Wed | Oct 20, 2021

Holness calls for countries to invest in human capital amid pandemic fallout

Published:Tuesday | September 28, 2021 | 1:49 PM
Holness: “We must invest in upscaling and rescaling our workers for the jobs of the future to better prepare for the disruptions of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which the pandemic has only served to accelerate."

Prime Minister Andrew Holness says countries need to invest in human capital as the labour market landscape has changed arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Holness was delivering remarks this morning as co-convener of the United Nations High-Level Event on Jobs and Social Protection for Poverty Elimination.

He stated as countries endure the pandemic, climate-related disasters have exacerbated current challenges and created new ones such as shifting the labour market.

Noting that the pandemic has resulted in job losses, Holness said there is a need for new skills and training to meet the shifts to the green economy.

He said the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, set for Glasgow, will provide the platform for integrating the pillars of decent work, namely social dialogue, social protection and rights at work into the implementation of climate action policies.

He also noted that “The Paris Agreement recognises the imperatives of a just transition, which will ensure that carbon-neutral economies are adequately protected and that opportunities for the creation of decent and green jobs are fully seized.”

Holness emphasised that investment in specific green sectors will have a substantial potential for creating sizable net gains in employment while simultaneously protecting the environment.

“Such a strategy must be reinforced by robust social protection systems to support workers in their transition to jobs in these new sectors,” he said.

“Given the urgent need to address these pressing and interrelated challenges, we call for action-oriented engagement among policymakers at all levels to bridge the financing gaps and to implement innovative solutions that support sustainable development and eradicate poverty,” he continued.

Social Protection

Holness cited steps that have been taken in Jamaica to accelerate efforts.

“Within two weeks of the first case of the COVID-19 pandemic in Jamaica, we instituted a support group for the vulnerable, poor, elderly, disabled workers and businesses to cushion the economic impact of the pandemic. This was the largest social support programme in Jamaica's history.

“In July 2021, we implemented a new social pension programme for seniors 75 years and older who were not in receipt of a pension. These were necessary measures to mitigate the destabilising socioeconomic effects of the crisis on our population,” he said.

Holness said that as nations chart a new course towards economic recovery, countries must lay the foundation for a more resilient labour market and a more equal world.

“We must invest in upscaling and rescaling our workers for the jobs of the future to better prepare for the disruptions of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which the pandemic has only served to accelerate,” Holness said.

“The pandemic has also exposed the stark inequalities and significant gaps in social protection systems. With the onslaught of the pandemic, many low and middle-income countries have struggled to mount a social protection and stimulus response of the scope and scale required to meet the need,” he added.

He emphasised that highly indebted middle-income countries like Jamaica have had to apply an unprecedented number of social protection and job policy interventions to alleviate the effects of the crisis on their populations.

He ended his address by calling for countries to invest in human capital.

- Ainsworth Morris

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