This week’s featured development as Newsmaker of the Week just ended is the stunning admission from Prime Minister Andrew Holness that many frustrated young persons want to leave Jamaica.
This, according to Holness, is largely due to the lack of opportunities and proper infrastructure, including housing, locally.
Tongues have been sent wagging and criticisms of past Governments and of the current Holness-led Administration were heavy on social media after the prime minister seemingly ‘offloaded’ his thoughts on some current issues plaguing the country.
Recently, the issues of Jamaica’s labour shortage has been a dominate topic across the country, with major some businesses admitting that they are struggling to fill job vacancies due to the unwillingness of many workers to return to jobs they lost at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic for the same levels of compensation.
Now, a fresh issue is bound to affect the local labour market, and that is migration.
In addressing the handing-over ceremony for phase one of the Ruthven Towers apartment complex in St Andrew on Wednesday, Holness said the issue of migration has affected Jamaica negatively, with numerous members of the middle class migrating.
He is contending that this situation is untenable, as it will lead to a depletion of the country’s pool of talent and skills, and further derail efforts to complete ‘Project Jamaica’.
But several persons on social media have laid the blame for these issues squarely at the feet of the island’s two political parties – the People’s National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).
They say both parties have been at the helm of Government at various times since Independence in 1962, and should have worked assiduously to rectify social and economic issues plaguing the country, to stem the migratory trend of the island’s citizens with their skills.
While not specifically taking any blame as persons would want him and his Government to do, Holness, rather, asked several questions to paint a chilling reality of the future if migration of the youth and middle class persons is not stemmed.
“Who will lead the country when all the skills leave?” asked Holness during the press conference.
“… And when I say leave the country…, I am talking about who will lead the NHT (National Housing Trust), who will take the leadership of the country to transform the country?” he further questioned.
Based on his interactions with some young persons, the prime minister said he has gained first-hand knowledge of the levels of frustration that they are experiencing locally when they compare other developing countries to Jamaica.
“Somehow they (young persons) look at other countries, they see what is happening in other countries, and they say, ‘Why can’t it happen here? Why do we have all the problems that we have?
“It is infuriating to many of them, and when we talk to them, particularly the millennials, they just want to leave. They want to just go overseas and enjoy the benefits that are existing in other developed countries,” Holness informed.
He noted as well, that Jamaica has suffered from migration since post-Independence, especially since the 1970s.
“Since the 1970s, there has been a migration of Jamaica’s middle class… No country can progress without building its middle class. The middle class isn’t a bourgeoisie concept. The middle class is the segment of your society where skills and entrepreneurism and innovation exist,” he explained.
“So, the middle class is not this rich, well-to-do as people think. It is those who have benefited from the education of the country, who have the skills necessary to move the country along,” the prime minister continued.
“Unfortunately, we have been losing them, and one of the reasons we have been losing them is security…, job opportunities, maybe another, but we are slowly conquering that.”
It was revealed that Jamaica is at six per cent unemployment.
Even amid that good news, the migration issue spoken of by Holness was brought to bear, for example, in the education sector, in the week just ended.
The Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), in a media interview, put the country on notice that a massive exodus of teachers is looming, as 400 have already left this year for lucrative jobs in the United States.
Interestingly, the United States is also experiencing a massive shortage of teachers.
The JTA President, Winston Smith, said the general reason behind local educators leaving is due to low pay, the fears of teachers that they may he criminalised under the new Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC) Bill, among other factors.
But Education Minister Fayval Williams has said there is no need for concern regarding the migration of teachers, as every year the sector loses educators and she was not seeing an negative impact from this year’s migration.
Approximately 38,000 teachers are employed in both public and private schools nationally, the JTA has said.
“In our 60th year, we have to confront this,and make a commitment to improve our infrastructure, so that people can feel that they are living in a modern society,” he stated.
In the interim, Holness appealed to all youths to remain in the island to complete what he dubbed as ‘Project Jamaica’.
“So we are appealing to the young people in our country to consider that ‘Project Jamaica’ is not complete and you have a role, not just to be critical of the incompleteness and failures of ‘Project Jamaica’, but you have a role in making ‘Project Jamaica’ a success,” he urged.
Social media users, particularly those on Instagram, questioned Holness on the solutions he would be bringing to sway ‘frustrated’ youths from leaving Jamaicans.
Dr.t_dnp questioned: “So dear Mr PM, what are you planning to do about it?”
In response to her question, Instagram user, lef_dat_alone, wrote: “This man (Holness) has all the right people around him for the wrong reasons.
“All them do is advise him how to come up with catchy lines and all kind of Anancy fandangle stories and slants to lure the people his way when him near to call an election,” said the user.
“Remember a this same man tell we if him win we can sleep with our doors open.”
Another Instagrammer, Nadineanderson6316, stated: “Somebody please remind him of his (Holness’) position in this country!!!”
Top_boy876 commented: “Is he (Holness) serious right now? You are the prime minister. It is your duty to make sure the country strives. All I hear you do is talk and talk. That’s it. What is your plan?”
Lola_xgotduncan argued: “The PNP and JLP a run this country for years, and dem never think eventually youth would want to leave and explore greener pastures because we make things hard for them? Mr PM, action now, not a bag a mouth please.”
Other individuals took no issue with persons migrating to other countries.
“Anybody looking to migrate come to the UK there’s massive labour shortages now due to Brexit and the pandemic and many companies are now hiring abroad in all types of occupations,” said Instagrammer, itsjalen1996.
Tav_36 wrote: “Nothing is wrong with people migrating, because it gives the opportunity for more young persons who are leaving tertiary institutions to get jobs, plus the country benefits from the foreign exchange It’s a win-win for everybody.”
Na.ky_2220 commented: “Some of the best and brightest minds are leaving mainly because of inadequate pay.
“I see serious brain drain on the horizon. I love my country, but I have to go where I can at least feed my family,” she added.
Carlbenz24 shared: “Prime Minister there is no opportunity for a lot of people in the country, so I don’t blame them to migrate or run off (to) other countries that they can prosper and try and help their families back home.”