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Study: many benefit from Caricom free movement

Tuesday, July 05, 2011 | 8:03 AM    

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PARAMARIBO, Suriname (CMC) – A recent study has found that at least 4,000 people have been able to move freely under the Caricom Single Market and economy (CSME) that allows for the free movement of goods, skills, labour and services across the region.

Specialist Movement of Skills/Labour within the CSME Unit, Steven Mc Andrew said that the survey conducted last year found that an estimated 4,000 persons had moved under this regime in the period 1997 – June 2010.

“The study proved that persistent fears in member states that they are being flooded under the free movement regime are clearly unfounded,” he said, adding that another key conclusion was that “free movement has not impacted negatively on the social services in member states.

“On the contrary it helped to fill critical vacancies in member states with respect to teachers and nurses, thus proving to be very beneficial to maintain a certain level of social services in these countries,” he added.

Mc Andrew said that the skill levels of many of those who had migrated from one Caribbean country to another were low while at the same time the outwards migration of teachers and nurses continues to be a problem for the region.

He said that while those professionals were making their choices based on their own interest studies done in the recent past have shown that graduates were also leaving the Caribbean.

In some cases it was estimated that over 60 per cent of graduates were not living in their country of origin, but outside the region.

Last year, the Commission on Youth and Development reported that more than 80 per cent of young persons would prefer to leave the region to live in a more developed country.

“The same study provided evidence that the region must import labour from outside the Community. In the period 2000 – June 2010 an estimated 85,000 work permits were issued. This number is much higher, because the consultants did not get information from three countries.

“It might even approach 100,000 or more work permits, because some of the countries, which did not provide data, are active in the international business sector. “

The most interesting fact from this study is that 75 per cent of the work permits were issued to nationals from countries outside the region.

“This clearly points to skills shortages in the region,” he said, adding that “migration of nationals of countries outside the region by far is outnumbering movement that occurred under the free movement of persons.

“A simple calculation reveals that 75 per cent of 85,000 work permits is 63,750 work permits issued to nationals of countries outside the region in the period 2000 – June 2010, while 4,000 persons moved under the free movement regime.

“Even if you take into account that work permits are renewed, it is still clear that the main movers in the Single Market are not Caricom nationals.”

McAndrew explained that the low number of Caricom nationals, who have moved is also a result of the fact that some of the categories, which have been granted free movement, can’t move, because member states are still in the process of putting the necessary measures in place, such as systems to issue the Caribbean Vocational Qualification to artisans and household domestics.

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