Click here to print page

Formal economy undesirable for wayward youth — UWI lecturer

BY ONOME SIDO
Observer West writer

Thursday, November 19, 2020

MONTEGO BAY, St James - Lecturer at The University of the West Indies (UWI) and clinical psychologist Georgia Rose says crime continues to be attractive for youths in St James because of its material and social gains, which, she argues, have resulted in the formal economy being undesirable to them.

Using lottery scamming, which is prevalent in the parish and other sections of western Jamaica, as an example, she argues that if deviants and criminal pursuits continue to be attractive, then impressionable youths are going to get attached to crime.

Rose was speaking at the UWI, Western Jamaica Campus (WJC) Caribbean Sustainable Cities Conference held recently at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa in St James.

“Until we are ready to have an honest and frank conversation about the reasons why the individuals in our society are engaged in criminal activities, we will never be able to find any true solution or have any real understanding for why individuals participate in such acts,” she told the gathering.

“If crime pays and lawful labour does not, why should one discontinue from engaging in crime? If crime provides access to resources, why should one discontinue? How do they entreat that person to step away from their illegal act when clearly it is providing? If crime provides status and community respect, why should they discontinue…?”she asked.

Citing tourism and the business process outsourcing (BPO) sectors as the major income earners in western Jamaica, Rose pointed out that the money earned from scamming is far greater than what is being paid in those sectors.

“If you are employed with the BPO industry, your average salary per month is $48,000 to $60,000, give or take. This can increase if you exceed targets and if you get incentives. Within the tourism sector, the average salary per month is $50,000 to $70,000 and this can be buoyed by tips if you work in an establishment that supports that. Now, let's compare the income to your expenditure. The average rent in Montego Bay is $40,000 [monthly] and, that is, if you reside in a planned settlement; utilities account for another $20,000; and other expenses such as transportation and groceries will run you an additional $30,000 to $40,000, so right then and there, it takes about a $100,000 to meet your basic expenses with an average salary of $60,000, so we see the disconnect. If what you're earning versus what you have to spend, there is a deficit, so we now have a problem,” she stated.

“According to the Sunday Observer [published on May 13, 2012], individuals involved in lottery scamming have the potential to earn is excess of US$120,000 per week and this figure was in 2012,” she pointed out.

She said while she is aware that there are some individuals who will be attracted to crime because of innate traits, for many, crime becomes a way of survival.

“If you engage in an act like lottery scamming and you are rewarded with financial gains that then allows you to sustain yourself, your family, your friends and your acquaintances, then of course that behaviour is going to be rewarded; and you also get an internal feeling of value and esteem — you are now valuable to your community because believe it or not, many scammers give back to their communities,” Rose argued.

She further noted that financial crimes do not carry heavy sentences so offenders are willing to take the necessary risks.

“The proceeds of what you have earned from your criminal behaviour have not been taken away because there are multiple ways in which you can hide the gains that you have reaped, whether they belong to you or not. When you think about it, it is the risk that you are willing to take,” said Rose.

“Will you be willing to take a risk if the payoffs are going to be great?... after three to five years you'll be out of prison, so you wait it out, and while you are in there, your money might be working for you too,” she argued.

“The sociology behind crime demands the jobs that do not exist, insufficient qualifications for higher paying jobs, demands for housing that do not exist, low access to formal housing and unliveable wages, overcrowding and weak social support, low access to resources and absentee parents….some of us sought professions that would bring us wealth, some of sought professions that would bring us esteem, now if acts such as lottery scamming can bring wealth and esteem, then we should not be surprised that our youth are attracted to it. The truth is that it is an actual career.”