Mon | Dec 5, 2016

EDITORIAL - Tackling unemployment

Published:Saturday | January 31, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Bike taxis are proving to be a major challenge to the police in Westmoreland. For one thing, passengers are put at risk since they do not wear protective gear. And, many reports indicate that some of these bikes are not licensed and may not even be roadworthy.

However, the police's approach of chasing and physically beating bike operators, as was recently reported, cannot be the solution to the problem. That rash action places the police in direct confrontation with citizens who rightly argue that even someone who breaks the law should be treated with respect and dignity.

The young men engaged in this 'business' have no jobs and the prospects of finding jobs grow dimmer each day. Let's be clear about one thing: An economy that is not creating employment opportunities is failing its citizens. And in a stagnant economic environment, people become desperate to find food for their tables. They could turn to crimes such as lottery scamming or other forms of criminality. In this case, the men have seen a need for a cheaper mode of transportation, and they have exploited this area and created a niche for themselves. There is clearly a moral case to be made in favour of these bike taxi operators.

The fact that bike taxis have grown in popularity points to a society in distress. This is a clear indication that public passenger vehicles are out of the reach of many citizens, who must look for cheaper means of getting to work and conducting their business.

It is yet another indication of the plight of the poor, that they are somehow willing to put their lives at risk to get to work, because remaining at home would mean they render themselves unable to feed their families, thus depriving their children of better educational outcomes.

Some of our political leaders never waste a television moment to emphasise how the economy is doing better. However, if an economy is growing without creating jobs, there are negative implications for everyone. For example, it has long been established that there is a high correlation between crime and joblessness. And, because our educational system continues to graduate illiterates, many will be unable to find meaningful jobs. So, where does that leave us?

While we give a conditional cheer to every person who tries to create employment opportunities, we readily acknowledge that bike taxis are dangerous and illegal and we do not condone the practice as an end that justifies the means.

But, that still leaves us searching for solutions to a nagging problem. We need immediate actions to attack joblessness, particularly among the country's youth, bearing in mind that unemployment is a threat to our democracy. We dare say the policymakers are not addressing the problem with the urgency that it deserves. Yes, we look to the private sector to create jobs, but they need an enabling environment in which to do so, and they also need skilled, educated workers to do various jobs.

The clamour for jobs and more jobs has been ringing for many years, but is anyone listening? It is time for our politicians to show constituents that the message has been heard.

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