by Ray Auxillou
The fixed percentage of unemployed is becoming larger. If experience in other countries is any indication, it should eventually settle permanently at the 9% of population mark, for various reasons. Since most of the communications media is produced in this country by West African Creoles, the emphasis in newspaper articles tends to emphasize the problems of youth problems in the old port city, the largest town in the country.
What is interesting; is that Central Americans are coming to Belize and finding work. Their expectations are less, mostly being the need to send money home to support their families in the countries that they come from. Most of them would be content with a $100 Bz a week, especially if it included one meal a day and a place to sleep. The lowest paid ‘Born In Belize’ worker out in Western Cayo earns about $125 a week doing catch and kill, day jobs, or $25 a day. Most of them prefer to hustle contract jobs, in which they get paid more, if they do it fast. Most of them still will only work if they need the money for something, otherwise they prefer to be choosy, or not work until they need more money.
For example; the cost of living in Honduras is less than half of what it is in Belize. Currently the exchange rate is 17 Lempiras for a Belize dollar. As an economic barometer, the price of a 2 liter Coca Cola in Honduras is half that of in Belize. At 22 Lempiras for a 2 liter bottle of Coca Cola, versus $3.50 Bz ( $77 Lempiras ) for the same bottle of Coca Cola in Belize. This is a good economic cost of living indicator when traveling to different countries, as Coca Cola is produced world wide.
Right now, local waitresses from Belize earn about $150 Bz a week and work six days and long hours besides. This usually includes at least one meal a day. Your average Born in Belize civil service worker starts usually around $300 Bz a week. Twice the cost of any Central American worker coming into Belize.
We in Belize face the same problem as the EU and USA when it comes to workers. All the LOW PAID jobs are going to Central American immigrants in Belize, while the percentage of ‘Born in Belize’ unskilled workers refuse to do the work at the pay scales available. Those that get educated are gradating to civil service jobs, which are severely limited and will be for the next 25 years.
The cost of government bookkeeping and utilities, also play large parts in what businesses remain viable at the local cottage industry level. Many businesses that would not be viable in the USA, or the EU can be done in Belize, if you do them out of your own home, or do not have to pay rent. The very nature of otherwise unprofitable businesses and jobs exists, because of the ability to pay casual day workers, or do it yourself with family help, as a home business. These type of operations help keep the cost of living down and viable, or the nation would be in a lot bigger trouble with services and unemployment. Such small businesses, casual as they are, provide support for many family members.
Manufacturing jobs that require only skills learned on an assembly line would be great for our unskilled youths. The trouble is; that living in a tropical country is much easier than trying to live in the cold northern hemisphere countries. Most males would not be able to tolerate the mental drudgery and monotony of assembly line work. It is usually the single females with children, who accept the need to do repetitive work that kills the soul. The females do it, because of the maternal drive. The survival of their children are more important than their own lives. The males simply refuse, and join gangs, hustling, stealing, or persue catch and kill jobs. All they need is a meal in our climate to survive. The unskilled ‘Born in Belize’ male finds it difficult when faced with working, for what he considers insufficient money to support himself in the desired life style, or doing nothing at all. It is easier to do nothing. Some of this may be cultural influences? Most of the studies available are based on coastal West African Creole populations in Belize, who seem for whatever reason, to actually be following the common cultural behavior of countries and males in West Africa. Even though they are ‘ Born in Belize’. One can only wonder if it is a genetic memory trait? The Spanish, Mestizo, Mayan and Chinese ethnic ‘Born in Belize’ young males do not behave in the same cultural manner.
One can only conclude from studies in other countries, that the West African Creole male will increase in the unemployed statistics as a percentage, and as they migrate to other countries seeking greener pastures in metropolitan environments, the demographics of Belizean ethnic populations will continue to slant toward Mestizos and Caucasians who will work at anything, if there are no other choices.