Youth unemployment at 30%, says labour minister Jason Hayward
Almost one in three young Bermudian adults are unemployed, the Government admitted yesterday.
However, launching the National Youth Employment Strategy, which is aimed at dealing with the issue, Jason Hayward, the Minister of Economy and Labour, rejected suggestions that the figure represented a failure by successive Progressive Labour Party governments.
Asked about the levels of youth unemployment among 18 to 26-year-olds, the minister said: “The latest official figures would have been roughly around 30 per cent.” He said the overall unemployment rate was 7 per cent.
Pressed on whether such a high level of youth joblessness represented a lack of attention to the issue by the PLP, Mr Hayward said: “No, that is somewhat natural for that particular demographic, where youth unemployment worldwide is somewhat around that level.
“What it does indicate to us is that there is still work to be done in terms of reducing barriers.”
Mr Hayward’s claims appears at odds with the other levels of youth unemployment.
The latest figures for Britain show that unemployment for 16 to 24-year-olds between January and March 2022 was 10.6 per cent — down from 13.7 per cent a year before.
For the European Union, the figure was 14.8 per cent.
Mr Hayward said one of the key reasons for such high levels of youth unemployment was a “lack of job opportunities”.
The minister said: “As highlighted in the 2021 Speech from the Throne, and the economic recovery plan, the Government made a commitment to address youth unemployment by facilitating the opportunities and educational pathways for all the young Bermudians between the ages of 18 and 26 years of age.”
Mr Hayward presented a nine-point plan to combat the issue and said that “a large number of educated Bermudians, job seekers, have yet to secure employment”.
He added: “The most common reasons for youth unemployment include a lack of job opportunities for young people, lacking the experience required by employers, limited access to resources, lack of opportunities for less experienced job seekers, career choice uncertainty, and qualifications and skill sets that do not meet the needs of employers.”
• Ensure young Bermudians are qualified to take advantage of job opportunities by increasing training opportunities
• Expand career support services
• Push Steam subjects (science, technology, engineering, arts, maths)
• Provide relevant work experience and apprenticeships
• Increase access to career information and opportunities
• Encourage the development of future business owners by supporting youth entrepreneurship
• Help vulnerable youth
• Improve social protections
• Encourage young Bermudians to return home
Mr Hayward said: “Over the past few decades many Bermudians have emigrated to other parts of the world searching for job opportunities.
“We can and must minimise the number of locals leaving.
“This government remains committed to providing opportunities for young Bermudians so that they can develop ability and desire to go out and lead our country’s path into the future.“
Asked how any reduction in youth unemployment would be monitored and assessed, Mr Hayward said: “What we will do is to continue to track the statistics from the Labour Force Survey and the Employment Survey data.” He said survey was done annually.
“What we aim to do is build better relationships with our young people who are off island and studying abroad so that we can also track and monitor their performance as it pertains to them continuing in the world of work.”
The One Bermuda Alliance said the high levels of youth unemployment showed that the country was heading in the wrong direction.
Shadow labour minister Jarion Richardson said the figures show how weak the economy is.
“Youth unemployment is a clear sign that the country is heading in the wrong direction.
“It simply means that our economy is so weak that even the hope and vigour of youth is getting squandered.
“How is a young person supposed to believe in Bermuda, help build Bermuda and aspire to lead Bermuda if they can’t invest their energies into Bermuda?
“Gainful, meaningful employment is key to healthy communities and families. Without it, we’re inviting even more trouble than we find ourselves in today.”