SELF-EMPLOYMENT: THE SOLUTION TO UNEMPLOYMENT IN PNG
Paid jobs are scarce in Papua New Guinea. Of the tens of thousands of students coming out of our educational institutions, only a small proportion can get jobs after graduating with certificates, diplomas and degrees. Estimates I have seen are around 50,000 school leavers compared to around 10,000 new jobs, which means around 40,000 educated young people cannot find paid jobs, leading to an estimate 80% unemployment in urban areas. This is a cause of much frustration, both on the side of students and parents or sponsors. I believe that the inability to find paid jobs is one of the root causes of lawlessness in the country.
One of the major failures of the education system is that it prepares and mentally conditions students to expect paid jobs after leaving school. Those managing the system do not actually tell people that young people should be sent to school so they can get jobs, but the understanding and expectation exists. This is despite the fact that there aren’t enough jobs for everyone. The result is that every year parents pay a lot of money in school fees, hoping that their children make it as high up the educational ladder as possible, and ultimately end up with a degree in a particular field and a well-paying job. This dream actually turns out to be a nightmare for the majority of students and their parents.
When we look into history, we see that schools were introduced to train workers, either for the government or for private businesses, particularly following the Industrial Revolution. Prior to that, people basically lived off the land, like 85% of our people do today. In most countries, kings owned all the land. Everyone else was a peasant who worked the land belonging to the royal families. They handed over much of the harvest from the land to the landlords and lived off the rest. In Papua New Guinea, it was different. There were chiefs in most societies, but the land belonged to the tribes, clans and families. So basically, everybody worked on their own land. They were self-employed. Not many worked for others for payment.
Schools were introduced into Papua New Guinea by European missionaries and colonisers, to train mission and government workers. They came to Papua New Guinea from a background of making their living from paid jobs. The missionaries actually preached about going to heaven. That is how the missions were able to secure a lot of prime land in the country. They promised the people a better life in heaven, and stole their land in the process. The colonists introduced the idea of working for a regular pay, which was a completely new concept too. They even imposed taxes – and jailed those who didn’t pay up – so as to force people to go school to work for others.
The introduction of schools was done with good intentions, but one of the negative consequences was that school disengaged children from their land. By promising jobs with pay, school caused people to look away from their land which had provided their ancestors with a sustainable livelihood for generations. The education curriculum made English, Maths, Science and Social Science as the core subjects, and relegated Agriculture to being an optional or non-core subject. Even then, students were taught the science of agriculture, but not the business aspects of the subject.
That is why today, not many educated young people think about going back to work on their land after they drop out of the system or successfully graduate with various educational qualifications. All students look for jobs immediately upon graduating. Most that end up back home waste their time and lives doing nothing (and feeling really hopeless and good-for-nothing), while others flock into urban areas in search of paid jobs. This is all the result of the mental conditioning and programming they went through while at school. The brainwashing has been so perfectly accomplished that I would say not one student ever thinks about going back home and using their knowledge to work on their land.
These people do not believe that they can live comfortably by working their land. Even though they can see with their physical eyes how their relatives who have never been to school live in relative abundance, mentally, they become blind to the opportunities that surround them. All they think and dream about is paid jobs, and they are satisfied when they get very low paid jobs like security guards or shop assistants. They don’t earn much cash from these jobs, but they are content as long as they are employed. Being able to get a job inflates their ego so much that they become blind to the fact that uneducated people earn more from working on the land in a day than they earn from their jobs in a fortnight. This again is part of the mental programming they have received.
One of the messages I have been promoting through my books, seminars and talks at educational institutions, youth groups, associations and church gatherings is self-employment as a viable option to employment. Seeing that there aren’t enough opportunities to work for other people, young people need to seriously consider working for themselves. I am glad to report that a growing number of young people have taken the message to heart and have started going back to the land. I will publish actual life-stories of some of these young people in later articles. But it has not been an easy job demolishing the mental strongholds people have built up over the years in favour of paid jobs as a source of livelihood. Reprogramming peoples’ minds to think different is a difficult task.
I am convinced that the answer to unemployment in the country is not employment (i.e. paid jobs) but self-employment (i.e. informal business). Why do I say that? Because there will always be an excess of job seekers over the number of jobs available in the country. The education system will continue to produce workers far in excess of the number of new jobs being created by the public and private sectors on an annual basis. Even the large development projects cannot provide the jobs people need. The conclusion therefore is that only the agriculture and informal sectors possess the capacity to accommodate the large number of job seekers. These sectors provide the greatest opportunity for small business activities. That is why I say that self-employment is the way to go.
If the Government plays its role right (by building or maintaining roads, maintaining law and order, introducing subjects such as agriculture business and financial management etc into the education curriculum, providing training and credit), the rural areas can accommodate the majority of educated young people, leading to a substantial drop in the unemployment rate. When this happens, many other problems associated with unemployment can be effectively (and indirectly) addressed, with the result that PNG becomes a peaceful and prosperous country where everybody who is willing to work can live comfortably.
If you are unemployed, let me encourage you not to look down on yourself. Do not allow the fact that you don’t have a job rob you of your self-esteem. Don’t feel like you are useless or good-for-nothing. Don’t allow other people to make you feel that way. You have to break away from that kind of mindset. You have to look upon being unemployed as an opportunity, not a problem. It is an opportunity to create your own job and become your own boss.
The system has programmed you to believe that you need to be educated and have a job to become a success in life. The truth is that a university degree is not a necessity for success, and a paid job is certainly not necessary for one to live a good life. You can succeed just as you are, and you can start with what you have, right where you are. I will discuss more on this in future articles.
Think about working for yourself instead of working for somebody else and making them rich at your expense. When you get a job, you surrender your time, strength and skills to your employer for a salary. He pays you only a small proportion of what you make for him. He benefits more than you. When you work for yourself, everything you make is yours. You benefit fully from your time, knowledge, strength and skills.
So think about becoming your own boss. Stop thinking about becoming employed and start thinking about becoming self-employed. Think about starting and minding your own business.
Mount Hagen, Western Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea
I aspire to motivate, inspire and empower students and young people in general to succeed academically, professionally, financially, personally, socially and spiritually through writing, speaking, seminars, workshops, coaching and mentoring. The motto of SECOS BOOKS, my publishing company is: "WE EMPOWER PEOPLE."