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Jamaica still shedding jobs

Published:Friday | February 8, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Jamaica's youth unemployment continued to worsen in the last survey, rising above 35 per cent.

But this performance mirrors global trends for jobless youth.

World Bank projections indicate that youth unemployment is expected to continue rising in the medium term and is projected to hit 12.9 per cent globally in five years.

The bank also says that not all jobless youngsters are captured in the data.

"In developed countries, an apparent decline in the jobless rate is not due to improvements in the labour market, but rather to large numbers of young people dropping out of the labour force altogether due to discourage-ment," said the bank in a report titled Global Employment Trends 2013: Recovering From a Second Jobs Dip.

"These discouraged youth are not counted among the unemployed," the report said.

The bank estimates that this year the total number of unemployed worldwide will rise by five million to more than 202 million people.

Jamaica's youth unemployment rose to 35.3 per cent in the newly released October 2012 survey, up from 32.2 the previous July quarter and 31.1 per cent year on year. Total unemployment is currently estimated at 13.7 per cent in a labour force of 1.261 million.

Some 6,500 jobs were lost between July and October 2012.

Creativity needed

The data suggests that Jamaica needs to get creative in developing sustainable jobs programmes, say local analysts.

Dr Damien King, head of the Department of Economics at the University of the West Indies, says Jamaica's solution to this problem should begin with producing an educated workforce.

"Quality employment can only be sustainable if the employee is creating sufficient value for the employer, that is, if the employee is highly productive. And productivity comes from skills and knowledge; so what needs to be done to improve sustainable, quality employment is to improve education in Jamaica," said King.

Financial analyst Dennis Chung, meantime, says the jobs picture won't improve until Government has the right mix of policies to get the economy growing again.

The World Bank itself blames slow progress in global employment recovery on incoherence between monetary and fiscal policies in different countries and a piecemeal approach to financial sector and sovereign-debt problems, in particular the Eurozone.

"Investment has not yet recovered to pre-crisis levels in many countries. The indecision of policymakers in several countries has led to uncertainty about future conditions and reinforced corporate tendencies to increase cash holdings or pay dividends rather than expand capacity and hire new workers," the bank said.

Jamaica's October 2012 labour survey indicates that agriculture added 9,400 jobs, while the group called 'elementary occupations' added 15,600.

The construction sector, even with the jobs programme known as JEEP and other public infrastructure projects under way, shed 12,100 jobs, while trades workers lost 21,000 jobs.

The total employed labour force fell by 700 or 0.1 per cent to 1.0882 million.