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THE ISSUE: A reflection of jobs climate

Shawn Cumberbatch

THE ISSUE: A reflection of jobs climate

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Has job recruitment become harder after the recession?

Job loss is often a feature of economic recession. It has been no different for Barbados, which has struggled in hard times over the last seven years.

As part of efforts to reduce its massive fiscal deficit, Government sent home 3 000 workers last year, and there is speculation of about further job losses in the new round of austerity measures Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Chris Sinckler is expected to announce next month.

The private sector has also been affected by job losses in the past seven years, as many businesses struggled to keep their doors open and workers employed in the face of a depressed economy. Back in 2012, economist Anthony Wood calculated that Barbados had lost 16 000 private sector jobs in just five years.

It is an environment that prompted many people to start their own businesses, sometimes teaming up with other individuals who found themselves in similar circumstances. However, there is still likely to be a significant portion of the population that prefers to work for someone without having to worry about the various things involved in being your own boss.

And so, in the last five years some Barbadians have been collecting unemployment cheques from the National Insurance Scheme while scouring the newspaper in search of job openings. The Barbados Statistical Service estimates that up to the end of September last year, 12.9 per cent of the population was unemployed, 11.5 per cent males, and 14.3 per cent females.

Except for some “seasonal jobs” in tourism and construction, some analysts expect unemployment to stay in double digits at least for the majority of this year. Logical questions arise: what has happened, and is likely to happen to job recruitment post-recession?

Minister of Labour Senator Dr Esther Byer thinks a good place for employers, who have job opportunities, to start is by using the National Employment Bureau, which is a department within her ministry.

“We do have a a lot of Barbadians who go to the NEB and register for local employment, but we need employers to know that this is an employment agency as well…I am not saying you shouldn’t use your other channels [such as] classified ads and so on, but the NEB is here for just that purpose,” she said three years ago.

One company which chose to adopt a different policy is regional hotel chain Sandals Resorts International, which held a mass recruitment drive last year as it moved to fill 600 posts at its refurbished Sandals Barbados property.

This exercise, held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, attracted hundreds of applicants. Speaking recently, after the hotel’s opening, Sandals chairman Gordon “Butch” Stewart lauded the quality of Barbadian workers his company had recruited.

Other companies have either recruited workers themselves, or hired specialists – individuals or companies – to do it for them, but the face of recession, the International Labour Organisation has suggested that issues such as those mentioned above would be best handled within its global “fair recruitment initiative”.

This seeks to “address regulatory and enforcement gaps, improve mechanisms of complaints and remedy, facilitate social dialogue on these issues and ultimately ensure the implementation of recruitment practices based on international standards”.

It said this would be done by “working closely with workers’ representatives and employers’ organisations, governments, the private sector and other stakeholders”.