New Democrat (Monrovia)

21 November 2012

Liberia: Mitigating Youth Unemployment in Liberia

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Ours is not a society like Japan, which left devastated after World II, bounced back in four-and-half decades to pick up and become the world's second economic powerhouse until China recently surpassed it to enter a fierce competition with the United States over the first place as global economic power.

It is no secret that hard work with all hands on deck catapulted Japan, a Pacific Ocean island nation so mountainous that barely 4% of its landmass is arable for agriculture, from the abyss to rise as an economic powerhouse above Western countries, except the United States of America.

Human interest stories abound that Japanese women, feeling lonesome because their husbands were always away from home working nonstop to reconstruct their country after the Great War damaged it, criticized their men in diaries and novels for being married to their jobs and not their women.

There could be no cries for unemployment amongst youths (adolescents) in such an onward march to relaunch a new Japan that had to work in accelerating its economic and infrastructure development to make it fast become a potent international economic power.

Thanks to end of war treaties that barred Japan from the Arms Race, that nation used its brains and brawn to achieve the record of development it reached in less than 50 years after their World War II Waterloo. Everyone had to be diligently and forcefully engaged in countless work activities like construction, auto industry, manufacture of tools and robots, shipbuilding, wholesale agriculture, etc. that left no one to cry unemployment.

One one of the major ripple effects of the global economic downturn that shook the Western economies in the first decade of the second millennium is surely youth unemployment worldwide, but with debilitating effects in Africa, and yes especially in Liberia.

This apparently led President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to describe unemployment as being a common problem for youths in Africa, but lamenting that hopes of finding its solution is being unduly delayed due to protracted lack of international support.

"Youth across the continent and young graduates face the stark realization of being unable to find jobs, exposing their vulnerabilities to crime and violence," she recently told colleagues at the 16th Mid-Term Review Meeting of the International Development Association in Abidjan.

Studies have shown that the cause of rising crime in third world countries such as Liberia is the lack of jobs. With the budding brawn in youths that comprise over half of the our population, would it not suffice for opposition political parties to open large farms where they could be employed and food produced by them would sell to make them economically potent? To reduce youth unemployment, we suggest the opening of vocational and technical centers with the LOIC model to train the thousands of school dropouts who no longer see pure academic education as their fitting, to become useful mechanics, masons, carpenters, plumbers, bakers, caterers, seamstresses, etc. This can surely help reduce unemployment because persons trained in those trades and skills are almost always sought after in the service industry.

The undying fact that the soil is a bank lives on and anyone investing in it will justly be rewarded. But the strangely unfortunate thing id that students who were brought up by subsistence farmers are unwilling to work on farms as seen by more than half of all students attending all of Liberia's universities enrolling to major in the liberal arts and disciplines directly related to pecuniary matters.

Recalling the stampede of tens of thousands of youths for vacation jobs at City Hall and the short delay in processing their pay packets that virtually paralyzed Monrovia for hours last December, youth unemployment cannot be overemphasized. We, therefore, suggest government-backed jobs and training facilities as Austria, Denmark and Sweden have successfully introduced, making youth unemployment relatively low in those countries. Reports that global youth unemployment will continue rising over the next five years as effects of the euro crisis are predicted to spill over from developed to emerging economies like Liberia should only energize unemployed Liberian youths not to give up, but persevere for jobs that will earn them a living. Let the worse be giving up hope of ever finding a job. The report forecasts youth unemployment in Europe to fall slightly in the next few years, but this is not likely to be because more jobs are unavailable. "Much of this decline in the jobless rate is not due to improvements in the labor market, but rather to large numbers of young people dropping out of the labor force altogether due to discouragement," the ILO says. The Middle East and North Africa, the report says have the highest rates of youth unemployment and will continue to do so. "Schemes using employment guarantees and an emphasis on training could help get jobseekers off the street and into useful activities, providing a safeguard against further economic stress."

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