Unemployment data can be cold and impersonal. The numbers do not tell the stories of family breakups, people living without electricity, desperation or hunger.
When people don’t have work – excluding the rich, of course – they struggle to take care of themselves, to find shelter, to find clothing, to find hope.
The greatest social welfare initiative any government can give is the right policy to enable a dynamic economy in which people can find meaningful work and entrepreneurial opportunity. Then, they can largely take care of themselves.
About 1,200 people came out to a one-day job fair on Friday aimed at filling 60 jobs, Fusion Superplex officials said.
“I think the reception today, the numbers, are still much higher than I would have seen at some of those previous fairs,” said Fusion Chief Human Resources Officer Trevare Sherman.
“I would have anticipated about 400 to 500 max today, but we’re more than double that.”
The large turnout at the new cinema should not be a surprise. The unemployment rate increased from 10 percent to 10.7 percent from May to November 2018. Youth unemployment was 23.1 percent.
The Bahamas is projected to grow by 2.1 percent this year. However, that rate is not high enough to absorb the already unemployed mixed with new job entrants, and drive the jobless rate down.
Speaking with a few job applicants at Fusion Superplex gave a sense of how tough it is to be without work.
Racquel Albury is a mother of two. She said she’s been looking for a job for two to three years.
“… I really need something that is full-time that is going to help me support my kids,” Albury said.
“My kids shouldn’t have to suffer because I am not working. I have the ambition to work and I have the drive to work, but I just can’t find the job…
“It hurts man. When my children look in my face and say, ‘Mommy I need this and mommy I need that,’ what can I do? What can I do but just keep my head up to the sky and keep praying…
“… This is like a whole day just gone and you’re not sure you’re going to get hired. That’s the hurting part. You’re not sure.”
Forty-year-old Monapo Major, a former employee at Bimini Bay Resort and Marina and father of one, said he has been unemployed for a month and finds it difficult to provide for his son.
“… Sometimes I can go out and say do a little bit of work for the church, make 50 or 60 dollars,” Major said.
“Sometimes when the church [doesn’t have anything] to do, I have to go out and hustle.
“So, it’s very difficult.”
He added that thoughts of crime frequent his mind.
“I will be real with you,” he said.
“Sometimes when I can’t get nothing, I have that on my mind. But just [because of] my little boy I keep my composure.
“I’m being real. You see what I’m saying? Without him, I would have been on the run or I’d have been locked up right now…”
Some try to stay positive. Carol Curtis, a 58-year-old mother of six, has been unemployed for more than five years.
She said she would rather try to find a job than depend on others.
“I thank God for this much, my baby is 19 years of age, she’s working at Warwick and she helps me out a lot.”
Driving down the unemployment rate is not important just to make the statistic look good. The unemployed are people. Some are in deep despair and hardship. The frustration drives some to a life of crime. It drives others to substance abuse. In the worst situations the most desperate may even harm themselves.
Pushing growth must continue to be the top priority of this government. Our people had a tough decade following the 2008 financial crisis. They have the hunger for work and to start businesses. The opportunities just need to match their ambitions.