WEDNESDAY, NOV. 28: Our goal in the One Bermuda Alliance is to make this island work better for all the people — to build a society based on social and economic equity leaving no one behind.

But unacceptable levels of youth unemployment, a skyrocketing national debt and the challenges posed by a looming demographic change mean that young Bermudians face a grim future unless something is done soon to address these issues.

The challenges facing our young people were eloquently expressed this past week by my One Bermuda Alliance colleagues Alexis Swan, Nandi Davis and Andrew Simons.

The facts they reported are serious:

Nearly one in four people ages 16-24 is unemployed — that is double the number of unemployed young people since 2009.

Young Bermudians have suffered the largest decline in work force participation of any age group, with more than 1,200 dropping off the rolls in the last three years.

Even those who are working are struggling – on average, a young Bermudian today earns 27 per cent less than he or she did two years ago, from a median income of $34,500 to $25,300. That’s a drop of nearly $10,000 each.

Young Bermudians are also experiencing the highest rate of under-employment, which means they are earning less or cannot find enough work to keep them busy full-time.

Beyond the trials of today, the future presents equally tough challenges.

Government’s skyrocketing national debt, now nearing $1.5 billion and rising by $200 million annually, will have to be addressed, and young people today — and the generations to come — will bear the brunt unless a plan is put in place to grow the economy and reduce the debt.

Today, government is sending $85 million annually to foreign creditors just to service the debt that they have created. Debt interest payments are now one of the largest single spending items in the Government’s budget – behind Education and Healthcare.

They are the reason that Government has been cutting back important public services. They are why teachers have been laid off, why there are fewer police on the streets, why the Sunshine League was closed, why Mirrors was cut back and why The Family Centre is getting less support.

Ageing population

Looking ahead 20 years, the situation gets even more critical. That is because the number of people in the working population is set to decline while the number of people relying on societal support will rise.

For example, the proportion of seniors (65 and older) will double from 11 per cent of the population in 2000 to 22 per cent in 2030.

This means that a smaller working age population will, in the future, shoulder the costs of pensions, health subsidies, and social insurance benefits. It means the cost pressures on the working population to make our society work will be much more severe in the years ahead.

As Alexis Swan said so powerfully in her statement, the youth unemployment, soaring national debt and the looming demographic shift mean that “the bottom is literally dropping out from under my generation.”

These issues have been ignored by the current government, even though what’s taking shape today will impact thousands of young Bermudians in the future.

Burying one’s head in the sand helps no one; and runs counter to the OBA’s belief that government has a sacred duty to chart a safe course to the future.

We also believe the best decisions in a democracy are decisions based on facts, and see it as our duty to put forward the clearest understanding of the issues, leaving it to the people to decide.

That is why we held three press conferences on the challenges facing young Bermudians.

Young Bermudians cannot afford another five years of rising unemployment, soaring debt and a do-nothing approach to the issues that affect them most.

They need a government that cares about them — with a concrete plan to meet the challenges head-on.

An OBA Government has detailed plans to grow the economy, stimulate investment, restore confidence, reduce the cost of living, protect and create jobs to get Bermudians, young and older, back to work.

We are going to make sure we don’t become the first generation to leave to those who follow us a Bermuda that is worse than the one we were given. That is the pledge my party makes to Bermudians, of all ages.

• Craig Cannonier is Leader of the One Bermuda Alliance and a candidate in Constituency 12, Devonshire South Central.