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  • Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Collette Roberts Risden, says Jamaica’s economic and sociocultural frameworks have been largely shaped by the migration of the country’s workers in pursuit of employment opportunities locally and overseas.
  • She noted that the country has seen significant remittance inflows from persons taking up opportunities abroad, which has had “a tremendous impact on national development and Jamaica’s macroeconomic indicators”.
  • Data from financial sector stakeholders indicate that annual remittance inflows average some US$2.3 billion, accounting for approximately 15 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Collette Roberts Risden, says Jamaica’s economic and sociocultural frameworks have been largely shaped by the migration of the country’s workers in pursuit of employment opportunities locally and overseas.

She noted that the country has seen significant remittance inflows from persons taking up opportunities abroad, which has had “a tremendous impact on national development and Jamaica’s macroeconomic indicators”.

Data from financial sector stakeholders indicate that annual remittance inflows average some US$2.3 billion, accounting for approximately 15 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

“I think I am correct in saying that remittances remain the number-one foreign exchange inflow for the country,” Mrs. Roberts Risden said.

She was speaking at the Planning Institute of Jamaica’s (PIOJ) seventh Labour Market Forum, at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on Wednesday (September 19).

The event, under the theme, ‘Harnessing Labour Migration for Development: Improving Governance Mechanisms’, was hosted jointly with the United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM) Kingston office.

Mrs. Roberts Risden noted that locally, many rural communities have benefited from the entry and exit of persons.

“Many communities have seen a reduction in unemployment, transfer of technology, and poverty rates falling. Additionally, at the individual level, we have seen where families’ standard of living has increased. We have also seen where [the] education level of many children of migrants increases because, of course, there is the inflow of revenue,” she noted.

On the other hand, Mrs. Roberts Risden said that there are disadvantages associated with migration, citing the loss of skilled or trained personnel to overseas markets and the resultant shortage on the local labour market, especially in professions such as teaching and nursing.

“We also see, on the social side, a breakdown in family because of the extended periods of separation of family members and absentee parents and the impact that has,” she pointed out.

Mrs. Roberts Risden said that the challenge confronting the Government is to determine how best to “balance the needs of the local labour market, while protecting the jobs of [citizens]”.

She noted that strategies implemented “have to be the basis for any regional or national initiative to improve the management of migration”.

She said that engagements, such as the forum, are welcome opportunities “to share experiences, discuss some of the issues and explore solutions aimed at addressing some of the challenges faced”.

The Labour Market Forum is intended to facilitate discussion and influence policy and programme development to harness the positive benefits and mitigate the negative effects of migration through shared lessons learnt.

Topics discussed included ‘Labour Migration: Policies and Practice’, ‘Strategic Development of the Workforce for the Global Market’, ‘Jamaica’s Labour Supply Chain and the Global Labour Market’, and a panel discussion focusing on ‘Managing Labour Migration’.