Thu | Jun 8, 2023

Wehby bats for unemployment insurance

Published:Monday | January 24, 2022 | 12:08 AMChristopher Serju/Senior Gleaner Writer

Government Senator Don Wehby on Friday assured the nation that he would undertake personal oversight of the long-promised unemployment insurance scheme, to ensure that it becomes a reality. His comments come more than a year and half after Finance Minister Nigel Clarke announced that the Planning Institute of Jamaica would be tasked with undertaking the feasibility of such an arrangement coming into being a reality for Jamaican workers.

Wehby noted that Jamaica has not been spared the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of job losses, and pointed out that the pre-pandemic unemployment rate, which stood at 7.2 per cent, is now trending down and stood at 7.1 per cent as at November 2021.

In making the case for unemployment insurance, the businessman cited Jamaica’s poverty rate which, at 11 per cent in June last year, was the second-lowest rate on record, but pointed out that in 2015 it was 21 per cent, the highest in two decades.

Social protection mechanism

“Another important initiative to propel us towards Vision 2030 is unemployment insurance, which is a social protection mechanism that can buffer the effects of unemployment and create a safety net for vulnerable Jamaicans.

“I am looking forward – and I am going to be monitoring it personally – to the completion of the unemployment insurance policy under the direction of the Ministry of Finance. We need to get that study completed quickly,” he charged the Senate.

Recently, another government senator and trade union leader, Kavan Gayle, urged the administration to amend a number of labour-related pieces of legislation and establish an unemployment scheme.

Gayle explained that many Jamaicans have been laid off during the pandemic because of the financial downturn, some in excess of 120 days.

“Some of them had to deplete their own personal savings and assets in order to survive. We need a system that acts as an automatic stabiliser by supporting spending power during periods of personal challenge or national economic downturn. Such a scheme would guarantee an appropriate level of income during the period of unemployment,” Gayle said.