Jamaica stands to benefit from importing skilled labour, says PM | Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News | Loop News

Prime Minister Andrew Holness is defending his suggestion that it might be necessary to import skilled workers to Jamaica, and has declared that the island’s economy could benefit from such a move.

There have been mixed reactions since Holness put the country on notice last month that such a shortage of skilled labour, especially in the construction sector, is looming locally.

Stakeholders have been questioning whether there is actually a labour shortage locally, and whether the situation is dire enough to warrant the importation of skilled labour.

But speaking at a function on Thursday, Holness suggested that there are economic benefits to be derived from importing skilled labour.

“It doesn’t matter where they (the skilled workers) come from. If they come here to work, the income that they work going to stay here. They might send back 20 per cent, but 80 per cent stays here (in Jamaica),” he reasoned.

Over several decades, according to Holness, the country has been exporting its labour.

“Almost 25,000 Jamaicans leave every year, and they send back 20 per cent (of their income earned). Where the 80 per cent stay? Whose economy have they been building?” he questioned.

“If we are going to be rapidly build our economy, we need to create the infrastructure, the regulatory environment, and the safety and security that our own people can get employed, earn their living, fulfil themselves, and others can come.

“That is how it has to be,” stated Holness.

The prime minister’s disclosure of the looming labour issues locally has also led to subsequent outlines that other industries, such as tourism and hospitality, as well as the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, are also experiencing shortages of workers.

To address the shortage of skilled workers in the labour force, several stakeholders and academics have called for the country’s national skill training organisation, HEART Trust/NSTA, to ramp up the training of youth locally.

Holness has already placed HEART on alert to train more persons.

He reiterated on Thursday that young persons, especially those being recruited by gangs, will be targeted for remediation, in order to get them trainable for employment.

“That (initiative) has to be done because the Jamaican society cannot escape that, because for decades we have allowed our young people to leave high school and end up in the pangs of gangs, and create a social crisis for us.

“We see our economy taking off. We need them and we need those who are now in the gangs, to leave the gangs, and join the labour force. We will train you,” stated Holness.