Dennie Quill, Columnist
Driving along Red Hills Road on Monday morning, I noticed scores of young people lined up at the Christian Fellowship World Outreach Church. Somehow I didn't think they were on a soul-saving mission and wondered what could have induced them to brave the fierce mid-morning sun.
Soon thereafter, I learnt that these persons were on a quest to find that elusive job. In fact, the Department of Correctional Services was in search of 350 new hires, and it had more than 1,000 prospective candidates.
I wonder how President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe would have reacted if he had witnessed this group of eager job seekers and sensed the urgency which emanated from those who were clutching their credentials as they waited to be interviewed.
According to reports, the African leader believes Jamaican men are all ganja smokers and rum drinkers who are only interested in making music, leaving the women to run things. Of course, there are those, but I dare say they would fall in the minority. What is factual is that thousands of decent Jamaican men are on the job each day, seeking to pull themselves out of poverty and create a better life for their children.
And not to diminish the importance of singers, it was many of these artistes who raised their voices in protest to bring the issue of apartheid to the world's attention.
LIVING BY FAITH
Recently, my neighbour related a conversation she had with her newly hired gardener. On his third week into the job, he remarked: "You ever hear dem say behind every dark cloud is a bright day, ma'am?" She replied, "Yes, I have heard something like that."
The young man went on to explain that the two days' work he had secured was truly a blessing because his daughter had been successful in GSAT, was heading to high school, and he was not sure how he would find her bus fare and lunch money. This young man is on the job from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, and he does his tasks diligently without complaint. Although he does not possess a great level of education, this is a highly motivated individual, and there are many more like him.
But there just are not enough jobs out there. It is interesting that on the same day these young men were in a desperate bid to find a job, the Ministry of Labour and the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce were signing a memorandum of understanding which could provide as many as 40,000 jobs in the short term. This is a welcome step towards the goal of putting more people to work.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller signalled that she understood the urgency of employment when she called on private-sector entities to hire one more professional to ease the job crunch. Under this initiative, persons would be offered six months of employment in the private sector, with the Government paying the salaries for three months. This initiative will allow people to be connected with job opportunities which they might not have been able to access on their own.
For good reason, I believe, some people will argue that these are not 'real' jobs. For what we really need in this country is the catalyst that will spark a burst of economic activity. The private sector has been promised incentives if it steps up its job-creation activity. And most certainly, tax-deductive incentives are what will encourage businesses to make that added investment.
Unfortunately, Government does not have a great track record in keeping its promises. Talk needs to be accompanied by action. Right now, I believe the issue of creating jobs for the jobless is what should be absorbing the attention of all our leaders as together they search for solutions.
Dennie Quill is a veteran media practitioner. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.