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By Observer

There’s an apparent battle for the minds and consciousness of Vincentians. The ignorance that is passed on to the masses, evident by some public discussions, is very painful to witness. Maybe those who can do better in educating and raising the level of consciousness of the people are not reporting for duty. The intention here in this piece is to address a few things, following some of those discussions, and somewhat of a follow up to our most recent piece.

Although the 2023 census data collection might still be ongoing, in this piece we would refer to the 2012 version for context. In our last piece, we quoted from the past manifestos of the ULP. In particular, we quoted this from the 2020 manifesto: “The ULP government has overseen the creation of over 7,500 actual jobs between 2001 and the immediate pre-COVID-19 period. The statistics from the 2012 Census and the National Insurance Services (NIS) indicate all this, and more.” This is after it had created over 10,000 after two terms, as reported in its 2010 manifesto.

Notice it referred to the 2012 census. We will do the same here with the intention of bringing clarity to what the government classifies as “Employment” versus “Unemployment”, according to the 2012 census report. Though this is the 2012 census, these definitions should typically not change.

The first thing I think you need to understand is what is the labour force. What does SVG define as its labour force? Here’s what it says:
“The term labour force is used interchangeably with economically active population [age 16 to 64]; however, labour force refers only to persons, aged 16 years and older, who were either employed or seeking work during the week preceding Census Night, June 4 – 11, 2012. Hence, the labour force is a combination of two groups: those who were employed (the working population), and those who were seeking work (the unemployed population).”

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This means, for example, that students in SVG would typically NOT be counted as part of the labour force. They are typically not actively seeking work and therefore would not be counted in the unemployment number of the labour force. In fact, the 2012 census expanded its definition: “These persons must have spent most of the time during the reference period, actively looking for work. This includes writing application letters, as well as actually visiting workplaces or houses, in search of employment. This includes persons who were ready for paid employment or self-employment…”

Most students — perhaps except for student nurses and student doctors — would typically not fit that category, so it’s natural for them to NOT be included in the count of unemployed persons. You must think that this is the same method used to provide unemployment numbers to the World Bank, so that when it reports an unemployment percentage, it already does not include students in the calculation; or at least be similar to what SVG does internally. 

The same 2012 census says this “The majority of the unemployed were young: 15–19 years (14.1%), 20– 24 years (22.8%) and 25– 29 years (14.6%). Collectively, these three groups accounted for 51.5% of the unemployed population.” This should not be dissimilar to what the World Bank would have received.

Though the census categorises a person 15-24 as “youth”, you can see here where it’s counting ages 15-29 as young, when it says, “the majority of the unemployed were young”. “Young”, in terms of employment, therefore means 15 to 29; so, 51.5% youth unemployment in 2012. The point is: whatever number the World Bank reports, is expected to be consistent with what the country reports internally based on a consistent definition; and the number naturally and typically and definitively already would not include students, so that if the world bank reports a “youth unemployment” rate of 40%, that number is NOT expected to include students and is consistent with that of the government.

Regarding the labour force, one must also consider the rate of its growth. That is, students entering the work force. In 2019, the Community College alone was reported to have graduated 767 students. If the total number from all schools is closer to 3,000 per year, that’s a four-year total of about 12,000. What is the disposition of these graduates? To suggest that the World Bank unemployment rate is wrong, or that the youth or national rate has improved significantly, is to suggest that the economy of SVG has been consuming the majority of these graduates faster than they are graduating. Keep in mind that new graduates are coming out to compete with older ones, who may not have found employment yet. Given also the lack of focus on vocational training, it may make sense that there is a difficulty in finding local construction workers. You will have to assess all this for what it’s worth to determine if you think the current unemployment rate is any better or worse than the world bank’s last report.

Going back to the census definition of employment, it states this: “Persons were labelled as Employed if they stated that they mostly worked during the short reference period. The question used to determine if a person should have been counted as employed was: ‘What did you do most during the past week? For example, did you work, look for a job, keep house or carry on some other activity?The following categories are included in relation to employment: Persons doing unpaid work in family firm or business; Persons who are employed, but temporarily absent from work; Persons who are seasonal or occasional workers; Persons who are apprentices and trainees.”

This means that if you are somebody who hangs around a family business, just helping out with no pay, you were considered to be employed. If you do “road work” once or twice per year, you were considered employed.

For Unemployment, it states: “Persons were labelled as Unemployed, if during the reference week, they were without work, wanted to work and were available for work, but failed to secure a job. This includes those who actively looked for work, as well as those who did nothing about finding a job, because they knew none were available.”

Those among us who are able should continue to engage in an effort to raise the level knowledge and consciousness of the Vincentian people. Words should not be used as a comfortable hiding place for information and truth. Our people must engage meaningfully with the truth of their reality, and that can only be done by becoming critically informed; so that the right questions can be asked, and the right challenges can be put forth to the things they hear and read.

The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].