The Unemployment Crisis

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The recent release of unemployment data, based on the Guyana Labour Force Survey (GLFS), is both stark and troubling. Even though there exists doubt about the credibility of the statistics there is no sugar coating that the situation is grim. According to the Report, 15.6 percent of the population is unemployed, which represented an increase of three percent when compared to last year.

The truth of the matter is, even though the GLFS accounted for its data by saying, “Unemployed persons are not currently employed, but are available to work within a short time span, and are actively looking for work” the situation is likely worse. With only 51 percent of the unemployed participating in the survey had more participated the numbers would have been grimer.  Some Guyanese have fallen out of the unemployed category not because they are not interested in work but because they feel the system has been stacked against them. The ordinary man in the street could attest to that.

There are pockets of people at the road corners and elsewhere either in a state of hopelessness or looking to ‘catch their hands’ for the day. Citizens need not be fooled. These persons are all illiterate or without work experience, certification, skills, and talent and many have applied for work consistent with their knowledge and competencies but have been turned down. In response to the paucity of employment opportunities some have created their own form of subsistence living, are relying on remittances, or have migrated and this include those with tertiary education. Every year Guyana produces thousands of graduates from the University of Guyana, but according to the World Bank, Guyana has the highest rate of tertiary-educated nationals leaving.

The breakdown in the Survey shows, as per demographics, how stark are the details. 51.3 percent of men are unemployed and 48.7 percent of women. This means that men are unable to provide for the family and women, particularly in the instance of female-headed households, are finding it hard to put meals on the tables for their children much less maintaining a roof over their heads, paying utility bills and transportation to get from one point to another. This is a situation of poverty that will lead to hopelessness, including mental challenges and adverse impact on health and longevity.


The youth unemployment rate, according to the GLFS, is recorded as 30.2 percent. When the young make up a significant percent in society this is a state of hopelessness. Society is quick to castigate the young if they are perceived to be engaging in non-productive activities. This statistic alone raises the question whether ‘idle’ activities are the result of this phenomenon. A third of young people do not have a job. Many of them would have graduated from at least high schools.  It is not to Guyana’s advantage to create any situation where the young feel that even after graduating from high school, university, college, trade school, etc., that there is no place for them in the workforce. This is dis-incentivizing the importance of an education and the rewards that should follow hard work and sacrifices.

The unemployment statistics is also a situation that would allow for anti-social behaviours such as crimes, family/neighbourhood conflicts, etc. Business will also suffer. If people are not earning, they cannot spend, and if businesses cannot sell, they cannot exist or some will seek to exist by not paying their taxes, which is a legal offence, and engaging in other unlawful activities. Guyana is in a no-win zone as per the statistics released by the GLFS, even at its most conservative. There is an unemployment crisis and government intervention is needed to pull Guyana out of this abyss.

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