JIS News

As the country goes through a period of adjustment, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security is seeking to ensure that no Jamaican is left behind by helping persons to find employment and start their own businesses, and widening the social safety net.
Portfolio Minister, Hon. Pearnel Charles says that the recently signed agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the implementation of the Jamaica Debt Exchange are expected to help to stabilise the economy, creating the space for investment and job creation. He notes that while the global recession along with the period of restructuring may lead to job losses, the Ministry is doing everything it can to ensure that Jamaicans are able to cope.
As part of efforts to provide a “push start” for persons facing difficult economic times, the Ministry is focusing on retraining as a critical component as well as the provision of small business loans, he tells JIS News. Areas of training include computer skills, hospitality, agriculture and cosmetology to ensure that workers can fit in with current labour demands, as well as find their own niche in the productive sector.
“People, who have got some money through redundancy, we are training them to use the money so they don’t have to go back to work for anybody. They set up all kinds of small businesses and those businesses will expand,” Minister Charles states.
To support persons wishing to start a business the Ministry will also provide funds in the form of rehabilitation grants valued from $20,000 to $50,000. Grants are also provided to persons with disabilities, who want to start small businesses.
According to the Minister, the Government is placing focus on small businesses based on their potential to create jobs. “If you have 20 small businesses employing five persons that is 100 persons; you have a big business not employing, using computers and the more small businesses we can get onboard, the more people will be employed,” he argues.
Assistance is also being provided for vulnerable Jamaicans through an increase in the allocation under the Programme for Advancement through Health and Education (PATH) from $3 billion last year to $4.3 billion this year. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Alvin McIntosh, tells JIS News that the increase will enhance benefits and number of beneficiaries under the programme.
Currently, there are approximately 340,000 persons registered under PATH and Director of Social Security at the Ministry, Colette Roberts-Risden, shares that the Ministry is trying to ensure that all persons, who are below the poverty line, are brought onboard. She says the number of beneficiaries under PATH could be increased to 360,000.
Among those, who stand to benefit are elderly persons, “who during their lifetime, would have worked and gained assets, but because of what is happening they don’t have an income, and some of those persons previously would not necessarily receive a benefit under the programme.”
Mrs. Roberts-Risden also shares that the Ministry has widened the definition of “disabled” to capture persons, who might not have a classical disability, but some other illness that prevents them from getting into the labour market.

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