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ILO head says C'bean must adapt to changing labour market

Thursday, May 16, 2019

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — Director General of the International Labour Organisation, Guy Ryder, says Caribbean countries need to move quickly to adapt to the changing labour market.

Ryder was speaking on the heels of the 11th Caribbean Labour Ministers meeting which ended here on Wednesday.

He told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that technology, demographics and climate change are quickening the pace of change in the labour market, and the Caribbean needs to keep up.

“I think above all, in this era of digitalisation we have to look at the question of skills and capacities. One of the issues which is being discussed, I think more probably than any other in our meeting here in the last two days, has been the issue of skills development and the notion of lifelong learning.

“The fact [is] that the pace of change is accelerating in the world of work. I believe it is no longer logical or possible to think in a sequential way that at the beginning of our lives we learn and are educated for 20 or 25 years and then we work. That won't last any longer because whatever you learn at the beginning of your life it won't last you your full working life.”

Ryder stated that the region needs to put in place mechanisms for retraining throughout people's working lives.

“Everybody recognises this but we've not been very good so far in working out the delivery mechanism: who pays for it? Who's responsible for it? Is it government? Is it employers? Is it the individual worker? And this is going to become more and more an issue,” he said.

Ryder also pointed to the impact of climate change on the labour market, saying that climate change is induced by human activity, most of which is work related.

“And the Caribbean faces a dilemma as much as an injustice. Collectively the Caribbean produces one per cent of carbon emissions and yet the consequences are felt here in extreme weather events and other phenomena probably more acutely than any other part of the world.

“I therefore believe that it is part of the responsibilities of the international system to do much better than it is currently doing in assisting small island developing states… in building climate resilience and opening pathways to the types of sustainable development which is what people need .”

On the issue of mobility and migration, Ryder lamented that although there is a skills and labour shortage around the globe, there is growing resistance to migration.

“Here is one of the paradoxes of our time, and we're seeing it across the world. At a time when the economic case for more liberal migration has never been stronger, the political and social obstacles to migration seem to be growing.

Migration is becoming a toxic issue; people are becoming very defensive about migration. And I think we have to consider how we react to that, in my view, rather unhelpful toxicity around the migration/mobility issue.

“When I met with the Barbados Prime Minister yesterday she said there's one thing about the Caribbean – we haven't got enough people, we're under-populated, we need more people. And yet we face this resistance, this reticence, this nervousness about increased migration. I think we need to get over this,” Ryder said.

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