A public/private sector employment programme that could put 40,000 Jamaicans to work in the short term, was agreed yesterday, bringing a glimmer of hope that the acute joblessness could ease.
The Jamaica Employ Programme that had a low-key beginning in January this year, gained momentum with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) at Jamaica House.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller emphasised that it was critical for the Government and the private sector to work together as a team to find creative solutions to the problem of unemployment among young, skilled and professional Jamaicans.
"Nothing meaningful will be achieved in this country without genuine stakeholder cooperation...I want to caution that the signing of an MOU will come to nothing, if it is not followed up by action," Simpson Miller said.
Jamaica Employ evolved from a challenge from Simpson Miller last January, at the groundbreaking for Lasco's new $2.1 billion plant at White Marl, St Catherine, to put at least one qualified, unemployed Jamaican back into the productive enterprise.
She said if each business could employ one individual, 40,000 persons would be employed over the short term.
In exchange: "If the businesses will provide employment for the people, then the Government commits to reward efforts when you do business with us," she promised.
President of the JCC Milton Samuda urged members of the chamber to employ even one more person under the programme, inspite of the economic pressures they may be facing.
"We know that there are many businesses which, in order to ensure that they survive this recession, have to rationalise their costs and lay off workers during the recession. However, we are also aware of the fact that there are businesses doing well enough to answer the call of the prime minister, and that is what the framework that we will be putting in place today is designed to facilitate," he said.
The JCC president suggested that the agreement was a clear acknowledgement by the private sector that "if we do not hold hands and aid each other, we will not make it through the next several months in which the forced adjustment to real fiscal prudence is going to be both long and painful".
Minister of Labour and Social Security Derrick Kellier noted that since May, his ministry had placed 450 young and previously unemployed persons in private sector jobs under the initiative. The assignments last for six months, recruits are paid $6,000 per week for the first three months by the Government, and for the next three months their salaries will be paid by the participating company.
Kellier said that programme had attracted the attention of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which has engaged a consultant to help finetune its expansion. He added that two projects were being designed for the rural areas at a projected cost of $100 million.
"This is the background against which the ministry will be partnering with the JCC under the Jamaica Employ initiative to take job creation to another level," Kellier said.