Thu | May 23, 2019

More Jamaicans going overseas to work, fewer foreigners coming

Published:Monday | September 10, 2018 | 12:00 AMSyranno Baines
Minister of Labour and Social Security Shahine Robinson (standing, sixth right) poses with members of the farm work programme in Albany, New York, during a visit on Tuesday, August 14.

The first quarter of the current financial year saw 7,194 Jamaicans gaining placement in the overseas employment programme, an increase of 5.6 per cent over the corresponding period last year, Labour and Social Security Minister Shahine Robinson has disclosed.

Speaking at the ministry's quarterly press briefing, held at its North Street office in Kingston last Tuesday, Robinson described as "robust" the long-standing partnerships with the United States (US) and Canada, and declared that the ministry had taken note of appeals for an expansion of the programme.

She further revealed that since July this year, 1,295 additional persons have been recruited, of which roughly 100 have been placed on farms in the US.

"Based on my recent visits with the US departments of Labor and Homeland Security, we also expect new employers to come on board, possibly yielding 200 new recruits," she stated.

"As we accelerate marketing strategies for the programme, opportunities in the US care and construction industries are being discussed," she added.


Fewer work permits


At the same time, Robinson revealed that the ministry granted 341 fewer work permits between April and June 2018 when compared with the corresponding period last year.

Robinson outlined that a total of 1,334 work permits were granted during the period, of which 831 were new applications and 503 were renewals.

The ministry issued 1,675 permits for the same period last year.

Of that number, 835 were new applications and 781 were renewals.

"We have heard and appreciate the concern that permits might have been granted for some skills that exist locally. As minister, I have been insisting on a thorough review of all applications for work permits. As a result, the numbers are trending down," Robinson asserted.

"As minister, I do believe that we have a responsibility to find the balance between facilitating investment opportunities as well as meeting the employment needs of our citizens," she continued.

Last year, the labour minister refused only 15 of the 5,717 applications it received for work permits.

Robinson informed that the ministry, in collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank, has developed a project to modernise the work permit system.

She explained that it is to be replaced with a new client-focused, Web-based work permit software.

"The new regime will be designed to cut the processing time for work permits, analyse the database of skills in Jamaica, and help to simplify the process of doing business," said Robinson.