Wed | Jan 16, 2019

#JamaicaUnderLabour | Wrong focus! - Attorney warns that BPO and tourism will not provide quality employment for young Jamaicans

Published:Sunday | March 11, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Jamaica's unemployment rate was recorded at 10.4 per cent at the end of October 2017, the lowest it has been since October 2008, but public commentator and human rights attorney Jodi-Ann Quarrie is less than impressed.

Quarrie told a Gleaner Jamaica Under Labour Stakeholders Forum last Thursday that the lack of job opportunities in the island was forcing some of Jamaica's best and brightest young people to accept low-level, poor-paying jobs in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry.

According to Quarrie, this was a waste of taxpayers' money as the country was unlikely to get satisfactory returns on its education investment from these low-paying jobs.

"I am concerned that when we talk about growth industries in Jamaica we talk about business processing (outsourcing) and tourism as the growth centres of the Jamaican economy, while at the same time recognising that these are just like the garment industry, low-level jobs," argued Quarrie.

She said Jamaica's best and our brightest, who received tertiary education, subsidised by the taxpayers of the country, were now answering telephones and sounding bright.




According to Quarrie, these conversations were basic, suggesting that their tertiary education was not being utilised.

The Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) has reported that youth unemployment recorded the largest decline of all categories in the labour force, falling by seven per cent to 25.4 per cent as at October 2017, relative to the corresponding period in 2016.

Director General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Dr Wayne Henry, said the figure represents the lowest youth unemployment since January 2009.

Henry added that the female unemployment rate fell by the second largest margin of 3.4 per cent, to 14.1 per cent, but remained higher than the figure for their male counterparts, which declined by 1.6 per cent to 7.3 per cent.

In the meantime, despite numbers from the Jamaica Tourist Board that show the tourism sector was enjoying a three per cent growth in 2017, when Jamaica welcomed a record 4.3 million visitors, Quarrie argued that this area was not as fancy as it could be as Cuba is the tourism drawing card of the region.

"BPO taking the best of our tertiary graduates means that there are less of them to go around for other industries. After all we are planning for a future that is not yet here," argued Quarrie.

She said it was a failure not to recognise that the brain drain in Jamaica eats out a significant chunk of our growth prospects as many who the country needed, migrate to greener pastures.

For her, BPO jobs will not increase the wealth of individuals and their families in five years.

Quarrie further argued that crime and corruption are also taking big chunks out of the country's growth process.

"There can be no discussion on economic growth in Jamaica if it does not include discussions about crime and corruption, because doing business in Jamaica requires paying off someone for something," said Quarrie.