We need a proper employment strategy
Since the latest unemployment numbers were released I have had to wonder if the JEEP is driving around and killing jobs. The Planning Institute of Jamaica reported that over the last quarter, unemployment rose to 14.3 per cent. How could it be that when the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme is implemented, Jamaica records its highest unemployment rate in 10 years? The perplexity of this situation prompted me to take a closer look at the data.
The unemployment data released by STATIN shows that the largest industry group of unemployed workers are those who last worked in the construction industry. There are about 29,900 people with construction experience who are unemployed, and the numbers are growing. If one of JEEP's focuses was supposed to be infrastructure work, why isn't it translating to more jobs for construction workers? The answer lies in the simple fact that JEEP work does not qualify as gainful full-time employment. JEEP jobs are temporary, only lasting a few weeks before workers return to the unemployment line.
One has to wonder if work is being inadvertently taken away from experienced construction workers and being distributed to others as temporary jobs though JEEP. If this is the case, after the JEEP leaves the temporary worker behind, he will then have to join the unemployment line right behind the experienced construction worker that he displaced. As JEEP is structured now, it spreads only poverty.
The numbers tell a story that is very grim, where those who have been trained and educated are being ignored by the system. Skilled workers are rapidly losing their jobs. After years of sacrifice and hard work, university graduates are left with huge student debts but can't find jobs. Where is the fulfilment of the promise that becoming trained and educated will open the doors to more opportunity and a better life? It is evident that a more comprehensive employment strategy is needed; one that also saves the jobs of employed persons and creates jobs for the trained and educated.