Kingston – The Jamaica government says it is actively pursuing efforts aimed at introducing unemployment insurance for workers as the country Monday observed Labour Day.
“We are examining the feasibility of implementing unemployment insurance in Jamaica to assist workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own,” Prime Minister Andrew Holness said in a message marking Labour Day which was being observed here under the theme “Reigniting a Nation for Greatness: Protect our Heritage and Environment”.
He said the initiative would “temporarily provide workers with partial income relief while they search for new employment”.
“Additionally, unemployment insurance support would facilitate the acquisition of new skills to increase and improve their employability,” Holness said.
He noted that the most important role of the government for workers “is to ensure that the economy is growing and generating employment”.
He said Jamaica is recovering from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and that the local economy is growing, with more jobs being created.
“Jamaica’s unemployment rate of 6.2 per cent in January 2022 is the lowest ever recorded in Jamaica’s history. Inspite of turbulent times, Jamaica is heading in the right direction. This shows the strength of our macro economy and the resilience of our labour force.
“However, this recovery is still a work in progress. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and now the war in Ukraine have unleashed the greatest wave of global inflation seen in over 40 years. Import prices in fuel and food are rising in countries all around the world at the same time [and] while we all know that this inflation has causes outside of Jamaica, it still does not make it easy for the average household to absorb,” Holness said.
He said these external shocks were occurring against the backdrop of the island’s long fiscal adjustments “which was secured by the sacrifice of workers which resulted in a rehabilitation of our economy, but had real impacts on public sector salaries”.
Additionally, Holness said there are many instances where the structure of the public sector compensation “is unfair and inequitable”.
“This is so in Central Government as well as in public bodies. The inequities in the structure of public sector compensation are not new,” Holness said.
“Decades of tinkering with compensation systems without solving fundamental issues are contributing factors. However, this government . . . has decided to take on this decades old problem because we care about our workers and we recognise that the current structure is untenable”. (CMC)