Henry calls for more women in overseas work programme

Henry calls for more women in overseas work programme

Thursday, July 09, 2020

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Minister of Labour and Social Security, Lester Michael Henry, says he wants to see more women involved in the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme (SAWP) between Jamaica and Canada.

He made his call on July 8, during a courtesy call at his office by the Canadian High Commission to Jamaica, Her Excellency, Laurie Peters.

Henry said, while there has been a steady minimal increase over the last five years, the time has come to intensify this effort and significantly increase the numbers. He suggested that in light of COVID-19 and the previous challenges faced by the overseas employers, it would be a positive move to have the Canadian Government give some incentives to the employers to provide safe, secure and female-friendly bunkering facilities.

He said in 1989, five women were sent to a tobacco farm, this number of women grew to 133 in 2008, and by the 2019/2020 financial year, the number increased to 606 under the SAWP, which he noted is still lower than their male counterparts.

In the meantime, High Commissioner Peters, said she is in agreement with the minister's proposal, but, she also noted her priority in cementing the bilateral agreements between the two countries and promoting the implementation of other worker programmes by the Canadian Government, including the Skills to Access the Green Economy (SAGE). She noted that this programme is administered in Canada through colleges and other institutions and resembles the Jamaican version of vocational schools.

Since the start of the year, 6,000 workers have left Jamaica on the Farm Work programme; 75 per cent are returning workers who have spent 20-30 years in the programme and another 20-25 per cent new recruits. In addition, there was a record increase in the number of young people to the programme, the ministry said.

The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme (SAWP) began in 1996 under a bilateral agreement between Jamaica and Canada for the supply of agricultural workers to utilize their skills in planting and harvesting of fruits and vegetables.

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