TONGA DEVELOPS STRATEGY TO ADDRESS YOUTH CONCERNS

News Release

Tonga Now Government of Tonga NUKUALOFA, Tonga February 14, 2007

The majority of the thousands that were arrested after 16/11 were Tongan youth under the age of 24. From the footage taken that day – youth were everywhere looting and causing havoc against the businesses of Nuku’alofa. Many were also arrested in connection with the burning and other serious offences.

Right now, we have thousands and thousands of unemployed youth roaming the streets day and night. Some are looking for opportunities in the criminal sense while others simply roam around out of sheer boredom.

It is said that "our youth are our future" and so far it looks bleak. Youth unemployment was a staggering 11.9 percent in 2003 (Labour Force Survey 2003) but has risen to s high as 20 percent according to unofficial estimates.

For a country that is ranked 55 in the world with the highest Human Development Index (HDI) as well as over 90 percent of people receiving primary and secondary education, it is certainly a serious concern that we cannot find employment for our young Tongans coming through the education system.

If we cannot find employment for the youth population then they may end up as criminals which not only hurts society but also the state through the costs of trying to fight crime. This type of problem requires collaboration between the private sector and public sector. At the end of the day - when kids complete their studies - they have to work somewhere and not everyone will get a job working in Government. So, the trick is to work with the private sector so that the qualifications and skills of our youth are aligned to the needs of the private sector. A whole-of-government approach is needed too so that the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Youth work together to find the best pathway forward for gearing up our young people to contribute to developing this nation. Our youth are definitely our future - but we have to give them the tools so that they can be effective in taking this nation forward.

In 2004, Kaufo'ou Kilioni, 2003 Youth Parliament delegate, said that unemployment was the number one problem for Tongan youth. A survey conducted by UNICEF and WHO in 2001 found that 59 percent of the out of school youth surveyed in Tonga were unemployed. The survey also found that 48 percent of students thought they would never be employed, or that it was unlikely [source: Pacific Magazine, 1 January 2004].

The problem of youth unemployment has been exacerbated by a lack of vocational training services. We have many primary and secondary schools and even Universities but not vocational training which is where most school leavers may want to go to learn a trade or apprenticeship.

The youth problem is not going to go away and if it is not addressed now then it will come back to haunt the government and the future development of this nation.

To address these problems, the Ministry of Training, Employment, Youth and Sport has developed a National Youth Strategy. This is a national guiding document for addressing the challenges and issues relating to youth. Although its timeframe is set for the period 2007 to 2012, the strategies and strategic actions advanced by the Tonga National Youth Strategy will have long-term impacts on the lives of young people.

It is based on extensive consultations and brings together the stakeholders - Government Ministries and agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations, Civil Society Organizations, Community and Faith-based Organizations and youth groups to work together to achieve the vision and objectives set out in this document.

This Tonga National Youth Strategy is a new approach to addressing youth issues in Tonga. It is envisaged that, with the full cooperation of all involved in addressing youth issues, the young people of Tonga can look forward to a better future and the fulfilment of their aspirations and needs. It aligns with National Strategic Plan 8 and its objectives and therefore it is a response at the national level and a strategic framework for addressing youth concerns and issues and hence calling for concerted efforts amongst the stakeholders.

Tonga Now is the website of the Reform Information Office, a unit within the Office of the Minister of Finance. The unit was established to assist the Minister of Finance in disseminating information to the public.

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