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Unemployment at record low 9.6%

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Prime Minister Andrew Holness, says Jamaica's unemployment rate has declined to a record low 9.6 per cent as at the end of January 2018, down from the 10.4 per cent out-turn for the October to December 2017 quarter.

The figure is an improvement on the 9.8 per cent recorded in the October to December 2007 quarter.

The prime minister made the announcement during today's launch of Workers' Week and National Labour Day activities for 2018, at the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).

Holness said of note is the decline in youth unemployment, which fell to 23.8 per cent as at the end of January 2018, down from 31.7 per cent for the corresponding period last year.

He further pointed out that the unemployment rate among male youth fell by 4.7 percentage points to 20.4 per cent, while citing the 4.9 per cent decline in the female rate from 17 per cent in January 2017 to 12.1 per cent as at January 2018.

The prime minister said that within the 9.6 per cent unemployed labour force figure would be a significant number of youth who are not trained, are below the educational attainment for their age, and are not currently attached to any institution. “They would probably make up the largest portion of the unemployed,” he added.

Holness also reported significant investments and development interest in business process outsourcing, tourism and hospitality, services generally, mining, and construction and civil development.

He noted, however, that the immediate constraint on the expansion of these enterprises is the availability of a labour force “that is at least at the minimum educational attainment level for their life cycle that possesses work-ready attitudes and are amenable to training”.

Holness emphasised the Government's goal of ensuring that “no one is left behind” and that there is “equal opportunity for every Jamaican to self-actualise”.

He emphasised that the best way to achieve this is by providing individuals with gainful employment.

Against this background, the prime minister said the Government has been proactive in implementing human resource development policies that ensure alignment between the output of the education and training institutions and the skill demand of industries.

To this end, Holness said the administration has established the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) programme, adding that aligned with this is the HEART Trust/NTA's transference “directly under my supervision at the Office of the Prime Minister”.

“This is to ensure that there is greater synergy between the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation and what is happening with investment promotion. We are also ensuring that those who are below the educational attainment level for their life cycle and who are also unskilled, are supported to find employment opportunities in the labour market,” he added.

Holness indicated that it is now “becoming clear to us” that the greatest constraint to Jamaica's short-term growth and expansion of industry “is actually a shortage of trained, skilled labour”. “It is actually an urgent problem that needs the direct attention of the Government… and that is why I have moved HEART Trust (to the OPM),” he said.

The prime minister reiterated that HEART Trust/NTA has been merged with the National Youth Service, Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning and the Apprenticeship Board to form one “purpose-built” organisation that positions Jamaica to produce the skilled labour necessary to support the expansion of industry.

“So, as investor confidence grows, the Government must keep that growth going by providing the labour it needs,” Holness said.

Activities for Workers' Week and Labour Day 2018 are being held under the theme 'Ramp it Up… Fix it Up'.

The focus will be on building ramps and other facilities at schools and health centres that enable easy access to these buildings for persons with disabilities.

Labour Day will be observed on Wednesday, May 23.


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