As some countries around the world are deeply worried about their aging population, threatening future workforce, The Gambian youthful populace has skyrocketed. And the able bodied men fit for the farm and other works of life are left redundant with lock potential. The greater number remains unemployed with little or no prospect of making it at home as some posit.
As the inequality gaps keep on widening and retirement unwillingly taking place due to poor wages and salaries culminating with low pension benefits among others, there is a limited chance for the youths to replace the old working class. By virtue of their age, they seem tired but caught up in a dilemma of working for a daily bread or retiring for starvation in a country characterized by a weak trade union that is reluctant to negotiate and speak on their behalf.
On the other hand, the unemployed and poor youth wage earners especially the “lumpen proletarian” in Marxist term are more worried about the raise in market demand among other factors. This mis-calculated circumstance is threatening their means of survival. Which tempt thinkers to speculate that it has ushered in a new climate associated with thievery, robbery and organized crime perhaps informed by poverty and security lapses. Thus, the mass youth unemployment equates to high pronounced crime rate?
Under that backdrop, research has attempted to justify and proffer answers to such question (assertion), because criminal activity rises with age, peaks in the late teens, then falls (e.g. Hirschi and Gottfredson 1983). For example, while the conviction rate among Swedish men aged 19 to 24 in the year 2005 amounted to 4.2 percent the corresponding figure for men aged 29 to 34 was nearly half as large.
A popular explanation for the age distribution of crime is that youths are more exposed to unemployment (e.g. Freeman 1996; Grogger 1998). Economists have argued that the income loss generated by unemployment lowers the opportunity cost of engaging in crime (cf. Becker 1968; Ehrlich 1973).
Others have hypothesized that joblessness triggers frustration and anger, which in turn may lead to violent behavior (e.g. Agnew 1992). It has also been suggested that unemployment provides individuals with more time and opportunities to commit crime (Felson 1998). Thereto, couldn’t this be the tragedy confronting the “new” Gambia shocking all of especially vulnerable groups? Personally, I am more tempted to answer in the affirmative looking at the contemporary Gambian circumstance.
In my humble view, understanding the link between youth unemployment and crime is not only important to help explain the age distribution of crime but is also a key issue for public policy makers and society like The Gambia to battle with in curbing the unfortunate situation that besets The Gambia in post authoritarian dispensation .
In the light of the above, I suggest that poverty alleviation through decent job creation, bridging inequality gaps are quite imperative areas of intervention as this in its entirety threatens human security.
Extreme poverty which is associated with unemployment will not only make us prone to diseases and avoidable deaths but weakened our human capacity development trajectory of this country, The Gambia.
By John Mendy