Timothy Ferdinand, Chairman of the Caribbean Regional Youth
1st CELAC-EU Youth Days: Decent Employment
9-11 April, 2015, Quito
Mr. Timothy Ferdinand
Chair, Caribbean Regional Youth Council (CRYC)
I bring warm greetings from the Caribbean to you all. Buenos Dias. The Caribbean Regional
Youth Council was established on the 6th of December 2013. Our main objective as a regional
platform is to strengthen existing National Youth Councils and to establish ones where they don't
exist. Inherently we exist also to represent the voice of Caribbean Youth regionally and
internationally. Our representation is most effective when we form the right partnerships and find
ourselves in the correct forums, from where we can contribute to decision making processes.
Our budding relationship with The Latin American Youth platform is very important to us. Our
history binds us and our future is even more demanding in its command of united efforts and
collaboration. We are the generation that will flatten and integrate life across the globe. We are
the generation that will fight with intellect and competence despite our size as small states and
our obvious limitations as poorer countries.
Ladies and gentlemen, sixty years ago, one of our very own Caribbean borne Nobel laureates for
Economics, Sir William Arthur Lewis, shared a very valuable perspective. He wrote that "the
value of Economic growth is not that wealth increases happiness, but that it increases the range
of human choice".
Our level of poverty may be associated with the size of our economies, but it is very important
that we recognise the high value of our human capacity and the role that human relationships
play in adding global value.
We must come together to fight hunger and poverty in our region. We must commit to the
redesign of our education systems in order to adequately prepare our youth for the world of work
and global development. We must break the barriers of language and redefine our concepts of
brain drain and patriotism to allow our young people the flexibility and mobility that they need,
in their pursuit of opportunity. We must also guard our borders from the scourge of crime,
illegality and dishonest enterprise. In essence, we must create a safer world for young people, so
that they can freely innovate, move, share, interact and contribute to regional development. We
must remove all unnecessary barriers and replace them with stepping stones for our youth.
Within the EU framework, The Caribbean and Latin America are seen as one platform, but for
far too long we have not capitalized on the massive bank of opportunity that lies within our
Our human resource, our people have been crippled due to one major barrier - Language.
Language is the single most powerful tool in the entire history of human evolution and world
development. With language, culture is defined and developed. Through language, skills become
transferable and learning becomes easy.
The issue of unemployment first surfaced in the Americas about 100 years ago, but it is not so
old to confound us. It wasn't until the post-world war period, that civilizations re-organized
themselves into peaceful economic machines. Sadly, it is arguable, that the decades of
colonization and slavery ended largely because of new production means and economic models
informed by technology. The creation of jobs through industrialization served us well throughout
the 19th century, and now we are still at a point where technology continues to simplify life- so
much that arguments against mechanization are diminishing.
The questions now arise: where are the jobs going to come from for the thousands of young
people entering our workforce every year? And for those jobs that exist, how meaningful, how
relevant, how decent are they for our young men and women? How do we adequately
compensate workers for their efforts and on what basis do we determine our minimum wages?
What is our concept of wages, salaries, and working hours? Are our economic structures
adequately designed? Has mankind completely explored all systems of economic activity? or has
the time come to re-think?
In this regard, decent employment points to a major issue of measurement and fairness. It also
points to the issue of classification, the need to address in-work poverty, house-hold supply, selfesteem and human dignity. It scares our young people, to be employed and paid with wages that
cannot elevate them out of poverty. Many university graduates in the Caribbean region are
willing to settle for low wage jobs- "some are willing to accept any job as long as it allows them
to pay off their student loans at the end of every month". Is that a fair ultimatum for our educated
According to a study conducted by the 2010 Caricom Commision on Youth Development, 85%
of young people between age 14 and 29 would migrate to more developed countries if they had
the choice or the resources to do so. So what does this say to us?
Dear leaders, experts and colleagues, our region is old in its existence yet young in its
independence and development.
The Caribbean population features 64 % youth below 30 years. However, It is predicted that by
the year 2020 that figure will fall to 55% and by 2030, 50%.
The unemployment rate in our Caribbean countries is as high as 20-26% and youth
unemployment is double those national figures. Some of the Broad challenges associated with
unemployment in our region are drug trafficking, crime & violence, a recent increase in suicides,
teenage pregnancy/ single parenting. Another alarming challenge for us is the low pass rates in
CXC Examinations (23-26% av.) and alarmingly low rates in subjects like Mathematics and
English every year.
Given the many challenges we face and the apparent limited opportunities for our young people
it is very necessary, that we join each other in thinking outside of the box, and we must commit
to finding new pathways for economic development and growth.
Admittedly, CARICOM efforts at creating a single economy and economic space have proven a
challenge for the past 50 years. And it is well known, that a major hindrance is the lack of
political will among our member states to make the necessary sacrifices toward full economic
and developmental cooperation. Ladies and gentlemen, Conventional thinking will not
ameliorate the employment crisis. Our young people possess the raw talent and are borne with
the internal configuration required for the immediate future. Yet the policy environment in our
various states stifles creativity and innovation. Sadly our governments are not focused enough on
crafting successful policy environments and this is a major issue for our advocacy campaigns as
There are very commendable approaches proposed by the EU ACTION PLAN FOR
EMPLOYMENT. The proposal for Active Labour Market Policies (ALMP) should be embraced
and can be adopted to suit our regional context.
Perhaps we need to go a bit further to CHANGE THE EMPLOYMENT JARGON such as the
word ‘employment’ itself. Why not call it ‘gainful engagement’? Perhaps we should stop going
to "WORK" and stop looking for "JOBS" and instead, let us consider going to "PRACTICE" or
any group of words that redefine the paradigms associated with money and work- thereby
reshaping the quality and structures of human labour.
For us (CRYC), this conference is a platform to reinforce the need for young people to be
deliberately included in the EUCELAC decision making processes.
Most importantly it signifies the rebirth of cooperation between Latin American Youth and the
Caribbean Youth platform.
To Conclude I would like to state three areas of collaboration desired between the Caribbean
Regional Youth Council and the Latin America youth forum (FLAJ) as well as the EU-LAC
Foundation in the hope of continued relations:
1. Let us cooperate on the development of a labour market study across the two regions. This
will allow us to examine current and future trends, perform a labour market needs analysis and
propose areas of joint supply.
2. Let us examine our education systems, accreditation and certification systems with the aim of
proposing expanse in scope, and breaking the barrier of language through opportunities for full
courses of English and Spanish at the primary level and also within non formal education sectors.
3. Let us advocate for greater investment in technology - by tapping into production markets, as
well as software design and development. Modernising our agricultural sectors as well as our
health sectors will prove a beneficial investment by contributing to employment, food security
and the health of our aging populations.
We are committed to pursuing formal relations with the Latin American Youth Forum as well as
the European a Youth Forum in light of joint advocacy, the design and sharing of best practices.
With this I wish you all a very productive experience over the next two days of this conference
and an enjoyable stay in Quito.
More About Us: The Caribbean Regional Youth Council is the umbrella agency for youth
councils and youth-led organisations legally registered and operating in the Caribbean, and has
constitutional responsibility for representing and serving National Youth Councils of the
Caribbean.. On December 6th 2013, 11 Countries were represented at the first general assembly
of the Caribbean Regional Youth Council, funded by the Commonwealth Youth Division, and
held in Marisule, St. Lucia. Among the CRYC mandates is a role ‘strengthening the capacity of
NYCs’ and the ‘establishment of NYCs where they do not exist’.
Our platforms and work uphold human rights; of peace and security, Tolerance, Freedom of
Expression, Rule of Law, Good Governance, Sustainable Development, Environmental
protection, Economic resilience, Access to Health, Education, Food and Shelter, Gender Equality and youth participation and inclusive engagement as the cornerstone of genuine participatory