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Jun 30, 2017

Can Education Gap in Labour Force Be Cured?

John Briceño

As we reported on Wednesday, unemployment ticked up to nine percent year to year according to the Statistical Institute of Belize’s Labour Force Survey done twice annually. Additionally, just under seventeen percent of the force are measured to be “underemployed,” either under or over-qualified for their respective jobs. More tellingly, close to three in every five employed persons did not reach secondary school education, after years of bounties of money from various sources. So what can be done? Minister Patrick Faber touted the government’s subsidy program which he said has helped many, citing the case of the Toledo District.

 

John Briceño, Leader of the Opposition

“When you add the nine percent of unemployed people, and the sixteen-point-seven percent of underemployed people, we have over twenty-five percent – one out of every four Belizeans either don’t have a job, or barely they have anything to be able to hold on to. This in itself is bad, it is really bad because it shows a weak economy, there has been little growth in the economy and it shows that the economy is not keeping up with the population or with our labour force. And we know that when people are not working, or they barely have anything – they “ketch and kill”, they’re not making enough money to take home – you usually end up with more poverty [and] more crime. But what is just as alarming or probably even more alarming is the preparedness or lack of preparedness of our labour force. Now listen to these statistics: twenty-one percent of our workers have a high school education; eighteen percent have a tertiary or higher level of education – means sixth form or university. Forty-three percent finished Standard Six; only Standard Six. And sixteen point five percent did not even finish Standard Six, which tells us that fifty-nine point five percent of our labour force they either have no education, or they have a Standard Six education. Now I am in no way suggesting that this happened overnight; obviously this is a problem that has been coming over the years, and governments – ours and this present government – they have not done enough to be able to turn this around, to look at the issue and see what is it that can be done. But what bothers me most, Madam Speaker, that here we have fifty-nine point five percent of our workers with just Standard Six or less education in our labour force, when we have just squandered four hundred million dollars of Petrocaribe; six hundred million dollars from the oil money; we have borrowed over one point three billion dollars, and all of that money done. It’s been spent and misspent, and it’s not coming back.  You got that right.”

 

Patrick Faber

Patrick Faber, Area Rep., Collet

“Firstly, Madam Speaker, it is this administration, under this administration, that so much has been done to make sure that students who are at the primary level – and all will agree that we do well at the primary level; he has even conceded that in fact that is the level of qualification that most people have. The transition on to high school has increased tremendously under this United Democratic Party administration, Madam Speaker (Applause); that is not fiction, that is fact. In fact, Madam Speaker, the same three-hundred  dollar subsidy that my friend from Fort George was trying to go out and give out like Santa Claus, like he knows anything about giving out this subsidy – he was Prime Minister for ten years and didn’t do that, didn’t give assistance there. That same subsidy that is automatic in Toledo and Stann Creek in fact – and the member from Toledo West will know well, because he was still working with the Ministry of Education for a stint – before I fired him, yes. Just to use as an example, Madam Speaker, Toledo saw in that first year of the subsidy, a transition rate from primary to secondary of one hundred and eight percent; why, Madam Speaker, because the students valued the assistance that we gave and we didn’t only give to the students who were graduating that year; there were students who had completed primary school a year and two years before and we helped them go on to high school.”

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