Across Africa, Asia and South America, many countries have seen their population exploding in the last few decades. While a majority of these nations have witnessed resounding economic growth, in many cases, it simply couldn’t match the large and sudden spike in population. As a result, while Europe and North America grapple with aging populations, many of these aforementioned states are attempting to prevent or quell public unrest. As pointed out by the World Economic Forum last year, unemployed youths tend to become frustrated and a large population of angry youths can completely upend a nation’s future. While not facing any major revolutions or insurgencies, Caribbean nations are faced with crime and social ills from ‘NEETs’. Short for ‘Not in Education, Employment or Training’, the recent pandemic, economic volatility and a similar issue of economic growth not matching population growth has created a NEET problem for many West Indian territories. How can they grapple with this problem before it worsens? Let’s look at some ways.
Recognize Those At Risk
Sure, poor communities are generally full of unemployed youths but, if anything; recent events have made youth unemployment a national problem. We aren’t alone in this. A recent piece from Korea Times noted that youth joblessness almost doubled in many parts of Asia over the last year where it had previously been experiencing a gradual rise. In the West, this problem has manifested as well due to a double whammy from greater mechanization and digitization of jobs and the huge hit the global pandemic incurred on the service industry. Visual Capitalist notes that Generation Z and even some millennials are heavily overrepresented in minimum wage jobs and the service industry around the world. Thus, local state actors must facilitate a means for identifying the unemployed and underemployed through registration databases and programmes that enroll them straight out of school. Speaking of which:
Don’t Underestimate Learning Trades and Vocational Training
We’ve spoken before about Germany’s educational system that embraces apprenticeship and aptitude-based learning that transfers straight into employment. For example, someone with an aptitude for craft, fabrication, or carpentry would be advanced to a school wherein these skills are given learning focus and apprenticed to an industry or company in their senior years of school. It’s time we take a closer look at this and embrace it, if only partly. We should not underestimate the value of learning trades, gaining diplomas and picking up useful skills that would increase the marketability of a young unemployed workforce. Learning trades and useful skills not only boost self-confidence but allow one access to jobs constantly in demand.
Digitize The Job Seeking and Hiring Process
The UK government has actually created specific programmes to address NEET’s, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes tracking and monitoring for vulnerable young people including, not just online registries but also consulting and counseling. Everything from resume-building workshops and interview tips to marketing advice and assistance for small startups is encompassed in these programmes. The amazing thing is all of these activities are entirely able to be conducted online meaning that significant costs can be avoided and a degree of streamlining is possible. Furthermore, it could be set up quickly with the right tech expertise at hand.
Take Issues Like Recidivism More Seriously
It’s often overlooked but juvenile delinquency, youth crime and are major developmental issues in the Caribbean, particularly with the emergence of more single-parent homes and a lack of proper guiding figures in the lives of many developing adults. This is a problem around the developed and developing world. Findings from the US Justice Department and national youth surveys in the US note that fatherless homes are twice as likely to produce juvenile offenders than those with both parents. Instead, a more sinister form of development takes place wherein a troubled teen may gradually see themselves advancing in a ‘career of crime’. This worsening recidivism can be nipped at the bud and assisted with NEET-oriented programmes as well. Indeed, the aforementioned challenges of growing unemployment and increased difficulty may only contribute to a larger emergence of young ‘career criminals’ seeking illegitimate means of success in life.
Addressing The Social Situation
Addressing the employment and skills development side of things is all well and good. However, the Caribbean has, long before the current crisis of NEET’s, had social issues threatening to boil over and create numerous youth crises. A robust social services system and framework must be a priority. Not just for identifying the vulnerable but to also secure their mental health. Many are of the belief that mental health is a ‘backburner issue’ or that it’s a matter for ‘adults’ not youths. This could not be further from the truth. Youth suicides, depression and other mental illnesses are on the rise around the world. Both the US CDC and WHO notes a disturbing upward trend in youth mental illness over the last 20 years. Acting on this can help prevent the increase of youth offenders as well as the increase of NEET’s.
In short, the Caribbean region is facing a looming crisis of a forgotten generation. One defined by reduced employment opportunities, underemployment, and the quality of life changes these trials introduce. We would do well to not ignore it.