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Youth unemployment: the crisis to meet head-on in Mauritius

The global economic crisis has hit youth the hardest, and many are understandably discouraged by rising inequalities. A large number has no immediate prospects and is disenfranchised from the political, social and development processes in their countries. Without urgent measures, we risk creating a “lost generation” of squandered talent and dreams.
Today’s generation of youth – the largest the world has ever known, and the vast majority of whom live in developing countries – has unprecedented potential to advance the well-being of the entire human family. To counteract the huge problem of unemployment, Mauritius needs to establish more and stronger mechanisms for youth involvement.
Facts & figures
With a total population of 1,253,000 as at July 1, unemployment rate is expected to increase marginally from 7.9% in 2011 to 8.0% in 2012, according to Mauritius Statistics. The main characteristics of the unemployed at the first quarter of 2012 were:
The 44,000 unemployed comprised 18,900 males (43%) and 25,100 females (57%).
17,500 or about 40% of the unemployed were aged below 25 years.
About half of the unemployed were single. Among males, the majority (70%) was single while among females, the majority (64%) was ever married.
Some 8,300 or 19% had not reached the Certificate of Primary Education (CPE) level or equivalent and a further 17,500 (40%) did not have the Cambridge School Certificate (SC) or equivalent.
10,000 (23%) had been looking for work for more than one year.
15,000 (34%) were looking for a first job.
6,500 or 15% of the unemployed were heads of households.
6,600 (15%) lived in households with no employed persons.
(Note: These are only recorded data. Off-record, I’m sure, we have thousands?)
Human tragedy
This isn’t a new problem. The economic crisis has, certainly, made life harder for young men and women starting out, but youth unemployment began rising back since the last decade. Even long term youth unemployment has been worse, historically, than people sometimes realise.
Understanding these trends is important because, if we pin all our hopes on youth unemployment disappearing automatically once growth returns, we’ll be sorely disappointed. This is a problem that predates the financial crisis. It is at least partly structural. So, yes, we have to create the jobs – of course. But we also have to provide the targeted support to the youngsters who struggle to break into the workplace – regardless of whether we’re in good times or not.
Youth unemployment isn’t just an unforgivable economic waste – it’s a human tragedy too.
How, then, can we create more jobs?
I propose, the Mauritian government should enact laws for a 24-hour working shift system. This system should be in three folds of 8 hours per shift, with 7 days a week with exception to holidays. The first batch of employees should work from 6:00hr to 14:00hr; second batch from 14:00hr to 22:00hr; and third batch from 22:00hr to 6:00hr.
This system has various benefits:
Creation of employment for hundreds of thousands of Mauritians – If across Mauritius we must work 24hrs a day, then it means we need two times the current labour force to achieve that, that is we must employ 200%.
Enhance the quality of life – The quality of life of people will increase due to less pressure, good pay, better service and enhanced productivity.
Reduce the traffic system – Since we are all working during day time, that explains why we spend hours in traffic before we get to work. But if we run a shift system we will be moving to work at different time of the day which will end the traffic situation.
Increase productivity – It will be of no doubt that the productivity level of our countries shall increase in two folds due to the two times increase in the labour force. Our markets will then expand, which will open more business across the continent. Furthermore, there will be a greater need of labour which will enforce specialization to produce efficiently.
Let’s imagine of a system where governmental departments operate 24/7… Let’s imagine the state of affairs where banks, insurance companies, telecommunication firms, embassies, manufacturing companies, hospitals, wholesalers, retailers, markets, transport, media, learning institutions, among others are all working 24hrs a day.
I dare say every graduate and skilled man or woman shall be employed. Even the unskilled shall find a decent job of cleaning an office. What is required, however, is not the lip service or piecemeal approach, but a legal order, a law that will make it compulsory for every company or governmental institution to go 24hrs a day.
Energise the economy
Unwinding our toxic debts while keeping the economy moving is as tricky as defusing a bomb. Start pulling at wires haphazardly and find ourselves in crisis again. Hesitate and risk panic and fear. We have to be careful and deliberate. So, while giving a push to the eradication of unemployment in Mauritius, we have to take every step possible to energise the economy. I’m not an Economist, yet I’m pretty sure the followings can be instantly contemplated:
Reforming income tax to put more money back in consumer pockets;
Intervening directly to encourage diverse and resilient business models – like employee ownership; and
Boosting-up sugarcane plantation and leading a massive export drive in new markets.
If I seem like I’m hammering the point – I am. And now, as the situation around us continues to deteriorate, the State has to take the decision to exploit – to the maximum – all of the flexibility built into its previous plan. Because, when the world moves, we have to move with it.
Before I wind up, I must say that’s one half of the equation. The other is helping the young men and women who struggle to break into the labour market – whether it is in good health or not. Giving them the skills and experience to get work; giving them the confidence to take them on.
I hope I’ve given a sense of approach which the Government of Mauritius may chew over. The struggles of the young unemployed men and women, their fears, their hardship, the dreams they put to one side; this cannot be accepted.
It’s our duty – this generation’s duty – to give each of them a chance and to give each of them back their hope.

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