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Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Derrick Kellier, says the proposal to introduce an unemployment insurance scheme in Jamaica is part of a larger thrust to reform the labour market.

The Minister was addressing the opening of a two-day Labour Market Forum to discuss: ‘Reforming Jamaica’s Labour Market: Social Protection through Unemployment Insurance’, at the Jamaica Conference Centre, on December 6.

The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) is collaborating with the Labour and Social Security Ministry to host the forum.

Mr. Kellier said the forum could go a long way towards informing and sensitising the wider society to the possibilities inherent in the proposal to introduce an unemployment insurance system in Jamaica.

He stated that currently, Jamaica has no adequate unemployment assistance, or insurance, to cover workers affected by unemployment.

Mr. Kellier said the only legal provision in Jamaica for workers who are separated from employment, relates to the Employment Termination and Redundancy Payments Act, which governs matters of termination and dismissal, and makes provisions for redundancy and lay-offs. He noted however, that the provisions under this Act do not provide the social protection that should be associated with redundancy payments.

Noting that labour market reform is an on-going process and will enable Jamaica to compete in an increasingly globalised world, Mr. Kellier said that: “If we get our labour market functioning properly, then productivity will be enhanced, income disparity will be reduced, and social justice, industrial peace and sustained economic development, will become a sustaining feature in the nation’s development.”

In the meantime, PIOJ Director General, Dr. Gladstone Hutchinson, said he is hopeful that at the end of the forum, “we would have realised the outcome of the formation of a Steering Committee chaired by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to lead the formulation and implementation process of a National Employment Insurance programme."

He informed that unemployment insurance is one of the main sources of achieving resilience against “ebbs in well-being resulting from the shocks associated with periods of unemployment."

“It is important that policies and programmes be designed to help individuals and society manage risk and volatility and protect them from poverty and destitution – through instruments that improve resilience, equity and opportunity,” the PIOJ head said.

Dr. Hutchinson pointed out that although many persons are adequately prepared with security for their valuable possessions, such as homes and cars, they have not given much thought as to how to “mitigate the risks associated with irregular employment or unexpected or prolonged loss of jobs."

He emphasised that the implementation of an Unemployment Insurance model in Jamaica, “would reduce, if not eliminate, the labour market related obstacles to business closures, while simultaneously protecting workers from the effects of job loss.”