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The Voice

Unemployment a major problem
published: Sunday | August 8, 2004

Petrina Francis, Education Reporter

THE 2003 Labour Force Survey published by The Statistical Institute of Jamaica says that the unemployment rate is 12.8 per cent.

Even at this rate, Karl Samuda, general secretary of the Jamaica Labour Party believes that "unemployment is the most difficult problem facing the majority of our people especially in the inner-city areas and in particular the youth". He said that not being able to care for one's children and putting a shelter over their heads is dehumanising and debilitating for those affected. Mr. Samuda says that the opportunity to provide jobs lies at the basis of the country's development.

MACROECONOMIC FRAMEWORK

To solve the problem of unemployment he said that "We need to provide a society and a macroeconomic framework that will encourage people to invest in the country." He noted that "only through investment and the creation of new businesses will we find it necessary to provide jobs for the vast numbers of persons who are now unemployed."

Noel Cowell, lecturer in the Department of Management Studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona, agrees that unemployment is a major problem. However, he said "We should not only be concerned about those who are recorded as unemployed but those who are underemployed." He argued that unemployment represents a problem of 'worthlessness'. He believes that unemployment breeds a number of problems. As a result, he reckons that fathers are failing to maintain their children because they cannot stand up to their economic responsibilities. "The fact that there are so many people out of work, we are losing productive capacity," Dr. Cowell noted.

Leachim Semaj, chief executive officer of the Job Bank agrees that unemployment is a serious phenomenon. He explained to The Sunday Gleaner that once persons are unemployed they become involved in many different activities including criminal ones.

How can we solve the problem of unemployment? In his response, Dr. Semaj refers to the HEART Trust NTA's slogan: 'Education makes you trainable but training makes you employable'.

"The solution must be within the context of education and training," he emphasised.

Former dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Barry Chevannes, explained that unemployment is a serious problem "especially because of its chronic nature. In the last two decades there has been not enough jobs to absorb people coming into the labour market. What is worrisome is that it (unemployment) creates a level of indiscipline when it (unemployment) is severe."

While he does not think that unemployment creates crime, he believes that it creates a kind of climate that crime can thrive in.

THE LABOUR FORCE

The Statistical Institute of Jamaica defines the unemployed as those persons "looking for work", together with persons "wanting to work and available for work". In October 2003, the unemployed labour force consisted of 141,000 persons. Of this number, 58,000 were males and 83,000 were females.

According to STATIN, the labour force includes all employed persons as well as persons who, although unemployed, were looking for work or wanted work and were in the position to accept work.

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