There are many dimensions to the issue of youth and population. However, I will attempt to give you an overview of the problem of youth from a demographic perspective, and based on the experiences of PNG and other countries, suggest some strategies and programs to deal with them.
It is difficult to discuss the topic of Youth and Population without some discussion on the Age Structure and Demographic processes - fertility, mortality and migration - which influence Population Growth. This paper however, is limited to discussing fertility and mortality as international migration to and from PNG is negligible.
PNG is similar to other developing countries in its population structure. The population is relatively young with 42% below the age of 15 and a median age of 18.7. This means that over half the population (62%) is below the age of 20 years, with girls who make up about 50%, entering their prime reproductive years.
This coupled with the demographic processes at play including high fertility (5 children per women) and a general decline in mortality have contributed to the growth in population from 3 million to 3.7 million over the decade between 1980 and 1990. Projections estimate the current population to be about 4 million. The growth rate of 2.3 percent per annum over the period, is considered high by world standards.
Rapid population growth coupled with an youthful population pose serious challenges to governments not only in terms of providing health, education, employment, social security services to the numbers alone, but also because of the reproductive potential of the population, which, if not controlled, will only negate efforts to improve the welfare of the population.
In terms of their numbers alone, perhaps the greatest challenge to countries with an youthful population and high population growth rates lies in dealing with the high number of new entrants to the job market each year. In PNG, this means that at least 50,000 new jobs must be created each year to absorb the increase in the labour force. If the economy is not able to absorb the growth in labour force then there is unemployment and with it, other social problems.
In urban areas the growing numbers of youth places great strain on housing, both on urban authorities as well as on individual households. Increasingly, we see that siblings who have dependents of their own continue to live with their parents simply because they cannot afford a home of their own.
Associated with the problem of housing is the problem of delinquency. Because of the difficult conditions that many families face, particularly in urban areas, families find themselves unable to take care of their children. Some end up at street vendors, or join street gangs (rascals), where violence, and the use of alcohol and drugs are common amongst these groups. There is already growing evidence of this in NCD.
And young population also places a burden on the working population. In countries where the dependency ratio is low, such as in Australia (60.3) and New Zealand (61.9), the working population does not, on average, have large numbers of dependents to feed, clothe, educate and support in other ways. Where it is high such as in PNG (85.7), the number of dependents can place a heavy burden on workers. This group of dependents also require specific needs such as nutrition, education and special health care.
In the area of Education, the number of school age children in PNG far exceeds the capacity of the education system to enrol them and makes a mockery of the policy on Universal Primary Education.
There is evidence that school enrolment rates have actually dropped in some provinces. While the causes of this have yet to be established, one contributing factor is perhaps school fees. For many parents, their inability to pay school fees, prevents them from enrolling their children in schools, thus limiting the education and employment potential of their children and consequently their ability to adequately care for their children when they become parents.
For girls, who are viewed as wives and mothers, often they are retained at home to attend to household chores. Also, no provision is made for their families or become pregnant and are forced to leave school. The economic incentive of bride price often entices parents to arrange marriages of girls at very young ages when they are neither physically or psychologically prepared for it.
While I do not wish to be seen as being gender biased, evidence does show that there is a positive relationship between the educational level of girls and their family size, health and well being.
In the area of health, teenage pregnancies, abortion and the spread of STDs amongst sexually active youths places great strain on the already stretched health services. This coupled with the high proportion of youths entering their prime reproductive ages, has serious implications for health planners and administrators.
Since the future changes in population and the impact of these changes on socio-economic, political and environmental conditions largely depend upon the behaviour of today's youth, equipping this critical segment of the population with positive human values, appropriate knowledge, attitudes and skills, is considered essential to bring about a safe and viable future.
Putting it bluntly - if the problem of youth and population is serious then the Reproductive and Sexual Behaviour of Youths must be tackled head-on.
Having said that, I am mindful that this is a sensitive subject for some. I am also mindful that the audience here today is made up of adults who are gathered to discuss the issues concerning youths and possible policies and strategies to assist them. With this in mind, I would like to share with you the major issues and recommendations identified by youth in the National Youth Embassy Competition conducted by the UNFPA PNG Field Office jointly with the UNFPA HQ on the theme: RESPONSIBLE SEXUAL BEHAVIOUR - THE YOUTH PERSPECTIVE.
The main issues identified in the essays included : teenage pregnancy, abortion, drug abuse, spread of STD/AIDS; peer group pressures.
These problems were attributed to several factors including : breakdown in traditional norms and value systems; curiosity of youngsters about sex and wanting to experiment; mixed messages about sexual and reproductive behaviour often obtained from other peers; failure of institutions such as schools and churches to openly discuss the subject of sexuality because of their moralistic outlook of the subject; parents not supporting their children and not discussing and educating them on their sexuality.
Among the recommendations made by the youths were :-
The purpose of the competition was not only to draw attention to a current global issues of concern, but more importantly to obtain the youth perspective on the issue of Responsible Sexual Behaviour, particularly in the context of promoting and protecting their rights to education, reproductive health information and care.
I hope that this conference will take up some of the recommendations as suggested by the youths in dealing with youth and population concerns.
With that, I would like to end by briefly outlining some of the strategies and programmes adopted by other countries in addressing their problem of youth and population.
Four priority areas in addressing the problem have been : improving and expanding health, education and training services for youths combined with employment creation.
These have been done through strategies such as raising job entry levels and school enrolment rates. In the area of employment, three main strategies, are being explored to improve the employment situation. These are : vocational and technical training programs to provide youths with marketable skills and special job creation programs such as the City Rangers program in NCD, and credit programs targeting youths as the major beneficiaries.
In other areas, Governments have encouraged labour intensive industries and promoted the development of small and medium sized enterprises to absorb unemployed youth.
To address the problem of rising teenage pregnancies, spread of STDs and abortion, many countries have developed IEC or family life education programs to promote responsible parenthood and teach adolescents about sexuality, in some cases, using youths to design training materials.
Several countries, including PNG have introduced population education covering the multi-sectoral components of population, into the formal school curriculum.
If high fertility amongst youth is a major contributing factor the rapid growth in our population, and irresponsible attitudes coupled with unsafe sexual practices are issues of concern affecting or affected by our youth today, perhaps we need to rethink our attitudes to the whole question of sexual behaviour in particular and reproductive health in general and relook at these issues in the light of the Human Rights of Youths.
I am sure a lot of useful discussion has taken place and, no doubt the youths of this young developing nation of ours should be given every possible means of assistance of further benefit to them as such a very high profile forum of this nature is designed to address the highlighted issues both at the local and global levels respectively. Perhaps, I should stress here that Papua New Guinea must consider this particular gatherings as a very timely one and relevant to the needs of youths in this country.
This is because, it has enabled Papua New Guinea an excellent opportunity to be identified on the world map by other countries, more particularly, those located in the African and Caribbean regions including North and South Americans who are beginning to interact with us through such process of dialogue and consultation on youth related matters at the international level.
I have been specifically asked by the co-ordinators of this conference to provide my organisation's (Department of Industrial Relations) plan in helping to build and mould our in-valuable resources the youth, thus my brief presentation will only touch upon the relevant and appropriate aspects related more specifically to my departments functional responsibilities linked to the various programmes, activities, and schemes in place, policies, guidelines and key legislation presently administered by the Department of Industrial Relations which impact on youth development in the country.
However, let me begin by way of drawing your attention to some information on population of Papua New Guinea. According to 1990 National Population Census, the population was recorded at 3,735,653 growing at the rate of 2.3% per annum. Out of the total population 1,715,330 was the labour force of Papua New Guinea growing at the rate of 3.1% per annum. The employment component of the labour force was 232,162 in 1990 growing at the rate of 2.4% per annum.
Most important point to note here is that because labour force growth (3.1% per annum) is greater than employment growth (2.4%), wage employment fell as a proportion of the labour force from 14.5% in 1980 to 13.53% in 1990. Consequently, unemployment and associated social ills become a serious concern to Papua New Guinea. Unfortunately you are most adversely affected by the problem thus youth unemployment now prevails as one of the serious concerns of Papua New Guinea.
Let me now turn to the DIR policies and programmes impacting upon youth and employment matters. Whilst outlining this, our obligations on international labour organisation (ILO) responsibilities, that is Papua New Guinea being an ILO member state is required to comply within the framework of this unique global institution.
The Department of Industrial Relations administers a total of sixteen (16) pieces of legislation (please see attachment No. 1) and a host of regulations to ensure all labour matters are effectively dealt with under the departments allocated jurisdiction. We also have a total of 19 ILO conventions (please see attachment No. 2) which are designed to assist Papua New Guinea to also operate within the general framework of ILO member countries in maintaining required international labour standards and practices of employment. For example, such ILO conventions clearly encourages the basis for the freedom of choice of employment and the fullest possible opportunity for each worker to qualify for, and to use his/her skills and endowments in a job for which he/she is well suited. Irrespective of race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion national extraction or social origin. (Convention No. 122, Article No. 2 - Policy Aim).
Papua New Guinea has ratified this particular convention No. 122 - convention concerning employment policy and at this point in time, this country in fact has been practicing some of the fundamental aspects of this convention through the various programmes and schemes. For example, the equality principle as reflected within the countries national constitution provides a broad legal provision for fair and equal treatment of all persons.
A close examination of employment act, 1978 does clearly state that any person 16 years of age or over may enter into a written contract of service (employment, and employment of young persons, that is, a person over 11 years of age but under 16 years of age may be employed if the employer first obtaining at this own expenses, a certificate from a medical practitioner indicating that the person is fit for the type of employment proposed; and the written consent of his/her parent or guardian to the employment.
The above legislation also allows for the existence of minimum wages which the youths (youth persons) are catered for. For example our minimum wages (deregulated policy of September, 1992). Please attachment No. 3 - provides the rates of pay including all categories of workers which makes provisions for youths (married youths) across the board in all centres and provinces.
The above stated de-regulation minimum wages policy allows for all new employees in the labour market a minimum weekly wage of K22,96, that is, K45 per fortnight that most employer organisations use their good judgement to pay their workers well above the required minimum amount in light of the high costs of living.
Our human resource development and employment programme's promotions various activities ensure to every available means of providing employment opportunities to assist job seekers to be placed on jobs available and to provide labour market information.
The Legislation on the Employment Placement Service Act, (Chapter 172) allows provisions for the Department of Industrial Relations (Guided by the ILO Convention No. 122 Employment Policy) to over come employment problems.
For example, we assist with employment guidance service, and collect and disseminate labour market information. We provide career counselling by publishing careers guidance books to institutions and interested organisations on individuals, more particularly to young job seekers in the country.
The training and localisation programme work permit scheme ensures that all nationals are encouraged to obtain skilled training from their non-citizen counter parts on occupational skills consistent with the requirement of our National Training Policy, 1989.
They are capable of under-taking as guided by our three (3) year training plans utilising all necessary data on manpower requirements made available to it by the employer organisations in both the private and public sectors.
I firmly believe that a conference of this scope and magnitude on youth employment although fairly broad in all aspects, if properly utilised should derive is considerable benefit in terms of promoting employment opportunities to the youths of this nation.
We should also bear in mind that the young people play a very vital role in the development of our country, in that the stable and harmonious well-being of Papua New Guinea hinges on the right attitude we provide for the youths as the future leaders of our society where issues related to employment is part and parcel of our development to that effect. At the same time, we need to thank the government for recognising the needs of our youths and being able to have such issues discussed at the global level.
Finally, this is the third day of the five day conference, hence I would assume that a lot has been discussed about youth in all aspects of human activity, thus I hope my brief remarks on the role of my department may serve to add on to your contributions. With these few comments, I wish you good luck and hope you have an enjoyable and very productive discussion.
ANNEX 1- LEGISLATION AND POLICIES ADMINISTERED BY MINISTRY AND THE DEPARTMENT
1. Industrial Organisations Act (Chapter 173).
2. Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act (Chapter 174) except S.11.
3. Workers Compensation Act, (Chapter 179).
4. Explosive Act, (Chapter 308).
5. Explosives (Adopted) Act, (Chapter 309).
6. Industrial Safety, Health and Welfare Act, (Chapter 175).
7. Inflammable Liquid Act, (Chapter 311).
8. Employment Act, (Chapter 373).
9. Trade Licensing Act, (Chapter 96) except S.2.
10. Local Government Act, (Chapter 57) - (S.91 only).
11. Public Services Conciliation and Arbitration Act, (Chapter 73) all provisions except S.9 (3) b.
12. Teaching Service Conciliation and Arbitration Act, (Chapter 73) all provisions except S.9 (3) b.
13. Employment of Non-Citizens Act, (Chapter 374).
14. Apprenticeship and Trade Testing Act, 1986.
15. National Training Council Act, 1986; and
16. Employment Placement Service Act, (Chapter 172).
1. Minimum Wages Board (MWB) Determination on Deregulation of Wages, 1992; and
2. National Training Policy, 1989.
ANNEX NO. 2
ILO CONVENTIONS RATIFIED BY PAPUA NEW GUINEA SINCE 1ST MAY, 1976
ANNEX 3 - INDEPENDENT STATE OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA