No skills = no jobs: Building the skillsets of unemployed youth in the Caribbean

Published on Thursday, April 21, 2016

No skills = no jobs: Building the skillsets of unemployed youth in the Caribbean

One-quarter of Caribbean youth unemployed


In Latin America and the Caribbean, youth unemployment hovers around 13%—similar to the global average. This regional average is far less than the 25% in Central Europe and the Baltics, or the 30% in the Middle East and North Africa, the most affected region. However, there is one sub-region in the Americas with dramatically high numbers: the English-speaking Caribbean. One-quarter of Caribbean youth are unemployed—more than 3 times the unemployment rate for Caribbean adults. Young Caribbean women are even worse off, with unemployment rates reaching 30%, placing them in a particularly vulnerable position for risky behaviors such as unplanned pregnancies.

These out-of-work Caribbean youth have had serious socioeconomic repercussions for English-speaking Caribbean countries. In 2013, the excess number of unemployed youth is estimated to have cost Caribbean governments $883.4 million, or 1.5% of their gross domestic product. Unsurprisingly, improving economic opportunities for young people is high on these governments’ agendas. While the causes are varied, one of the priority areas they are tackling is how to address the mismatch between the skills of the workforce and the skills demanded by employers.

Given its sweeping societal effects, tackling the youth unemployment crisis is a top policy priority for governments across the world:

•  The issue has been embedded into goals 4 and 8 of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, which seek to build relevant skills for youth and improve youth employment outcomes, respectively.

•  In the last few years, youth unemployment has taken center stage at the annual World Economic Forum, because of its potential to destabilize the global economy.

•  The World Bank has just published a report on “Ninis”—the one in five Latin American youth who are neither in school nor working.

Solutions: train youth for high-potential sectors, promote youth entrepreneurship. Innovative solutions are needed. Some are in the works. In Jamaica, public and private institutions are partnering to improve employability skills among youth to meet the needs for skilled workers in sectors with high potential.


Jamaica has identified business process outsourcing, logistics, agro-processing, tourism, and animation as growing sectors with the potential to absorb skilled youth into their workforce. The New Employment Opportunities (NEO) Alliance in Jamaica has created multi-stakeholder partnerships with businesses, government, and civil society to provide training services and career counseling to 10,000 vulnerable youth. The goal is to prepare the young people for jobs in more than 100 Jamaican employers in these promising sectors.

By: Siobhan Pangerl and Elizabeth Boggs Davidsen



Youth Upliftment Through Employment (YUTE) Limited was selected as the Executing Agency for the New Employment Opportunities for Youth in Jamaica (NEO) programme. NEO is a regional initiative led by the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the International Youth Foundation (IYF) along with seven partners: Arcos Dorados, Caterpillar, CEMEX, Microsoft, Walmart, FORGE Foundation and CNI (Brazil’s National Confederation of Industries).



NEO will be collaborating with the World Bank project aimed at a total of 15,000 youth seeks to provide training and opportunities for digital jobs, plus seed capital for about 2,000 youth interested in starting their own businesses, in an effort to boost the country’s digital and animation industries. This project, launched in 2014, builds on previous World Bank initiatives Digital Jam 2.0 and 3.0, which helped create youth-led startups in Jamaica and sought to establish the Caribbean as a potential hub of IT, innovation, and entrepreneurship.


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