Government could probably force all of them to sign up, particularly by linking enlistment with NWDA to enrollment in public social service benefits programs. But even if 100 percent of unemployed people did sign up with the NWDA, the best-case result would be the creation of a large database — not additional job opportunities.
Forcing people to register with the NWDA belongs in the same category of ideas as the mandatory cancer registry and the national minimum wage. They are compulsive without being effective. Even if the measures are implemented completely and enforced fully, they will fail to address the problems which sparked their conception.
Mandatory NWDA registration doesn’t get us any closer to solving Cayman’s unemployment troubles than a mandatory cancer registry does to finding a cure for cancer. What initiatives such as these do, more or less, is to mimic the motions of effective action, leaving the performers and their supporting audience with the feeling that something actually has been accomplished.
Let us be straightforward: The only meaningful measure of the effectiveness of the NWDA is not how many clients are enrolled in its database but how many clients must be removed from that database because they have gained long-term employment.
If Cayman’s unemployment problem were as dire as some individuals vocally contend, and if unemployed people thought that signing up with the NWDA would help them to secure jobs, the question of mandatory registration would never arise. The line at the agency’s office at Midtown Plaza would be snaking out the door and down the sidewalk … as can often be seen just a few hundred yards down Elgin Avenue at the Department of Immigration.
The following, we contend, is a more accurate portrayal of the situation in Cayman: The unemployed population can be divided into three groups — those who are qualified and really want jobs (and so do not need to be prompted to approach the NWDA); those who are not qualified (and may be unemployable) and who may really want jobs; and those who quite frankly don’t want any sort of job at all (and who consequently are beyond the help of NWDA or any other earthly agency).
An effective strategy toward combatting unemployment is far more difficult and ambitious and includes increasing overall job opportunities by attracting new employers, reducing business costs and eliminating governmental red tape; and by improving the overall quality of the local workforce by educating the next generations of Caymanians to prepare them for the careers to which they aspire.
Our officials would be well-advised not to confuse “process” with “progress” — because they are not the same, and one should never be allowed to masquerade as the other.