Government Should Declare Youth Unemployment a National Disaster
Alagi Yorro Jallow
If the Gambia is to remain strong into the future, we must—as a nation—regain our self-reliance and pride and urge President Barrow to declare youth unemployment a national disaster, treat it as a catastrophe and an emergency, and henceforth set aside an emergency fund to sustain and decrease poverty, insecurity, death, and migration.
This emergency fund will support the employment of young people because a failed generation of youths has been made to believe that migration is the key to success only to realize that the government is a padlock preventing growth and prosperity. By using these emergency funds, the government can create jobs for the Gambian people with safe working conditions. It must also work to raise wages for the middle class and the down-trodden.
People are now turning 30 years without ever having had a job that could guarantee their financial stability. This means that as demographics shift, we will have many poor and elderly people in the future.
The government’s cash for the elderly program will not be sustainable, especially when most of the elderly are part of the urban poor who financial needs are increasing.
The excessive dependency on the government caused by unemployment ensures that even people with jobs that guarantee their financial stability are unable to do so because their income is shared with many others. Reverse dependency on parents by grown-up children will also ensure the war against poverty is a lost cause.
Young Gambians need to understand that what they deserve the most is both employment and social services. Healthcare and education are costs that require most of our income. Most salaried people pay hospital and school costs for their immediate families and other relatives. Maybe you don’t think much about this now because your parents are still in their 50s and 60s. Wait until they reach 80 years and social security cannot help with their basic welfare needs. Even if you wanted to help people, doing so will be almost impossible.
Young Gambians need to realize that even with the best jobs, they cannot afford an education for their children and healthcare for their families in the same way their parents did.
With good public hospitals and schools, people will not worry as much if it takes time to find a job or to grow a business. If someone choses to have a baby, or if that baby gets sick, the parents must worry just as they will when they have children in school.
Declaring youth unemployment as a national disaster will ensure only the projects that guarantee the creation of sustainable high-income jobs are implemented. This declaration will also ensure that the government cuts excess fat and channels these resources into job creation. Furthermore, it will force policymakers to make policies that create, rather than destroy, jobs.
The government should improve the healthcare and education sectors so that youth employment can be a realistic goal instead of the government selling off sectors to their friends and selling private sector agendas, which are not in people’s best interests. For example, if the government wants to reduce the number of graduates because a) it has no money for public university education; b) unemployed graduates are always a recipe for a revolution; and c) in the private sector, workers’ pay is cheap, which means the workers will have less to use for their relatives’ fees and medical bills.
The government tells stories about talent, technical colleges, and skills gap to make students accept that they cannot get into a university because they’re not sharp enough or because employers don’t need their training.
If there are two reasons why you must trust this government, it is for those two reasons: healthcare and education.
I think the government and the private sector should concentrate their energies on activities that increase household incomes. The battle against poverty begins and ends at the household level. One area where a lot can be achieved is in agriculture and agro-processing industries. Most of the budget should be channeled there.
Politicians should avoid this obsession with mega projects for their own sake. We seem to be facing a chicken-and-egg conundrum whereby we can’t agree whether projects lead to development or vice versa. The answer is strategies targeting poverty. The youth of Gambia are tired of the successive governments cutting expenditure on public healthcare and public education and making young people go into debt or lack the means to attain a tertiary education.
Jobs are not a problem for politicians. If they win, they can throw some Dalasis at you to do their dirty work, using the money they’ll steal from your parents’ taxes. Or they can call in a favor with a company, and the you can become those nuisance colleagues who can’t be told the truth because of your godfather, and who can’t even grow without daddy doing something for you. And if he loses the next election, you’re out of a job. Why live like that? But politicians can’t cheat on healthcare and education. They can’t call in favors. They can’t impose you on a private hospital. They can just provide these services. This is the only way devolution will deliver for the common man. Currently, devolution is just enriching government officials and their cronies.