Jamaica: Prime Minister Andrew Holness said his government is actively pursuing efforts to introduce unemployment insurance for workers as the country 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 observed under the theme “Reigniting a National for Greatness: Protect our Heritage and Environment.”
He said the initiative will “temporarily provide workers with partial income relief while searching for new employment.”
“Additionally, unemployment insurance support would facilitate the acquisition of new skills to increase and improve their employability,” Holness said, noting 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 the local economy is growing with more and more jobs being created.
“Jamaica’s unemployment rate of 6.2 percent in January 2022 is the lowest ever recorded in Jamaica’s history. Inspired by turbulent times, Jamaica is heading in the right direction. This shows the strength of our macro economy and the resilience of our labour force,” he stated.
He said these external shocks were occurring against 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.”
He stated that there are many instances where the structure of the public sector compensation “is unfair and inequitable”. “This is so in Central Government and public bodies. The inequities in the structure of public sector compensation are not new,” Holness said, adding it did not arise “overnight”.
“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 recognize that the current structure is untenable”.
Holness said his administration working in partnership with public sector trade unions, decided “for us all to engage in the hard work of addressing the structural inequities in public sector compensation through a major public sector restructuring exercise”.
He mentioned it is designed to remove inequities and make compensation simpler and more transparent while ensuring that Jamaica’s finances remain sustainable.
“We recognize that it will not be an easy process; there is pent-up anger, mistrust from broken promises and contentious issues to grapple with. However, rest assured your government is listening,” Holness added.