Thu | Dec 7, 2023

Letter of the Day | Are we really serving our youth?

Published:Tuesday | November 14, 2023 | 12:06 AM


Jamaica officially launched National Youth Month, showcasing efforts of the Ministry of Education and Youth to address the needs of the country’s young population. While these initiatives are praiseworthy, a critical examination reveals that many young individuals, particularly those embarking on their careers, are still grappling with significant challenges.

The efforts of the ministry encompass various youth forums and initiatives aimed at fostering growth, empowerment, and engagement. However, the pressing question remains: are these measures enough to truly serve the needs of the Jamaican youth, especially during National Youth Month?

One notable concern is the financial struggle faced by many, particularly in securing affordable housing. As a potential solution, the introduction of a special allowance for youth employed in the public sector could significantly alleviate this burden. By offering financial support, these individuals would be better positioned to afford suitable living arrangements, promoting stability and well-being.

Another consideration could be implementation of tax breaks specifically tailored for public-sector workers under 30 years old. This targeted approach acknowledges the unique challenges faced by young professionals, who are often burdened by student loans, entry-level salaries, and the rising cost of living. A tax break could provide much-needed relief, allowing them to retain more of their hard-earned income and facilitating a smoother transition into adulthood.

While the current youth forums and initiatives contribute to a sense of community and shared purpose, their impact may fall short without addressing the practical challenges faced by youth. Learning from successful strategies in other jurisdictions could offer valuable insights. Some countries implemented innovative housing schemes, providing subsidies, low-interest loans, or rent-to-own options for young professionals. These programmes acknowledge the financial constraints faced by the youth, recognising that affordable and stable housing is a fundamental need for personal and professional development.

The National Housing Trust (NHT) has improved the availability of houses for purchase. However, the reality is that many Jamaican youth do not meet the minimum requirements to qualify for these homes. This situation has led to feelings of hopelessness and a sense of being failed by their own country.

It is crucial to ensure that the initiatives go beyond symbolic gestures. The proposal for a special allowance and tax breaks for young public-sector workers serves as a targeted approach to address immediate financial challenges. By drawing inspiration from successful strategies in other jurisdictions and acknowledging the limitations of existing government programmes like the NHT, Jamaica can create a comprehensive framework that not only supports the aspirations of its youth, but actively facilitates their journey towards a brighter future.