- The Labour Market Reform Commission (LMRC) says that the transformation of Jamaica’s labour market is imperative for the nation’s future.
- According to data from the Jamaica Productivity Centre, in 2014, labour productivity was negative 0.8 per cent.
- The LMRC is supported by a Secretariat which operates out of the PIOJ, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and multi-lateral agencies such as the Inter-American Development Bank.
The Labour Market Reform Commission (LMRC) says that the transformation of Jamaica’s labour market is imperative for the nation’s future.
The 18 member Committee, which was set up in April 2015, has been mandated to oversee the review of existing policies and practices with respect to five thematic areas of the labour market and to make recommendations for their revision to modernize the labour market and enhance the economy’s competiveness.
The thematic areas include: education and training; productivity, technology and innovation; labour policies and legislation; social protection; and industrial relations.
Chairman of the Labour Market Reform Commission, Dr. Marshall Hall, in an interview with JIS News says that labour market reform is not unique to Jamaica, but is essential for the economic success of any nation.
“We all as Jamaicans accept that if we do not get economic growth then we are on a path of disaster. To grow we have to have the critical element, human resources. We have to ensure the delivery of performance by that group,” he stresses.
Dr. Hall adds that in order for our human resource to perform at their best, they must be properly trained, educated, protected and have measures designed to make them more productive.
His sentiment is echoed by Deputy Chairman of the LMRC and Chairperson of the Productivity, Technology and Innovation Committee, Silburn Clarke.
“The world competes on your knowledge and instead of finance capital we compete on human capital and the quality of our human resources and instead of labour the world is competing on talent. So Jamaica has an urgent imperative to get into that type of era because if we do not the gaps will be widened between the rest of the world and Jamaica,” he says.
Chairperson of the Social Protection Subcommittee, Dr. Heather Ricketts, tells JIS News that while there has been acknowledgement that the quality of the country’s human resource is essential for labour reform, proper training and certification among the group remains one of the major challenges being experienced by Jamaica.
“A sizeable portion of the labour force still lacks training and important certification. We have a large part of the labour force as well, who are low functioning [and] a sizable part of our labour market is informal. We are also told that we are a low productivity labour force,” she says.
However, Chairperson of the Education and Training Subcommittee and Executive Director of HEART Trust National Training Academy, Dr. Wayne Wesley, says his team is now exploring the best way to facilitate on the job training, to ensure that persons can acquire the requisite skills needed to increase productivity and global competitiveness.
“If you notice now a lot of what is spurring economic activity is coming from foreign direct investment and in order to attract and maintain those, it means that we must have a workforce that the international community can recognize as being competent. We are improving as you can see from the Doing Business Index, we are moving in the right direction,” he says, while adding that retaining highly qualified labour is also an area of focus.
According to data from the Jamaica Productivity Centre, in 2014, labour productivity was negative 0.8 per cent. The decline in labour productivity was as a result of employment growing faster 1.3 per cent than national output 0.5 per cent.
Dr. Wesley also says that overcoming the lack of proper training and certification among the labour force involves a change of perspective.
“There is a perception about certain skilled areas and persons gravitating towards the traditional areas of study …when the job market is not calling for a lot of those individuals and so the perception of parents, teachers and the students to recognize the importance of acquiring a skill that will allow them to be gainfully employed at the end of their training is one of the issues that we will have to deal with,” he comments.
Another challenge highlighted by Dr. Ricketts is adequate pension coverage for the approximately 1.3 million labour force according to data from the Planning Institute of Jamaica’s (POIJ) 2014 Economic and Social Survey of Jamaica.
Of that figure, just over nine per cent have pension coverage as stated by the Financial Services Commission.
“The pensions that persons are living off are unlivable in terms of their inability to purchase a decent basket of goods and services. We have to work as a subcommittee to ensure that we can design this architecture for universal access to pensions that will allow a pensioner to have a decent standard of living,” she shares.
In addition to adequate pension coverage, the low participation in the export of goods and services was cited as another obstacle in the reform of the labour market.
Along with addressing those challenges, the reform will also seek to concentrate on other threats including: trade liberalization which disadvantages small local producers by promoting mass produced imports over locally produced goods; marginalization of low quality highly priced domestic producers of goods; and increased application of technology which can reduce dependence on the use of low-skilled and low-wage labour.
In addressing those areas of concern, the Commissioner says the LMRC will hold a series of consultations with members of both the public and private sectors as well as implement a public relations campaign because “we want our proposals to not only be something that the government representatives buy into, but that the society buys into [as well]”.
Dr. Hall says the first order of business was for it to assess the policies and systems currently in place and to examine their effectiveness and what else is needed for labour reform.
“In terms of industrial relations, we are working with the Jamaica Bar Association in putting forward a change in the industrial relations code and we are far down the road with that. In the various committees we have developed specific proposals that we are now refining,” he informs.
“We are going to be meeting with the private sector, the Chamber of Commerce [and] the Jamaica Manufacturing Association. We have a lot of labour union representation and we will be meeting with them. Also with the Ministry of Health [to] make sure that what we are proposing and what they are proposing … are on the same theme,” he adds.
The Commissioner says that while the LMRC’s reporting deadline is next year, it has indicated that once a consensus has been reached on a particular area, it will be passed on for immediate implementation.
The LMRC is supported by a Secretariat which operates out of the PIOJ, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and multi-lateral agencies such as the Inter-American Development Bank.
“The watchwords of the Commission are implementable and sustainable and that will govern what we propose. Our proposals are going to be time bound. There are things that we can do next year, but there are things that may take some years. We want to set labour and our country on the path to achieve the economic growth necessary for our survival,” Dr. Hall says.