Youth risky behaviours a high cost to the region

CARICOM Secretariat,  Guyana – A study on the situation of Caribbean youth has revealed that youth ‘risky behaviours are wreaking serious havoc on the economies of the Caribbean.’

The Study was conducted by former World Bank Economist Jad Chaaban as part of the research done by the CARICOM Commission on Youth Development (CCYD) in keeping with its mandate from CARICOM Heads of Government to analyse the situation of Caribbean youth and recommend policy interventions to empower them and improve their well-being.

According to the Study, murder rates in the Caribbean – at 30 per 100,000 annually – were higher than any other region of the world and that youth were the primary perpetrators as well as the victims of crime and violence.

The Study revealed that the economic costs of youth crime had two components: the first were direct financial costs related to public expenditure on security, policing, arrest, judicial processing, and incarceration. The second component was indirect costs, linked to the foregone earnings of the criminal while he/she was in prison, and to the losses in tourism revenues linked to youth crimes. Lost tourist 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% of the region’s Gross Domestic product (GDP).

Based on the findings of the Study, teenage pregnancy was seemingly costing CARICOM governments on average $US2000 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 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 antiretroviral therapy estimated at US$641 per person.

But this is not the only costs imposed by HIV/AIDS: according to the Study, every young man or woman 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 labour market at prevailing conditions and earned annual income, which if summed up across individuals 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 behaviours, 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% to 8%), the Caribbean economy as a whole would benefit from an average increase of 1% in GDP.

The findings of the Study have been incorporated in the Report of the CARICOM Commission on Youth Development and will be submitted to CARICOM Heads of Government at a Special Summit in Suriname next week-end (29-30 January), under the theme: YOUTH NOW for the Community Tomorrow.

The Summit has been supported by the United Nations Development Programme (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 Programme (CYP).

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