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Youth, unemployment and the Caribbean Information Society: a challenge and an opportunity

Published date 2004-06-21
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From the document:

Youth unemployment has become a troubling feature of the Caribbean landscape. One of the consequences is that young persons in the region have been robbed of the relatively worry-free transition time between adolescence and adulthood. In effect, there is an abrupt curtailment of their age of innocence. Many of those who are employed are often deliberately exploited in what has become, for employers, a booming buyers market. Now impressive (and expensive) academic qualifications are no longer a guarantee of good long-term employment prospects...

However, side by side with this distressing volume of unemployment and aimlessness there exists a shortage of skilled and creative persons in the area of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). It is a critical shortage, since rapid developments in this area have accelerated the integration of the world economy and made possible the creation of a global knowledge-based, information society. These developments have changed the way people live and work, the way governments govern and businesses compete, offering in the process, many new avenues for job creation. But there is a challenge.

Not all countries are benefiting from this revolution. There is a growing "digital divide" and the Caribbean must ensure that it is not left stranded on the wrong side. The new development paradigm requires non-traditional thinking. It requires boldness and initiative, and a readiness to embrace new opportunities. Much of the creative energy needed to cope with this challenge will come from young people. Therefore, if the region is to make any real progress towards its goal of becoming a significant player in the global information society, Caribbean youth have a leading role to play.

This paper explores an approach to tackling the challenge of youth unemployment that focuses on the information and communications technology sector and on nurturing the entrepreneurial initiatives of young persons. For the purpose of this paper, 'youth' is defined as persons between the ages of 15 and 25. This group comprises roughly 25% of the labour force of the English-speaking Caribbean. Unemployed youth are persons in this age group actively seeking work. Two case studies are included by way of illustration.