JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, is reiterating the Government’s commitment to facilitating the economic empowerment of women.
  • She was addressing an International Monetary Fund (IMF) seminar on: ‘Women, Work and the Jamaican Economy’, held at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston, on September 30.
  • Mrs. Simpson Miller noted that according to the data, 55 per cent of the MSEs benefiting from JBDC programmes and interventions are female-owned.

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, is reiterating the Government’s commitment to facilitating the economic empowerment of women, while working to systematically expose and correct gender disparities and inequality.

“The Jamaican Government is committed to gender equity and has put in place policies and legislation that foster greater participation of women in the country’s economic life,” Mrs. Simpson Miller said.

She was addressing an International Monetary Fund (IMF) seminar on: ‘Women, Work and the Jamaican Economy’, held at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston, on September 30.

The Prime Minister said the administration is cognizant of the vital role that the micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) sector must play in achieving broad-based economic growth and wealth creation for women, pointing to the recent launch of the MSME and Entrepreneurship Policy, which specifically addresses the issue of gender.

“Already the Jamaica Business Development Centre (JBDC) is reporting that more women are starting and operating businesses in Jamaica. A recent JBDC profile of 300 micro and small enterprises (MSEs) showed 51 per cent to be female-owned and 49 per cent male-owned enterprises,” she said.

Mrs. Simpson Miller noted that according to the data, 55 per cent of the MSEs benefiting from JBDC programmes and interventions are female-owned. In addition, females account for 60 per cent of all clients accessing JBDC’s business development training, 61 per cent of those involved in product screening and 58 per cent of all suppliers to Things Jamaican Limited.

The JBDC is one of the Government’s key agencies that facilitate the development of MSMEs in Jamaica. It manages Things Jamaican Limited, which promotes craft development and showcases and retails the best and highest quality gift and craft items.

The Prime Minister further stressed the administration’s commitment to macroeconomic policies, economic regulation and employment policies that promote inclusive, equitable growth; prevent discrimination against women; reduce the burden of unpaid domestic and care work, and enable men to take on more of those responsibilities.

Mrs. Simpson Miller noted that Jamaicans can be especially proud of the ‘National Policy for the Reintegration of School Aged Mothers into the Formal School System,’ which was approved in May 2013.

She pointed out that the policy now mandates teenage mothers to return to school so that their education and subsequent economic productivity will remain relatively unaffected by the birth of a child.  “In this way, we do not allow a woman’s biology to become her destiny,” she said.

Citing statistics from the 2013 Labour Force Survey, which indicate that 62.3 per cent of all employed women were in low-waged jobs, the Prime Minister stressed that it is imperative that “we rethink and reshape many of the ideas which have served to limit women’s developmental capacities for generations.”

The Prime Minister lamented that despite the fact that a larger percentage of women are better educated than their male counterparts, the unemployment rate is far higher for women than for men.

She further cited the 2010 Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Working Paper, ‘Gender Earnings Gaps in the Caribbean’ which revealed that on average, women in Jamaica at all levels earn approximately 12.5 per cent less than their male counterparts for the same jobs.

“It is important to also note that while working in many of the female dominated areas, women earn less than their male counterparts, but their value-added contributions often drive the various sectors, in particular the service sector which contributes 64.1 per cent of Jamaica’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP),” she said.

The Prime Minister saluted the “pioneering women” who were able to “smash open the glass ceiling,” helping Jamaica to, in 2014, have one of the highest female labour force participation rates in Latin America and the Caribbean, with women comprising 46 per cent of the country’s total labour force, and 52 per cent of the professional labour force.

She noted that although there has been great improvement in gender quality with several women ascending to many positions of power, women still remain under-represented as leaders within the private sector, particularly at the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) level and in the Board Room.

“This is despite research emanating from the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre in 2009, which found that companies with the highest number of women in senior management positions have a 35 per cent greater return on equity and a 34 per cent higher total return to stakeholders,” Mrs. Simpson Miller said.

The Prime Minister said this fact demonstrates that the task of accelerating economic empowerment for women is not a challenge to be addressed by government alone.

She challenged employers to become knowledgeable about the pay gap and take action to redress it. She also urged the nation’s educators to make girls aware of careers that offer higher pay and ensure that they are exposed to science and technology school- based activities.

Mrs. Simpson Miller further encouraged human resource professionals to support the advancement of deserving, hardworking women.