Today is undoubtedly a sad day for Samoa.
While we’ve known for sometime now, this is a day we dreaded. It’s a day we did not want to arrive at all.
After 25 years of operations in Samoa, the country’s biggest private employer, Yazaki Samoa Eds, is officially shutting shop.
Yes at the close of business today, more than 700 employees will leave the gates of their Vaitele workplace without jobs. Which means they face an uncertain future and will add to the already high unemployment rate this country has.
Looking in a bit closer, the figures are truly frightening. Some 60 per cent of Yazaki workers are young people. 62% are women and 50% are sole income earners in their families.
Overall, Yazaki workers generate about $1.04millionin in total annual income circulating in the economy. This is not a small amount of money and it is easy to see why this is a very sad day for Samoa.
The immediate questions that come to mind are: Where will all these people go? What will they do? What about their families who depend on these employees as they are the breadwinners?
These are tough questions. And we have been asking them since the beginning when we knew that the company would eventually shut shop.
Up until now, there are no concrete answers.
We’ve seen a lot of good intentions being expressed about work that is done to prepare these people for life after Yazaki. That is great. But it doesn’t take away the fact that as of tomorrow, they are unemployed.
This is the last thing this country needed right now.
Keep in mind that one employee represents an average of 10 or more people who depend on them every day, every week. We are talking about workers who contribute to their families, churches, villages and their communities. It means the impact of the closure would be enormous.
The worst part is the fact the impact is going to be heaviest on some of the poorest members of this country, people who are already struggling to survive on measly incomes. The fact many of the employees of Yazaki are in this category.
Now think of the statistics once more. Think about those young people, what are they to do? Think of those women, mothers whose children’s education and livelihoods depend on the money they make? Think of the fact that the majority of Yazaki workers are sole income earners for families?
It goes without saying that these are difficult times. It’s not just difficult for the families; it’s also difficult for the government as they try to work out what to do.
So far, we’ve been repeatedly assured that the government is looking at ways to minimise the impact of the closure.
During a recent interview, the Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, for instance said there are some options.
“I think in two or three years we will be able to provide for them,” he said. “Obviously with the investment in the submarine cable and the sorts of opportunity that will come in terms connectivity. There are also ongoing discussions with some fishing companies who are expressing interest in investing here and looking at expanding on what they are doing.”
With that said, Minister Sili said there is no need to panic.
“It’s just a matter of firming up on some of those interests and looking at what we can do to make sure that yes we can create jobs. In tourism, if it works well, there will be another area where there will be more opportunities for people to work in.”
We’ve said this before and we will say it again. Minister Sili’s optimism is commendable. But it sounds vague, just like everything this government has said ever since the announcement was made to close Yazaki.
The fact is in a country with unemployment and crime figures are already through the roof, we are heading for an unquestionable disaster. This is not the time for abstract and vague answers. This is the time for details.
We are talking about real people with real needs. When those needs are not met and when desperation sets in, the social and economical problems we are seeing today will only get worse.
Think about it one more time. At the close of business today, more than 700 people are without jobs. Where to from here?
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Have a safe Friday Samoa, God bless!