Caribbean countries move forward on youth employment policiesApril 10th, 2012
Concrete recommendations on the issues to be considered in the design of comprehensive national youth employment policies and action plans were made at a Regional Seminar on youth employment held from 29-31 March 2011 in Saint Lucia. The Seminar, – the theme of which was entitled “Addressing the Employment Challenges of Caribbean,” was hosted by the Commonwealth Youth Programme of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Government of Saint Lucia with the technical support of the International Labour Organization.
Among the recommendations made at the Regional Seminar were the following:
- the need for the development and implementation of macro-economic policies and strategies to promote economic and employment growth;
- countries should consider the development of youth employment policies which are integrated with macro-economic policies and which stimulate better coordination and collaboration among agencies involved in youth employment and development;
- improving the links between education and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) programmes, and the demands of the labour market by the strengthening of partnerships with the public and private sector, to support curricula development and the expansion of work-based learning such as apprenticeships and internship programmes;
- enhancing the quality and effective delivery of youth employment programmes , including entrepreneurial and short-term employment programmes, to ensure that they are responsive to the needs of their target groups and inclusive of in-built mechanisms for client feedback and ongoing evaluation; and
- creating greater awareness of available youth programmes through the establishment of a national inventory which is updated regularly and which can be used by policy makers, counselors, managers, youth organizations and students.
The Seminar was opened by the Hon. Shawn Edward, Minister for Youth Development and Sport and brought together senior officials from youth ministries and departments as well as youth leaders of National Youth Councils from 13 Caribbean countries. The Seminar discussed the youth employment challenges, policies and programmes of the Bahamas, Jamaica, Saint Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago. In the ILO tradition, tripartite delegations from these four countries, comprising representatives of the Ministries of Labour and employers’ and workers’ organizations, shared their views and experiences with the participants. The Seminar was also attended by representatives of the Organisation of American States (OAS), Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), United Nations Development Programme, USAID and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
The Seminar was a follow-up to one of the recommendations made at a Regional Forum on Investing in Youth Employment, held in Trinidad and Tobago in May 2011, by the Commonwealth Secretariat. The Forum called for the creation of an enabling environment to foster greater youth entry into the job and for the inclusion of youth concerns and right-based solutions in employment policies and Youth Employment Action Plans.
In light of the effects of the global economic crisis on Caribbean economies, especially in the tourism-based Caribbean economies, economic recovery after 2009 has been slow. Consequently, the recovery of employment growth has been less robust as was expected and currently unemployment, especially of youth, is a major challenge. High levels of unemployment among youth, up to about 50 per cent in some countries, are telling signs of the magnitude of the employment challenges in the Caribbean.
Delegates at the Seminar examined the role of employment policies and issues in policy design and formulation; the reform of the technical and vocational education and training system, including its financing and role in responding to the skill needs of the labour market, including through apprenticeships; entrepreneurship and the enabling environment to support its development; and the role of other programmes such as mentoring, transition from school to work, and short-term employment programmes.
The country experiences of successful youth employment programmes in the Caribbean were highlighted. Delegates learnt of the Fresh Start Programme in the Bahamas, the Community-based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP) in Trinidad and Tobago and the Business Development Company of Jamaica (JBDC).
In June this year, governments, employers and workers’ organizations of ILO member States will meet at the ILO’s International Labour Conference to discuss the global youth employment crisis. According to ILO estimates, of the total of 200 million people unemployed worldwide, 75 million, or about 40 per cent, are young people. The situation has been exacerbated by the global economic crisis. In the run up to the International Labour Conference, the ILO will host a Global Youth Employment Forum on 23-25 May 2012 in Geneva.