Creating jobs for Jamaicans overseas
Mr Earl Jarrett, the general manager of Jamaica National Building Society, estimated that there are over a million Jamaicans living in the Tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and we have heard other estimates putting the total number of Jamaicans overseas at nearly three million.
In fact, Jamaicans are well known as a migratory people, with the first wave of migrants to the US hitting Connecticut to work on its tobacco farms. Other migration waves are well-documented in Panama, Costa Rica and, of course, the United Kingdom.
Reports of the thumping reggae beat heard in the back streets of places like Kuwait have served as anecdotal evidence of how far away Jamaicans have gone to find new homes and new lives.
The point of all this is to emphasise the vital importance of migration to Jamaica's development, further evidenced by the fact that remittances have become our number one earner of foreign exchange, even over big industries like tourism and bauxite.
One wonders what would we have done as a country were it not possible for Jamaicans to find jobs overseas.
It is in that context that we wish to place the news last week that the Sandals/Beaches chain of resorts continues to create jobs for Jamaicans overseas, particularly in other Caribbean islands which are hosts to Mr Gordon 'Butch' Stewart's hotels.
Each time we refer to Mr Stewart's news-making activities, we have been constrained to seek the indulgence of those who are minded to say we are being self-serving, because he is also the publisher of this newspaper. And yet, the bigger picture beckons.
Last week, the Beaches Turks and Caicos resort announced that another 100 Jamaicans would be recruited in the next six to eight weeks, to add to the 353 already there, and with plans on the drawing board for another 50 to follow soon after. That would bring to 503, the number of Jamaicans making a living in the Turks and Caicos Islands on that one property alone.
On the day the story appeared in our publication, hits by our online readers made it the number two most popular story, a huge indication of the interest Jamaicans have in anything that says jobs, but also in finding opportunities to work abroad.
The unemployment situation is tough here at home, and the possibility of placing Jamaicans overseas means that we will be able to release some of the pressure that joblessness is building in the society. As in the case of Sandals/Beaches, the Jamaicans who go to the Turks and Caicos Islands leave a similar number of job spaces for those at home to get, in a sense doubling the number.
The just launched Sandals Corporate University will encourage the movement of Jamaicans across the Caribbean even more, with its plans for exchange programmes among the islands.
There are other companies, which we don't name for fear of leaving out any, who have Jamaican staff overseas and we wish to salute them as they contribute in this way to the development of our country.
This is clearly a way forward.