[Opinion column written by Jeremy Deacon]
I touched on the issue of youth unemployment in Bermuda a few weeks ago in an article called ‘What would the 23 percent think?’ but I want to revisit it in the light of another debate that is on-going now.
Predictably the recent spate of crime has prompted some knee-jerk reactions, notably the rekindling of the long-running debate over tinted visors and whether they should be banned to help prevent violent crimes.
Yet while we expend time and effort on that debate, we ignore other issues that contribute greatly to crime. One of those issues is the level of youth unemployment.
According to the last available Government statistics, youth unemployment is running at a staggering 23 percent: that is, almost one out of every four young people have no job.
To put it in perspective, in the same report, overall unemployment in Bermuda was measured at seven percent and youth unemployment in the Eurozone is 20.4 percent Unemployment_statistics.
A report from Bridging Europe, an Athens-based, European think-tank, says: “Early unemployment has a negative effect not only on the future employability of young people but also on their self-esteem, their role in the society and can represent a serious economic burden on state finances.”
It adds: “Unemployment among young people could also leads to reduced level of happiness and mental health problems. Being employed is important for young people in order to feel accepted in the society, thus not having a job can cause economic, cultural and social isolation.
“Social exclusion, stress and employment worries can cause mental health problems, such as depression. Moreover, studies have found that youth unemployment is associated with increase in drug and alcohol use as well as higher levels of crime among young people.” [The italics are mine].
And a US report Youth unemployment: concludes: “The results produced show that policies causing youth unemployment [even unintentionally] lead to tougher roads for those youths that are most vulnerable.
“Those experiencing unemployment at an early age have years of lower earnings and an increased likelihood of unemployment ahead of them.
“Policies that may cause job loss can inadvertently lead to decreased wages, increased chances of unemployment and longer future unemployment spells for the most vulnerable.”
Note the last two words: the most vulnerable. It is the most vulnerable that are most open to persuasion and we know that often gangs are seen as family to members.
Despite all this, the current debate around crime centres on the use of tinted visors, which I find staggering at best, and a wanton lack of social responsibility and awareness at worst. The police see it as a non-issue – something that may make the public feel safer but which won’t actually make them safer.
It is to be welcomed that youth unemployment has fallen to its current rate from 29 percent [one on three] and it is to be hoped that the trend continues.
If it is to do so, it must form the focus of Government policies – from creating a social safety net to specific job-creating initiatives to policing strategies that understand and cater for the intense psychological issues that can manifest themselves to better education.
The young people of today are tomorrow’s adults and parents. Youth unemployment cannot be brushed to one side in the hope it will solve itself. As Michael Weeks said in his recent column on tinted visors: ‘let’s tackle this post haste’.
What do you think? Leave a comment or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jeremy Deacon is a 30-year veteran of the media industry and currently runs public relations company Deep Blue Communications, www.deepbluecommunications.bm. He also freelances for publications in Bermuda and overseas, and is also the Executive Officer of the Media Council of Bermuda.
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