The Solomon Islands Herald
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The pursuit of jobs for rural youths and the dilemmas

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I have written recently about the need for youths to enter into agriculture and stimulate their income and to create greater economic opportunities in the informal sector.

I believe it is fair to say, however, that the youth in rural areas express a preference for non-farm work, especially youths that have functional literacy and who see their chances of thriving in business

The sad reality is that very few job opportunities exist in the business environment and the disappointment in not finding work turns to frustration and a lack of incentive to ‘get one’s hands dirty’ in farming, a pity as I see it and perhaps the government needs to look into this dilemma and provide incentives.

I once read a paper, I think from the World Bank, which talked about the need to expand education and skills opportunities for the rural majority, particularly in recognizing and upgrading skills for informal activity.

If I am correct in saying youths with higher education have a preference for non-farm work, how will expanding education convince others to consider agriculture as an occupation?

In some countries, and Australia being one, a carrot and a stick approach to obtaining work is adopted.

Australia’s primary unemployment benefit, called ‘Newstart Allowance, is paid to people of working age who are unemployed.

The allowance paid fortnightly by the government is subject to activity tests to ensure that the recipients actively look for work.

“The government also funds a range of services provided by Job Service providers to assist the unemployed find work. Jobseekers are assessed on how much help they will require to find employment and placed into one of four assistance streams.

“Stream 1 jobseekers are assessed as ‘work ready’ while Stream 4 jobseekers have severe barriers to employment. Jobseekers receive assistance based on their level of need, for example Stream 1 jobseekers receive minimal help (such as help with their resume and job search) while Stream 4 jobseekers receive intensive assistance.”

(Source National Commission of Audit)

Of course there is no such unemployment benefit scheme in the Solomon Islands and the government has tried creating paid work opportunities, as one witnessed with the rapid employment project some time ago, but I believe the programme terminated.

Youth@Work was a worthy incentive in aiding would-be job seekers with business training and on-the- job skills, but after such training I am not sure how many of the graduates actually found paid employment.

I guess the dilemmas I have touched upon will exist until such times as the country opens up to development and infrastructure in the rural areas when, perhaps, with a combination of government, public and private investment businesses might be created to take advantage of the potential of agriculture.

In the meantime those with the foresight to think ahead would be wise to enter into vocational skills training and be prepared to fill the work opportunities that might very well arise in the informal, agricultural sector in the not too distant future.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

www.solomonislandsinfocus.com

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