Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Jaevion Nelson: It's time politicians deliver for young Jamaicans

Published:Thursday | April 21, 2016 | 4:00 AM

Young people are perpetually disillusioned about life in Jamaica and what the next few years might look like despite the glamorous future promised by our politicians. Many see no hope of a bright(er?) future in Jamaica.

Studies show the vast majority are eager and quite busy seeking out opportunities (by any means necessary?) to pursue their dreams/aspirations anywhere they can, as long as it isn't Afghanistan. The desires are not much different if you talk to people over 40 as well.

What is most frightening about all of this is that it doesn't seem to bother even a handful of our political leaders. Why are they deafeningly silent about this? Why has there been a dearth of conversations about the fact that about 80 per cent of Jamaicans up to 40 years want to migrate, according to a 2016 Respect Jamaica/UNICEF Survey? Other studies/surveys over the years have revealed similar findings and attracted an equally appalling response from the government. Nearly 60 per cent of youth think they'd be better off living in the United States; 52 per cent in Canada and 57 per cent in England (2010 National Youth Survey). More than 60 per cent of tertiary graduates reportedly leave the island and more than 70 per cent of LGBT Jamaicans want to leave. Forty-three point two per cent of young people 18 years and younger would give up their citizenship and 49.3 per cent would do too (National Youth Values and Attitudes Survey 2014).

Shouldn't there be a strategy to address this? Should we not be talking about this? I am not against anyone migrating, but the high numbers should make us all very uneasy. It is rather sad that our politicians continue make us believe and bear with them while they fiddle with our future.

There isn't any widely publicised assessment of our progress towards becoming the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business (Vision 2030). I am assuming there is and that as is the unfortunate custom, it hasn't been shared with many of us for whatever reason. In the absence of such desperately needed assessment, young people are sending a clear message that we are nowhere near achieving this vision and they are giving up and some have already given up. Jamaica doesn't look like the place they would want to live and work, and raise their families.

 

BIG ISSUES TO TACKLE

Politicians cannot continue to squander our little remaining hope, pride and joy, and not deliver on their promises. Young people are actually quite tired of waiting, tired of being promised and patronised and spoken to, and tired of being told to dream while there is little assurance that better is in sight.

I know we are banking on the economy improving to redress our quandary, but we must recognise this will only happen if the improvements we are already seeing are to be of benefit to everyone and not just a few. Income inequality and terribly low salaries are still big issues. Young people are equally frustrated about political victimisation, classism, unemployment, ageism, violence, crime, discrimination of all sorts, and poor access to justice and the ineffectiveness of same when one accesses it, among others that are rife right across the country. These myriad challenges that bombard make many people want to leave the island. These issue are, of course, interrelated and interdependent on a strong and inclusive economy and democracy. Our success as a nation, as a people, hinge on all of them.

We must work collaboratively to remedy this situation and make life better in Jamaica for everyone - not just those who are 'born above the clock'. That is the perception out there, and it is arguably the reality. We must divorce the habit of ignoring the data (read the reality) if we truly want to step up the progress to prosperity.

The 2016 Respect Jamaica/UNICEF Survey findings should unite us and foster bipartisan approaches to addressing our needs as well as greater collaboration between private, public and not-for-profit sectors. Politicians must begin to listen to young people and move with alacrity to address their diverse needs. Young people are tired of be fed promises of a better tomorrow while many of the things that make us love Jamaica continue to be so inaccessible to the vast majority of people.

We are all equally impatient for our progress, our prosperity and for our future to be secure. It's time our politicians wake up and do their jobs! It's time they deliver results for our young people.

• Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human-rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com.