21 August 2012

Correlation between high unemployment and violence in Timor-Leste



East Timor gang member brandishes weapons
East Timor Legal News 21 August 2012 ETLJB A study conducted by Fundasaun Mahein, the leading civil society organisation focussed on monitoring, research and advocacy regarding the security sector, posits a causal correlation between high levels of unemployment, poverty and security issues.



Notwithstanding an accumulated sovereign fund of more than US$10 billion from oil and gas revenues from the Timor Sea since independence in 1999, East Timor is  low-income country with extreme levels of poverty and complex social problems, including a high unemployment rate of 20% which reaches as high as 40% amongst the youth in urban centres. (Lex Mundi 2010)

According to FM's Agi Soares' thesis, unemployment is the greatest threat to youth social development because they are more likely to engage in problematical behavior in response to the stresses and pressures resulting from their unemployment and are therfore at risk of being exploited by agents whose intentions are to create instability. These risks include committing crimes such as breaking, entering and theft, drug dealing, prostitution and gang violence with the latter most manifest in the so-called martial arts groups who have been involved in numerous violent disturbances and crimes over the last decade.

Apart from these social aberrations, unemployment also has serious economic consequences. As unemployment increases, consumption and the production of goods and services decreases. Consequently, investors are less likely to undertake business in those sectors which in turn causes less employment opportunities to be created in the private sector.

In addition, there are consequences for the health of the unemployed who are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and anger and therefore more prone to engaging in substance abuse which leads to a higher propensity for violence. This not only strains the limited resources of the health care system but also impacts on famility harmony and disrupts the civil peace.

Finally, unemployment presents a problem for the government's capacity to provide community services. With less people employed, tax revenue to the state is lower.

The finding and hypotheses of this analysis demonstrates a strong correlation between high levels of unemployment and increasing security issues arising from the several social problems mentioned above.

It is therefore imperative that the government's top priority be to facilitate economic growth and development by providing greater opportunities for private sector investment that creates employment. That would also improve state revenues that can be expended on public infrastructures such as roads, schools, hospitals and services. Ultimately, security issues generated by unemployment would diminish.

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