The Paradox of Youth Unemployment

It is estimated that there are about 40,000 foreign workers in Mauritius. If you fired them all and sent them back to their respective countries – there would be enough vacancies to employ the roughly 40,000 local youth looking for jobs. This is a simple solution to the problem of youth unemployment. In fact it is so simple that it has been proposed many times in the past.
Or is it?
It turns out that the jobs foreign workers occupy – in the textile industry stitching shirts – in construction industry laying bricks and in public infrastructure – digging roads – are exactly the ones Mauritian youth is denying – and instead choosing to stay unemployed.
Let us admit government does not create jobs so it cannot entirely be their fault, yet politicians get blamed (and sometime defeated) for this reason. No wonder opposition parties eager to come to power have raised youth unemployment as a major political bogey. Having unemployed youth at home – doing nothing and watching pornography whole day is not a very good sight for any parent – making it a serious problem not just for the youth but for their parents and immediate family and neighborhood and ultimately for the society. Predictably, the larger political alliances are trying to use the problem to blame their opponents for their own failures – the smaller ones proposing impractical solutions.
Modern youth – including the less educated ones – do not necessarily need a job for life – they need a fun job, a creative job, a job that they want to go to – every morning – dressed up and scented - and come back satisfied. What they are getting offered in the market, instead, is a daily grind of check box ticking and senseless form filling in offshore companies and banks (a euphemism for the financial services industry), a horrific night of phone listening and cold calling customers overseas in a call center (often passed on as ICT industry), waiting at the hotels and restaurant tables (hospitality industry) and sitting on the tellers in the burgeoning supermarkets (retail industry). If only politicians and policy makers were asked to cold call customers in rich countries or made to sit on the teller whole day – they would realize why youth unemployment is a problem in Mauritius and elsewhere in the world.
It is ironical that the nature of employment may have changed but the nature of labor has not. Answering telephonic calls requires no more application of intelligence than turning a screw on assembly line. Yet we are being made to believe that we are living in an information age – a galactic shift from the exploitative industrial age.
The solution to youth unemployment is not creating jobs but creating interesting jobs. There was a time when governments could give incentives to foreign investors in return for creating manufacturing jobs but there is very little that government can do to attract innovative industries that make fulfilling jobs possible. A textile plant or a car manufacturing unit or a five star hotel– ideally the ones that could be incentivized with subsidized land and tax write-offs will end up creating jobs that no one wants to take up any more.
The fun jobs, on the other hand, do not require land and public subsidy – they need freedom - freedom from an archaic economic paradigm that is prescriptive… rather than prospective in nature. A policy that will encourage people to think rather than shove them into unthinking jobs.
There is a near unanimity that a large sum of public money is being spent into creating citizens that end up as pesky job hunters rather than prodigious entrepreneurs. Despite claims to the contrary, government support rent seeking enterprises at the cost of struggling micro–enterprises and self-employed individuals.
Any solution to the problem of youth unemployment must start with an honest admission - that government cannot and will not create jobs. It should then invite the youth to create innovative businesses and ask – rather than tell – how they could be helped in this endeavor.
What I learnt most in designing and delivering a course on entrepreneurship at the National Institute of Technology, my alma mater, was the extent of my own ignorance about the world that the youth of today inhabit. It is devastating and yet absolutely honest to admit that anyone who is past forty today has nothing to offer in terms of advice, guidance or instruction to anyone who is in his twenties. While I assumed, as a part of the program, I could get successful businessmen to mentor – the twenty something of my program– what I shockingly discovered is that it is the older generation that needs mentoring – starting with an urgent opening of eyes to the world of the youth.
The youth today does not require the promise of a free tablet or a free Wi-Fi– he needs the freedom and the liberating environment of inventing his own tablet or his own new-generation Internet. He does not need the promise of a job – he needs the promise of a liberating environment that will allow him to create his own job.


Some good points in there but misses the elephant in the room. Have a look at this