To take full advantage of Solomon Islands’ youthful population we need to make decisions on education, training, policy and programs particularly by building job-relevant skills that support entrepreneurship and innovation.
Jay Bartlett, Board Chairman of the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) made this statement at the official launch of the Young Entrepreneurs Council Solomon Islands (YECSI) at the Mendana Hotel in Honiara on Friday 12th October 2018.
“Solomon Islands along with Papua New Guinea have one of the youngest populations in the Pacific and our population structure has a large youth bulge and these statistics are quite daunting and concerning,” he said.
“It is important that we fully understand the population situation we face and the implication it poses for socio-economic growth and development,” Mr Bartlett said.
Mr Bartlett said as a country we currently face a serious skills deficit needed to support economic growth and we need to reconfigure the training supply system that is demand responsive.
“We must ensure that our youth labour market can supply current market demands.
“Our youth demand our efforts, time and investment and the time to act is now.
"This is one of those moments in our history where our future depends heavily on the critical decisions we make today and in my humble opinion we are standing at the cross road with two pathways ahead of us ‘a demographic dividend or a demographic time bomb’,” he said.
He said statistics are truths that should be self-evident and the need for intervention by the Government, donor partners, private sector, civil society and churches is critical.
“As a general rule of thumb, to reap a dividend you must first invest in it. If we want demographic dividend, then it is important that we truly start investing in our young people along with the supporting infrastructure and institutions.
“We must stop talking. We need real action and real reform if not for us then for the young people around this country,” he said.
Mr Bartlett said if young people cannot find employment, earn a decent wage, live in dignity then this large mass of frustrated youth will likely become a source of social and political instability-a demographic time-bomb.
“I believe our leaders are aware of the urgent need to tackle youth unemployment but we need to take this acknowledgement one step further, it needs to be reflected and translated in our national budget-less discretionary expenditure and more non-discretionary, transparent and accountable spending across the board.
“The basic challenge before us all is to address this crisis. Although data on unemployment is limited, there is absolutely no doubt that there is significant surplus labour in Solomon Islands that could be utilized to the benefit of the country as well as individual youth and their families,” the SICCI Chair said.
Mr Bartlett said the Young Entrepreneurs Council Solomon Islands (YECSI) is all about positioning our youth in a way so they have an opportunity to influence the decisions that will affect them.
“We must not only create a framework for youth but they must involve in important discussions and nurture the partnership between our youth, Government and business to find ways to meet the development challenges we face,” he said.
YECSI is setup under the auspices of SICCI with support from Government through the Ministry of Women, Youth and Children Affairs to represent young entrepreneurs in the Solomon Islands.
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