By Crisan Evans
With the previous government now reinstated, young people are hopeful that the government will adhere to its promises – the same promises that they had been singing praises about during the election period – to create 150,000 new jobs. Now more than ever before, young people are facing a high risk of either becoming or remaining unemployed, especially those who have recently completed their studies in both secondary and tertiary institutions.
Jamaica’s unemployment rate is now at 7.3 percent. This figure, however, is representative of the pre-COVID-19 era. According to Professor Densil Williams, a scholar in international business, “we could add, easily, another 100,000 people” since the outbreak. Since COVID-19, Jamaica has been seeing many layoffs in industries such as tourism, manufacturing, entertainment, and hospitality. In a Gleaner report published on April 20, 2020, The Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett disclosed that approximately 120,000 persons who were employed in the tourism sector have lost their jobs as a result of the global pandemic.
Even though the government has not released data on other industries and the current unemployment rate, the increase in unemployment is reflected in the number of university graduates who have been unable to find jobs.
Coming next year, the “forgotten ones”, the tertiary graduates, will be knee-deep in frustration when the time comes for them to start paying their student loans. To add to this frustration, job opportunities are now drastically declining at a high rate because of the coronavirus, and the country is in an unfavorable position to accomplish its mandate. The clutches of the COVID-19 pandemic have drained the country’s budget and caused the economy to sputter. Therefore, the question is how will they [tertiary graduates] be able to manage those [student loan] payments?
In the past years, Business Process Outsourcing companies (BPOs) have been a good backup for young people when it became troublesome for them to secure jobs within more favoured companies. However, the damages that came with the coronavirus have become even more problematic than we had initially thought, as even BPOs are now facing the harsh reality of having to let go of persons in various positions. So, when tertiary graduates’ backup plans are no longer a viable option, what are they left to do? We cannot expect them to spend such large sums of money on their education and three to four years in university only to sit at home or to work minimum wage jobs in order to make ends meet.
Before the coronavirus, many students were offered and promised jobs, but soon after, those jobs were delayed and in many instances terminated because companies were not willing to risk exposing their current staff to the virus by injecting a potential carrier into their current workforce. Many were also trying to cut back on costs which has been an issue since the pandemic. One example of such university graduate is Krystal May who was promised a job after completing her internship. She explained, “When my internship ended, I was promised to be rehired in June full-time… I was told when things get back to normal, they would take me back.” She said no one is sure when things will change, and she is now stuck in limbo.
Another university graduate, Shemeka Rambally who has been unsuccessful in her job search said seeking a job after university has not been easy and COVID-19 has made this even harder. “I’ve sent out so many applications, I’ve lost count and I’ve only gotten two interviews so far. However, I am still at home unemployed,” said Rambally. She said she is still hopeful that she will get a job soon.
Like these students, I am sure others share the same experience.
With trends like this, universities, along with the government, should come forward to address how they will help these new graduates to move forward in their careers because they can only stay afloat for so long.
Crisan Evans is a content creator and journalist whose passion lies in unravelling stories, reading, and writing poetry and other creatives. She completed her studies in Journalism at CARIMAC, UWI and wants to contribute to changes in society through her journalism career.
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