As part of our project, which focuses on livelihoods and entrepreneurship, we have been finding out about the employment situation in our local area by conducting surveys and talking to members of the community. From the conversations we have had, it is clear that there is a lack of employment opportunities in the area. Therefore our project, which includes the building of an eatery business in our community to provide employment, for the young people of the youth network and teaching entrepreneurial skills, has life changing potential.
The key types of employment in our community are agriculture, construction and kitchen work. Other, less common occupations include running a pulperia (small shop), teaching, joinery and carpentry. Alongside these formal occupations, many women are involved with informal work in the house, such as cooking, cleaning and looking after children. For many women, this informal work occupies the majority of their time. When asked how much time they spent carrying out informal work, many women replied "all day" or "24 hours" (motherhood is a full-time job!)
Many people have said that their monthly income is sufficient to buy essential items and to live, but not enough to pay for extra activities and further education for their children. This is something many people want. Others have to find ways to survive on a daily basis. It has also emerged that incomes fluctuate during the year. Income is generally less between the winter months of June to September when work is scarcer, for example when agricultural yields are lower.
Unemployment in the community is mostly among women who work in the home and look after children, but also among those who rely on temporary work and do not currently have a job. Unemployment has a significant impact on our community. Unemployment results in low household incomes and people have told us that without sufficient incomes, they do not have money for food, medicines and education, which limits their wellbeing and quality of life.
Some residents of the community have even migrated abroad to find work due to the lack of employment opportunities in this area. Families currently have relatives that work abroad in the United States and Spain. Some members of the community have expressed concern about the fact that migrating abroad separates their families, often with limited opportunities for communication. Despite the drawbacks of migrating abroad for work, one man told us he still planned to find work illegally in the US in the future, in order for his children to be able to have better education and opportunities.
Finding employment here is difficult. Many people have said there is no formal process for getting a job. Instead, people rely on word of mouth, verbal recommendations and searching for work in other cities such as San Juan. The majority of residents have completed primary education (up to 12 years of age) but further education is expensive and often unaffordable. Members of the community want better education and employment opportunities for their children in the future, and we hope that our project can help, if only in a small way, to create jobs for some of the youth in the local area. Hopefully this will reduce the need for young people to migrate abroad for work, leaving their families and country behind.
Construction of the eatery is now well underway and we can't wait for it to open for business and provide employment for the young people of the youth network!
Written by ICS volunteer Charlotte Dixie