Home Opinion Frank Short A look at unemployment and skills development in Solomon Islands3 min read

A look at unemployment and skills development in Solomon Islands3 min read

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Kava prunning and harvesting demonstration during a training facilitated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock for Kava farmers in Western Province, 2018.

The Solomon Island economy is still largely dependent on agriculture and forestry, albeit with a growing reduction in round log exports, and fisheries. A large proportion of the population is rural or village-based; as a result, a large percentage of agricultural activity is production of subsistence foods. Commercial agriculture includes copra production, cocoa, market vegetables, and marine products, such as fish and shells. The main exports are copra, cocoa, wood, and fish.

The informal sector is substantial, with over 80 per cent of the labour force estimated to be in the inform al sector.

The large informal sector and the lack of employment opportunities in the formal sector, implies the limited capacity for informal sector workers to switch to the formal sector.

I believe many would be willing to take up other income earning opportunities if the required infrastructure and services were available but many are also hampered by a lack of skills

It is a fact that informal sector workers (that includes a large proportion of female workers), which constitute the bulk of the labour force in the Solomon Islands due lack of opportunities for education and skill development, remain unskilled.

It follows that their capacity to switch jobs, particularly those that may result in the formal sector in future, will be weak. This implies significant gaps in the labour market, created mainly by the large informal and small formal sector.

In view of the SIG’s planning and expectations for major developments and in-roads in infrastructure, it would seem to be incumbent on the government to invest significant resources to re-skill and train a future labour force in key economic sectors

In the Solomon Islands the problem of youth unemployment is acute. In the case of the Solomon Islands around 7,500 school leavers enter the labour market each year but as employment opportunities in the formal sector are limited, most have no choice but to join the ranks of those in the informal sector.

Only one in every six school leaver can expect to find paid employment.

In addition, Solomon Islands’ overall population growth per year is outstripping job creation in the formal economy.

In 2009, the World Bank designed an employment project, focused on supporting poor communities in and around Honiara, which became the Rapid Employment Project.

By engaging young people and women in work and skills training, the project helped to mitigate the risks of renewed conflict, increasing the household incomes of many poor families and providing infrastructure for those living in vulnerable communities

The Rapid Employment Project provided training to more than 11,500 vulnerable youths and women,  generated more than 729,500 labour days and employed more than 12,600 of the most at-risk young people in the Solomons’ capital, Honiara,

More than US$3.2 million in wages was paid to participants.

More than 61,500 community members benefitted from the infrastructure that was built or repaired as part of the project, with more than 40 small access infrastructures such as concrete ladders, footpaths and pedestrian stream crossings completed by project participants.

More than 100 kilometers of roads were rehabilitated through the project.

The World Bank supported project was beneficial to the Honiara based community while it lasted but the wider problems and implications of unemployment remain today, especially in regard to job creation in both the formal and informal sectors, heightened all the more by the high population growth.

It is hoped the Solomon Islands development partners, old and new, together with development partners from the private business sector, will considerably step-up their support of the Solomon Islands government to provide for skills training and for the creation of jobs in both the formal and informal sectors.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

www.solomonislandsinfocus.com

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