According to the IMF, youth unemployment in St. Vincent and the Grenadines was an alarming 46 percent in 2015, youth being described as individuals between 15 and 24 years old. Unfortunately, there is no current data on youth unemployment, however, I have a strong suspicion that it has risen or remained the same since 2015. The paper did however, state that most university graduates were employed. Conversely, secondary school graduates had the highest unemployment rate. This is the hard reality we face in our country, there is no ignoring it. Young people need jobs and there aren’t enough for everyone willing and able. So, what do they do? They go overseas of course.
The topic of brain drain is a very sensitive one, for many reasons. Firstly, it is seen as unpatriotic to be educated by the motherland, only to work in another country. Afterall you are adding to another country’s workforce, while leaving a deficit of young talent in your own. Secondly, many students receive direct investments through scholarships and government student loans. It is shameful to receive a free education, only to exploit the hand that fed you. Brain drain is a serious matter for many Caribbean countries, as we are often less developed than the metropolitan countries and cannot offer the same salaries nor standard of living they can receive elsewhere. It’s a really hard sell when you’re asking these bright minds to remain in underpaid jobs, that are almost never in their field of study.
It seems selfish doesn’t it, to abandon your country for the sake of money? However, I implore you to see it from another perspective. Although we have made many strides since gaining independence, poverty is a still a reality for a subset of our population. It is not uncommon for people in my generation to be the only member of their family with a tertiary education. Moreover, we are forced to contend with the “black generational curse”. The black generational curse is the expectation of black children to become the primary breadwinner as compensation for being raised. It is disgustingly unfair, but a very real reality for many young black people. Many of you can probably relate to getting your first job, then receiving an onslaught of financial responsibilities from your family. Suddenly, you are expected to pay for your aunt’s new glasses, or your grandmother’s light bill, because they babysat you as a child. Let me say this now: you are NOT entitled to your child’s money because you raised them. Raising your child was YOUR responsibility, one you CHOSE to take on. No one owes you half of their paycheque for doing what was expected of you.
It seems the youth have no real choice but to leave doesn’t it? Stay and become exploited by your own family in a job that you hate, while being underpaid. Or you can go away and live the metropolitan life and show off on Instagram. I should also note that many of these students send remittances. Remittance is the money you collect from Western Union or Money Gram from your family member’s paycheque from overseas. I cannot even begin to explain how much remittances boost our economy, especially for countries, such as Barbados, which depend on foreign exchange. So you might think they aren’t contributing, but they are indirectly.
I love my country, and most Vincentians I know love their country as well. It’s easy to demonize those who leave and never come back, but let’s be real, we don’t make coming back very appealing.