- The beginning of the year saw the first batch of farm workers being sent off to Canada under the Ministry of Labour and Social Security’s Overseas Employment Programme.
- The nation’s entrepreneurs also benefited during the year, from a 50 per cent increase in the NIF Small and Medium Enterprise credit facility.
- A series of islandwide consultations were undertaken by officials from the Minimum Wage Advisory Commission in September.
Job creation was high on the agenda of the Government during 2013, with a number of employment opportunities being provided for Jamaicans, particularly overseas.
MORE JOBS FOR JAMAICANS ABROAD
The beginning of the year saw the first batch of farm workers being sent off to Canada under the Ministry of Labour and Social Security’s Overseas Employment Programme. The 172 workers, 50 of whom were travelling for the first time, left the island for Canada on a chartered flight on January 3, to work in a number of sectors.
Addressing the workers shortly before they left, Labour and Social Security Minister, Hon. Derrick Kellier, stated that there was an increase in the number of requests for Jamaican workers from Canada.
He said the country has positioned itself to take advantage of the growing demand for labour in Canada, especially in industries, such as healthcare, transportation and the fast food/hospitality sectors, in the western and Atlantic Provinces like Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
He reported that during his visit to Canada, he had discussions with several existing and prospective employers as well as Canadian Federal and Provincial Government officials in these provinces. Consequently, several Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) were developed to provide the framework for the marketing of activities and Jamaican skills in these areas.
The Canadian farm and factory programme is in addition to the United States farm work programme, the United States hospitality programme, and the Guantanamo Bay programme.
In 2012 alone, the Canadian programme contributed in excess of $1.5 billion to the economy.
Thousands of Jamaicans continued to benefit throughout the year from overseas work opportunities in various sectors, as a result of recruitment drives and pre-selection exercises held across the island.
In August, the Ministry was able to secure a deal with Caribbean Airlines, which will now transport these workers to their destinations. They were previously accommodated through private charters.
Locally, an agreement was also forged with the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment and Melia Hotels International, for approximately 400 Jamaicans to obtain employment in the hotel sector. This followed Melia being given the go ahead to renovate and operate the Braco Hotel in Trelawny.
ENTREPRENEURS RECEIVE ASSISTANCE
The nation’s entrepreneurs also benefited during the year, from a 50 per cent increase in the National Insurance Fund (NIF) Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) credit facility, which rose from $1 billion to $1.5 billion.
Minister Kellier said the increase is due to the positive performance of the facility, with entrepreneurs having generated significant employment, and made a valuable contribution to the country’s overall economic development, since its inception in 2006.
He said the scheme, for which the expiration date has been extended to April 2018, has contributed meaningfully to the creation of employment across several business sectors, noting that since the establishment of the loan facility, it has disbursed some $931.69 million, through 12 participating financial institutions.
The loans were primarily used for job creation among seven sectors, including agriculture, agro-processing, manufacturing, manufacturing services, services, trading, and work study. The agricultural sector received the major share of the disbursements of 33 per cent, enabling some 4,225 jobs to either have been created or maintained.
The NIF now stands at $96.5 billion, with $5.56 billion in investments, and $10 billion in contributions.
MINIMUM WAGE CONSULTATIONS
In keeping with its commitment to conduct a yearly review of the National Minimum Wage, a series of islandwide consultations were undertaken by officials from the Minimum Wage Advisory Commission in September.
Recommendations and concerns from representatives of a wide array of sectors central to the discussions on the National Minimum Wage were received from the consultations.
Minister Kellier said the minimum wage reviews form an important part of the Government’s social protection strategy, and is in keeping with the Decent Work Agenda which the International Labour Organization (ILO) has been promoting and to which the country is a signatory.
The National Minimum Wage was last increased in September 2012, from $4,500 to $5,000 per 40-hour work week, while the minimum wage for security guards was also increased from $6,655 to $7,320 per 40-hour work week.
TACKLING CHILD LABOUR
Also high on the agenda of the Government throughout the year, was the issue of child labour, and in February, a Child Labour Handbook for Professionals was launched under the Tackling Child Labour Through Education (TACKLE) Project.
The publication aims to enhance the knowledge base on child labour and is designed to provide guidelines for professionals, who may/will encounter instances of child labour in the course of their work and assist them in enforcing regulations.
ILO National Project Officer for TACKLE, Nasolo Thompson, noted that based on ILO’s estimates, there are 20,000 professionals nationally, who could utilize the document. These include members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), guidance and counselling staff in the Ministry of Education, teachers, coaches, and medical professionals.
The production of the handbook was funded through support from the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) Secretariat, and the European Union (EU).
Recognising the importance of the Police to tackling the problem of child labour, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, under TACKLE, conducted training sessions for police personnel to help them to be better equipped to combat the issue.
In March, divisional trainers in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) were trained on how to better combat the problem.
The three-day forum sought to continue to build capacity, and knowledge base on child labour. It targeted police and community safety officers, mainly from Kingston and St. Andrew, and St. Catherine, as these parishes are the most populated, with significant child labour concerns.
Child labour is work that is physically or mentally harmful to children’s health and development, or interferes with their schooling, homework, rest and playtime.
The TACKLE Project, which is administered through the Labour Ministry, was launched in 2009 to address child labour through education. It is run in 12 countries, with Jamaica and Guyana being the only Caribbean countries involved. Jamaica is the only country that has developed a law enforcement training programme that is country specific.
Objectives of the TACKLE initiative are to: build the law enforcement and legislative mechanisms to address child labour; collaborate with the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Education in order to include recurrent funding for child labour programmes in the national budget.
It also seeks to provide interventions for children involved in child labour (prevention and withdrawal), mainly through remedial programmes, through non-governmental organisations, as well as through the school system; and develop good practices and sharing of information, which will benefit all stakeholders.
ADDRESSING HIV/AIDS DISCRIMINATION
Also, as part of ongoing efforts at the national level for HIV/AIDS reduction and prevention through a rights-based approach, the Ministry partnered with the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association (JMA) in March on a pilot project, aimed at reducing the levels of discrimination against persons living with HIV/AIDS who work in the local food services industry.
An agreement was signed for the project, which includes the involvement of 15 companies participating in workshops and the training of personnel, as well as post notices against discrimination in their manufacturing entities and food outlets.
Director of Occupational Safety and Health in the Labour Ministry, Robert Chung, explained that the project seeks to help members of the public understand that they will not be endangered by eating food prepared or served by a person who is HIV positive.
The White Paper on the National Workplace Policy on HIV and AIDS was tabled in the Houses of Parliament earlier in the year.
The policy is a framework for action by the Government, employers, and workers to deal effectively with HIV/AIDS in places of employment. It is based on the ILO’s principles on HIV/AIDS in the workplace.
In Jamaica, 15,289 persons were reported with AIDS between January 1982 and December 2010, representing a male/female ratio of 1.3:1. About 32,000 men and women or 1.7 per cent are estimated to be living with HIV.
LABOUR MARKET INFORMATION SYSTEM UPGRADED
During the year, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security also upgraded its Labour Market Information System (LMIS), making it more user-friendly to both employers and job seekers.
The LMIS, which is a one-stop data and information source, is designed to satisfy the needs of job seekers and employers, through its newly improved website: www.lmis.gov.jm, or the Ministry’s website: www.mlss.gov.jm.
Since its inception in 2001, the system, which is maintained by the Ministry, has been providing cost effective ways for employers to source and recruit suitable employees, as well as for job seekers to post resumes for possible employment.
In addition to the websites, persons can also visit the LMIS Facebook page at www.facebook.com/page/Jamaica Labour Market Information System, for more information.