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Foreign minds - Jamaica’s youngest and brightest would migrate today if given a chance

Published:Sunday | August 6, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Despite the myriad challenges facing Jamaica, there is an almost even split between those who would migrate today if given the chance and those who would choose to remain.

But a majority (52 per cent) of young Jamaicans, between the ages 18 and 24, would pack their bags and leave, while more than four in every 10 persons between the ages 25 and 34 would also migrate at the first opportunity in search of greener pastures.

To compound what could be a major problem in the future, 47 per cent of the people who would migrate are those with a high level of education.

At the other end of the spectrum, 82 per cent of persons over 65 years old have no desire to start over in a foreign land, while 65 per cent of persons between 55 and 64 years old also would not migrate because they love the country and this is the place they call home.

A mere 22 per cent of Jamaicans with low-level education (not completed high school) would choose to migrate.

Not surprisingly, the United States is the first choice for those who would migrate, with Canada second and the United Kingdom a distant third.

That is part of the findings of a recent Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll, which was conducted between June 9 and 11 with a sampling error of plus or minus two per cent.

The Johnson team looked at the perceptions of Jamaicans after 55 years of Independence, with a sample size of 1,500 persons from across the island.

Reacting to the poll findings, psychologist Dr Leahcim Semaj argued that Jamaicans at the lower end of the education scale were being realistic about their "marketing credentials" and that explains why 66 per cent of them indicated that they would not migrate.

"North America is an advanced, knowledge-driven economy and the Jamaicans with limited education and professional options are aware of this reality. They recognise that the skill set that they possess, or lack thereof, will not necessarily get them jobs in America as opposed to those with more education to offer," said Semaj.

He further argued that should persons of low-level education later become certified or acquire credentials that are marketable in bigger economies, they too, in all likelihood, would aspire to migrate.


Unfair to Jamaica, says Semaj


With many educated young Jamaicans indicating that they would leave the country today if given a chance, psychologist Dr Leahcim Semaj has charged that they are being unfair to the land of their birth.

According to Semaj, Jamaica is exhausting its resources to educate persons who leave to build other countries.

He argued that integrating commitment to nation in the educational system is of utmost significance to mend the local economy.

"We're not helping Jamaicans to understand that a part of their responsibility is to build this country. They must see how best they can use their strengths to make this a better place and not just to go to another country with hope of gaining from it. We have to get that into our national agenda, and currently, we're not doing it," said Semaj.

"What some call the American dream, for many, is really a nightmare. My biggest commitment is that I'm not going to somebody else's country to live as a second- or third-class citizen, and that is the reality of many Jamaicans when they go abroad," added Semaj.