Though more than half of 1.4 million working-age youths do not study or work, 15,000 have benefited from government programs.
By Kay Valle
TEGUCIGALPA – Carlos Montes, the undersecretary of the Secretariat of Labor and Social Security (STSS), said the 775,000 of the 1.4 million working-age youths who aren’t employed or in school is a “serious problem.”
“If they do not find work, they don’t have the resources to continue studying,” he said, referring to those between the ages of 15 and 29.
The 775,000 represents 22.1% of the 3.5 million who are economically active in the Central American nation, according to the STSS. Honduras is home to 8.3 million residents, 65% of whom live in poverty, according to the National Statistics Institute (INE).
“I worked as a saleswoman in a used clothing store so I could finish my studies in commerce and public accounting, but I was fired before graduating [in 2007],” said Isis Jaqueline Andrade, a 24-year-old Tegucigalpa resident. “[Three years later] out of necessity, I took a job as a saleswoman in a used clothing store, earning less than [the minimum wage of] US$320 a month.”
In September 2012, the store closed and Andrade was unemployed again. Unlike many, she receives help from her parents while looking for a job.
Deputy Director of Employment of the STSS Carlos Madero said inflation and little economic growth during the past 30 years have caused a high youth unemployment rate.
The country’s economy grew less than 1% in 2012 compared to 3.6% in 2011 and 3.8% in 2010. Inflation reached 5.4% in 2012 and 5.2% in 2011, according to the INE.
But that’s not all.
The report “Employment Outlook 2012” by the International Labor Organization (ILO) indicates there are 20 million young people not integrated into the labor market or education system in Latin America.
There are short- and long-term consequences of youth unemployment, according to the head of the Department of Social Sciences at the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH), Roberto Briceño.
“In the short-term, young people become obstacles to development because they depend on those who work and add to the population living in poverty,” he said. “In the long-term, the consequences are more crime, corruption, and an increased risk of falling under the control of gangs and organized crime.”
“It is necessary to define and develop strategies to involve young people in the country’s development, as they are the major players in the nation’s progress,” Briceño said.
To address the problem, the STSS created Proempleo programs in 2007 – targeting youth between the ages of 18 and 29 – and Mi Primer Empleo (“My First Employment”) to place youths between the ages 15 of 19 into entry-level jobs.
Proempleo has trained 9,414 youths in 115 occupational areas, Madero said.
About 175 companies that are members of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) in the cities of Cortés and Tegucigalpa support the project.
Nikki Ondina Cuéllar, 22, is among the beneficiaries of Proempleo.
After graduating from technical school in 2010, Ondina Cuéllar was unemployed, with no chance of obtaining higher education and needing to provide for her family.
Through Proempleo, she was trained by Unicomer, which is among the companies that support Proempleo.
Today, Ondina Cuéllar works with the company that trained her in user support in the administrative area. In addition, she studies marketing at UNAH and supports her family.
“My economic troubles were resolved by benefitting from this program. I can even help my younger siblings finish high school,” she said.
Meanwhile, Mi Primer Empleo has benefited 4,883 young people living in high-risk areas, Madero said.
“There are many young people who do not have the chance to go to school, and it’s very good that there are these kinds of programs so they can learn a trade that will help them succeed,” said Nancy Maricela Amaya Flores, 19, who used the program to get a job as a beauty stylist in Tegucigalpa.
To build on the momentum created by existing job-placement programs, the office of the Secretary of Labor established the National Employment Service of Honduras (SENAEH), which seeks to unite the supply and demand of the labor market at no cost.
Since 2012, SENAEH has placed 37% of 54,854 job candidates, Madero said.
“[The programs] are an effort to combat youth unemployment, reduce poverty, improve conditions of the employment system and provide decent jobs for young people,” Madero said.