Rajni Lallah in her two minute speech in Labour Day celebration exposed the alarming rate of youth unemployment.
Statistics Mauritius states that youth unemployment is around 25%, she said. This is supposed to mean that a quarter of young people aged between 16 and 24 look for work and cannot find any. This is already bad. The reality hiding behind the official statistics is even worse.
She explained how firstly, official statistics define an “employee” as anyone who has worked for an hour or more for cash or in kind in the week preceding the statistics survey. Anyone who has worked for a few hours for a small planter, had a couple of hours of work loading a lorry, got a day's work doing a house painting job gets qualified as being “employed”. Even someone who has cut a bamboo hedge for a neighbour in exchange for a plastic bag full of vegetables from his or her garden gets qualified as “employee”.
Secondly, she said, the Youth Employee Programme (YEP) further masks youth unemployment. Most of it does not include real “training”. Youth registering at the MITD (Mauritius Institute of Training and Development) get contacted directly by employers (not the MITD) and are asked to report on site. Once they do, they start working just like any other worker new on the job. They get what is officially called a “stipend” of around Rs7,500 (and even more for HSC holders and graduates), not a wage. Even worse, employers get reimbursed half of the “stipend” money which means that employers get subsidised from public funds to pay young workers. This can go on for a whole year. Until a new batch of “trainees” get taken on. This is what “training” means under YEP. Youth in YEP get qualified as “Apprentices” by official statistics, and are as such counted as being “employed”.
So the 25% unemployment rate for youth is only the tip of the iceberg.
She said that there are other similar “training” programs: the “Back to Work” programmes for women of 35 and over or the “Dual Training Programme”.
What we really need is for land to be used to create a new productive sector that can create stable employment. The land and the sea must be used for food production and transformation to create jobs in marketing, transportation, export, storage, research, food production. And for this to happen, there needs to be popular democratic control over land and sea use. This is what LALIT is working towards.