Here is Why Jamaica’s Youth are Leaving the Country

If you are living in Jamaica, chances are you would have seen ads requesting that you apply for citizenship in Canada. I have seen many ads of this nature, and relatives and friends have taken this opportunity. In fact, I can not even count the number of colleagues that would have taken the opportunity to move to Canada. Others have chosen other countries, such as the USA and the UK to pursue their careers and to start their families. According to data from STATIN Jamaica, 10 to 15 thousand people LEGALLY migrate to other countries each year. These countries to which they migrate are not taking our drug dealers, they are not taking or criminals, they are not taking our rapists, they are not taking our poor, they are taking our best people. I assume a few bad apples may squeeze through. Evidence of the rejection of ‘bad people’ can be seen in even our politicians who may have their visas revoked for ‘misbehaviour’. Daryl Vaz, please behave yourself! 

I was at the bank conducting business when an agent asked me to declare all my nationalities. I indicated to her that I am Jamaican and that is my only nationality. She chuckled as she said, ‘for now’. She expected someone with a PhD to have at least a dual citizenship, or to be considering migration. The conversation had me deep in thought for a while it made me think, do I have to leave the country to be successful or satisfied on my career? Is there something in Jamaica from which we should all be running away? As a young person entering a field with low demand, I had to be open to the fact that I must also consider overseas options for employment. While I considered this, it was never my desire at any point in my life to leave Jamaica. I think that if young persons like myself who obey the law, who are educated, and who have high moral standards stay in Jamaica, the country will be better. 

Why Are They Leaving?

  1. Jobs. The opportunities for employment overseas are attractive. Also by comparison the pay is significantly higher, even when you take into account the higher cost of living. I was watching Judge Judy some time ago, and one of the participants told the judge that he works at a print shop where he photocopies and prints paper for a living. He was not the owner but a lower level worker. When he declared his pay I was shocked to find out that he was paid much more than an advanced degree holder in Jamaica. It is amusing to think that I could leave Jamaica, go overseas and work odd jobs and make twice as much money. It is also interesting to note that jobs that we frown upon here in Jamaica, we chase in other countries.
  2. Crime. Crime in Jamaica is a major push factor. You don’t have to be involved in gang activity to be affected by crime. Even your success may make you a target. Fleeing for safety is arguably a valid reason to leave.
  3. Intolerance. I’ve seen where a few persons migrated because they were not accepted in Jamaica. They allegedly requested asylum in other countries. While much progress has been made. Jamaica is still not a haven for certain liberal activities.

What Should Be Done

  1. Scholarships with bonds. I am a recipient of the Jamaica Government Exhibition Scholarship. A condition of the scholarship is that after graduating with a degree, I was bonded to work in Jamaica for several years. This was a brilliant idea. I would not have been able to complete my tertiary education without that opportunity and it’s a great way the country can educate and retain young persons. This, however, has to be complemented with job placements. 
  2. Education free. Education through to the end of high school should be free. I mean really free without administrative and other fees. 
  3. Mandatory career counselling. A program that identifies and directs students career paths. Whether it is in academia, skills training, or sport, each student’s strength must be highlighted, and their careers directed in the areas of strength. We cannot have everyone targeting the same goal with significant differences in skills. We all have a different purpose that should be valued equally.
  4. Increase pay. Nursing is the field that comes to mind first, but this applies across the board. It is as if we are training nurses for the export market. They get paid very little while there are recruiters providing opportunities for them to work overseas for about five times their local pay. It is also interesting that we are importing Cuban nurses, who are less competent and paying them more. I do not see the problem where nurses are leaving Jamaica being solved without a well-deserved, significant increase in pay. Remittances do not compensate for the brain drain.

Why Should Young People Stay?

  1. No Racism. In a country where nearly 100% of the residents are of West African descent, racism is not an issue. I have experienced racism when I travelled before and the anger I felt would encourage violence if I were to experience it frequently. There is no better feeling than being around people who accept you in your own skin.
  2. The Weather. We receive millions of tourists yearly. They come here for the culture, the music, the people, the weed and the weather. Especially in the winter, tourists come here to enjoy our consistent climate. If they run away from their weather, it can’t be that good. Snow is nice for a couple of hours, sunshine never gets old.
  3. People who love you. You are surrounded by people who love you, family and friends who have your best interest at heart.
  4. Ownership. Jamaica is your country. You own it! The freedom you receive here you will have nowhere else. There is no place like home.

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