THE country does not have a major unemployment problem as much as it has an underemployment problem, Finance Minister Larry Howai said yesterday.
Howai was speaking during a post-budget forum hosted by the Couva/Pt Lisas Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.
The forum was held at the chamber’s building in Couva.
Howai said: “We don’t have a serious unemployment problem but we do have a serious underemployment problem. There are a lot of island scholars who come back to Trinidad and Tobago who end up making tea and coffee and photocopying paper in some office or something, rather than doing things that they have been trained to do.”
“With GATE (Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses) we have even more people being qualified and these are all adding to the number of people who are available but we just don’t have the quality of jobs that would fully utilise their skills and help them to develop. We have to do a lot more to ensure that we open up jobs for persons who are really underemployed. We are losing a lot of investment we’re making into these young people because they themselves become frustrated and they either give up or they leave,” he said.
He said the government was also attempting to put in place an immigration policy.
He said the country’s population has remained at around 1.3 million for the past 15 years and if the population was not growing, this limited the growth of the economy.
Howai said: “If we had two million people instead, then we will be in a much more expanded market place with much more demand and therefore we need to get to that.”
Using Singapore as an example, he said a country a “little bigger than Tobago” had a policy to increase its population in the next ten years from five million to ten million people.
But they were looking for people who would develop the economy such as entrepreneurs, professionals and medical doctors.