of, “did not want to work”.
It is shocking to read that of the 38 per cent, 21 per cent did not want to work, while eight per cent were discouraged. The reasons given for these young persons not wanting to work make for interesting reading. These were: “unattractive wages, unsuitable employment, and a preference for freedom and leisure”.
The latter is most interesting. It is almost the norm to find many of our young persons and those not so young, being daily occupied in their favourite past time of liming on the block. This can easily be classified as a new form of employment.
This startling revelation is enough to make the island’s policy and decision makers, national and community leaders wake up to the fact that the existence of Barbados is under a real threat, and not a perceived or imaginative one. People are this island’s major resource, and given that the young who are the future of a developing Barbados are tending to voluntarily withdraw themselves from the labour force in Barbados, is now real cause for concern.
How can the island build its economy if its able bodied population removes itself from the workforce? The end result is likely to be an unproductive society and economy.
Is this what we have come to expect from a highly educated and skilled workforce? Is this the dream of a Barbados that aims to produce a graduate in every household?
It would appear that somewhere along the line, those of us who champion the visions of an ideal Barbados have missed the boat. Did our elaborate plans take into consideration that all these young educated, talented and skilled individuals have employment expectations?
Isn’t it obvious that in a dynamic world with rapidly changing technologies, the traditional jobs we have come to know are now losing their appeal?
Maybe the ideal question to be answered is: Did the authorities fail in their planning in having the available jobs to meet the demand of a rapidly expanding and enterprising workforce?
There is no room for playing self righteous or for the casting of blame. Now is the time for identifying why this has come about and what can be done to reverse the trend.
In moving towards that, we may wish to ask ourselves the question: Are the reasons given by the youth for remaining unemployed justifiable? Taking an objective look there may be merit in the argument that highly educated, qualified, skilled and talented young persons are unlikely to be attracted to menial jobs.
Hardly being employed as an attendant at a gas station, a shop assistant in a store, or a clerical officer in the Public Service will appeal to today’s average job seeker. The issue obviously seems to lie with the quality jobs on offer, and the level of remuneration paid that is commensurate with the investment in amount of time dedicated to studies, and the qualifications earned.
With the growing trend amongst a part of the younger generation to be their own employer, the authorities may be forced to consider if they have not failed those with the entrepreneurship spirit. Maybe the society is witnessing a rebellion against the “lip service” that the youth perceived is being paid to them.
Those of us who adopted the attitude that our children should get all they want and at all cost, under the guise that they must not experience the same as we did; must accept that we are part of the problem. It certainly is not unreasonable to expect that any individual who can live the easy life will be readily motivated to work.
A roof over one’s head, three square meals per day, a car to drive around, no bills to pay and available monies to buy the latest brand name clothes and shoes, is nothing short of living “the sweet life”.
This development of young persons preferring to be voluntary idle is not only a disgrace but seemingly an indictment on an island that is hailed as a leader in the Caribbean Community, and as a leading developing third world nation.
As a matter of interest, it would be beneficial if the survey findings could provide the data on how many of the 38 per cent who prefer to be unemployed, were ever employed.
* Dennis De Peiza is a Labour Management Consultant with Regional Management Services Inc.
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