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Caribbean labour ministers’ meeting

ILO Director-General calls for urgent action on youth unemployment

Guy Ryder tells Caribbean Labour ministers that it is time to act to save a “lost generation” of young people.

Press release | 03 July 2013
PORT OF SPAIN – Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Guy Ryder, told Caribbean Labour Ministers that there is a need to focus more closely on strategies to address youth unemployment.

“It is no cliché to speak of the lost generation of young people. It is the reality of today and we must react to it,” Ryder said, in an address to the Eighth ILO Caribbean Labour Ministers Meeting in Port of Spain on July 2.

“There are two hundred million unemployed today and the crisis, as we have been reminded, is particularly acute among young people and that is particularly disturbing. Those without employment or education and training in your region are nearing 20 per cent of young people.”

Doing right by youth is a foundation for future success."
“Doing right by youth is a foundation for future success,” he added.

Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, Irwin La Rocque, also expressed concern about the issue in his address to delegates. He said that the incidence of unemployment among young people is higher than among the adult population.

“The data reveals that youth unemployment rates are substantially above the national averages across the region,” he said. “Indeed, it is more than twice the adult rate. A reduction in youth unemployment to the adult levels would contribute to growth of between one and two per cent in GDP among our member States.”

La Rocque said even among those who successfully complete secondary and tertiary education, and among those who have access to technology, “many are unable to secure a decent job.”

Minister of Labour and Small and Micro Enterprise Development of Trinidad and Tobago, Errol McLeod, pointed to the fact that, worldwide, “we now know that 75 million young persons and counting are unemployed. We now know, with unquestionable clarity, that we need jobs-rich growth and decent work for development. Our challenge in the labour community is to convince our colleagues of the merits of a decent work approach.”

“It requires much dialogue, national policy coherence and strengthening of the relationship among government, employers and workers,” McLeod said.

Ryder also highlighted the ILO’s reform process which, he said, would enable the Organization to meet current challenges.

He emphasized his commitment to “bring the ILO closer to our constituents, not just to governments but also to workers’ and employers’ organizations,” and “to make our Organization more useful” through the quality of the services that it offers.

Ryder stated that in order to make the Organization more relevant, there is a need to address and not ignore “the more difficult of the challenges before us, and in the final analysis we need to make the ILO more influential to progress the cause of social justice to which we all subscribe.”

Nineteen Caribbean Labour Ministers are attending the two-day meeting in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago. The Hon. Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, in welcoming participants said, "business as usual, is no longer a viable option" for global economies.

She said it was important for Caribbean governments to “focus more fundamentally on labour issues.”

The Prime Minister later held bilateral discussions with the ILO Director-General, who also met earlier with La Rocque.