Bursting the high unemployment bubble?
The 2014 Statistical Institute of Jamaica report defines or measures employment as, “Individuals… being employed if they are 14 years and over and engaged in some economic activity for at least one hour in the week before the start of the survey.”
The question then is: What is the value or earnings for one hour of labour and its purchasing power?
Payscale.com reports the average security officer’s hourly rate in Jamaica as $222 to $359 as at July 8, 2023.
By examining the purchasing power of one hour’s pay within this category of workers we can use the cost of public transportation to measure its viability. If the individual is travelling from the community of Rose Hill in south Manchester to work for one hour in Mandeville, the average public transportation cost is $250 each way. So the temporary worker, with a minimum one hour of work, ends up either owing the route taxi $56 or, if paid at the higher scale, after paying transportation costs, takes home $218.
If the worker lived in Plowden, it would be best to decline the one-hour job offer as transportation costs would consume the work effort.
The crucial point we keep overlooking in Jamaica is: Why boast about a high employment rate which still keeps a significant percentage of the population in poverty?
Interestingly, as the politicians and their diehard supporters paint a picture of high employment, the National Commercial Bank (NCB) recently announced plans to cut staff at its digital wallet division, Lynk, and the Bank of Jamaica Governor Richard Byles then burst the employment bubble by describing the labour market as “tight” (Jamaica Observer, August 23, 2023), that is, when job openings are plentiful and available workers are scarce.
Dudley McLean II