A study on the situation of Caribbean youth has revealed that youth’s risky behaviors are wreaking serious havoc on the economies of the Caribbean.
This is according to a study conducted by the CARICOM Commission on Youth Development (CCYD) in keeping with its mandate from Caricom heads of government to analyze the situation of Caribbean youth and recommend policy intervention to improve their well being.
The study conducted by former World Bank Economist, Jad Channban, found that murder rates in the Caribbean – at 30 per 100,000 annually – were higher than any other region in the world and that youth were the primary perpetrators, as well as the victims, of crime and violence.
The report revealed that the economic costs of youth crime had two components: the first being direct financial costs related to public expenditure on security, policing, arrest, judicial processing, and incarceration.
The second component was indirect costs linked to the foreign earnings of the criminal while s/he was in prison and to the losses in tourism revenues linked to youth crimes. Lost tourism revenues as a result of crime had reached in excess of US$200 million per year for the CARICOM region and overall youth crime was costing at least 7 percent of the region’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Based on the findings of the study, teenage pregnancy was seemingly costing CARICOM governments on average US$2,000 per year for every young pregnant mother. These mothers were also losing potential earnings they could have achieved if they had been able to delay their motherhood and continue on to higher educational levels.
With regard to HIV/AIDS, the study illustrated that CARICOM countries were spending US$17 million per year on HIV treatment with an average cost of therapy treatment estimated at US$641 per person.
The study also highlighted the point that every young person with untreated HIV faced a risk of death, and society would lose much of its human capital as a result of the AIDS epidemic. “Each person dying from AIDS could have joined the labor force at prevailing conditions and earned an annual income, which, if summed up, would represent a potential for each youth cohort of nearly US$1 billion for the CARICOM region in future earnings,” the report noted.
In quantifying the costs incurred by governments and individuals as a result of these risky behaviors, the study pointed to estimates that indicated that if youth unemployment were to be reduced to the level of that of adult
unemployment (i.e., on average for the Caribbean a reduction from 23 percent to 8 percent), the Caribbean economy as a whole would benefit from an average increase of 1 percent in GDP.
The findings of the study have been incorporated in the report of the CRICOM Commission on Youth Development and was submitted to CARICOM heads of government at a Special Summit in Suriname (January 29-30). The conference was held under the theme, “YOUTH NOW for the Community Tomorrow.”
The summit has been supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the European Union, and the Caribbean Development Bank. The commission’s work has been supported by the governments of Spain and Italy, the United Nations Population Fund Agency (UNFPA), and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Technical support was also given by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), and the Commonwealth Youth Program (CYP).