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Phillips says labour market reform necessary to retain qualified workers

Thursday, December 12, 2013    

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FINANCE Minister Peter Phillips says reform of the labour market is essential if the country is to retain its qualified workers, who will play a key role in the nation's economic development.

"If we want to reverse the brain drain, if we want to improve our own conditions of life here in Jamaica that will retain our sons and daughters for national development, then we need to embark upon this labour reform process," the minister told Tuesday's staging of a labour market forum at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston.

The minister stressed that labour reform involves more than simply boosting productivity at the level of the firm, but is crucial in creating an environment which can sustain social stability and social inclusion.

"Essentially, we won't be able to sustain social stability if we keep a situation in place where 50 per cent and more of each successive cohort of school leavers have no place in a structured work environment," he said.

Phillips argued that key to the reform process was the creation of an environment where more and more persons can be put to work, noting that "we cannot sustain for very long, a society where too many people live outside the ambit of modern work experience."

He added: "A major challenge to policy makers is the requirement to bring more and more people into the labour force, in an environment where there is high unemployment, and significant underemployment."

The minister pointed out that much has been achieved and much is being done to address this issue, with a raft of legislation being completed by Parliament and the Senate around a new fiscal incentive regime to provide incentives to businesses which invest, and to create a more propitious environment for investment activity.

"Among the elements in the legislation is the Employment Tax Credit, which provides incentive to employers to utilise labour, by providing tax credits, available on the basis of your statutorily prescribed expenditures to support the labour force," he said.

He said further that beyond the issue of the tax reform initiatives, the Government also recently instituted several measures to create a better working environment for its citizens. These, he said, involved amendments to important labour laws, including the Employment Agencies Regulation Act, and the attendant regulations; the Foreign Nationals and Citizen Employment Act; the Holidays With Pay Act; the Minimum Wage Act; and amendment to the Labour Relations and Industrial Disputes Act.

Staged by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) over two days under the theme 'Reshaping the Jamaican Labour Market to Foster Economic Growth and Development', the forum was intended to provide a platform to discuss ways of developing a comprehensive labour market reform agenda.

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