Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer
Nearly half of the more than 40,000 young people who graduate high schools and universities this year may not find employment in the private sector, two stakeholder groups have predicted.
The forecast by the Jamaica Employers' Federation (JEF) and the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) comes as the economy continues its decline for a sixth consecutive quarter.
"Most employers are either not hiring or not replacing people who are leaving," JEF President David Wan puts it simply.
"So I don't expect any massive increase in employment by the private sector this year," he added.
Job generating initiatives
Wan underscored that a number of initiatives are being undertaken, but cautioned that they are not going to have an immediate impact.
One of those initiatives, he said, is the proposed amendment to the Apprenticeship Act that seeks to expand the number of occupations that can go on the apprenticeship programme.
"That will be some help, but a lot more needs to be done," the JEF president noted.
Another factor that can change the employment outlook, according to executive director of the PSOJ, Dennis Chung, is the country's performance in the next IMF test.
Chung told The Gleaner yesterday that passing the next IMF test will improve confidence and argued that this could embolden employers to start hiring while encouraging some persons to start their own businesses.
"I think that companies will start to grow, and as the confidence returns and we pass the next IMF test, I think we will start seeing some robustness coming back to the economy," he reasoned.
The gloomy outlook comes weeks after the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) reported that the country's unemployment rate rose to 16.3 per cent in April this year, a two percentage-point climb when compared to the corresponding period last year.
STATIN's figures also showed that unemployment among young people between the ages of 14 and 24 years old rose to 38.5 per cent in April this year, a 4.1 percentage-point increase from last April.
The Ministry of Education's library revealed yesterday that its latest data are for 2007, but Wan said last year approximately 38,000 students sought employment as new entrants to the job market.
He said this is in contrast with the approximately 30,000 new jobs he claimed were created islandwide last year.
"This year I expect it to be below that in terms of jobs created, except if the logistics hub can come into play quickly and give us some more jobs," he reasoned.
"And if the ICT (information and communications technology) sector can ramp up quickly and give us more jobs," Wan said.
But he concluded: "Where we are right now, I don't think we will do any better than last year."
Despite this, the JEF president urged new graduates to look to the growth industries, particularly the ICT and the logistics and supply-chain sectors, for job opportunities.
"Even if you don't find a job with the logistics hub and the trans-shipment hub, you can find jobs with the suppliers to these companies. (They) will have suppliers who will also be in a growth mode once these industries come into play," he explained.
Chung also implored new graduates to continue sending out job applications or seek to establish their own ventures.