As calls linger for the importation of overseas skilled workers to quench the island’s labour shortage, the Labour and Social Security Ministry is rectifying issues that have been detected with the local work permit process for immigrants.
Portfolio Minister, Pearnel Charles Jr, made the disclosure while responding to questions during a Caribbean Policy and Research Institute (CaPRI) forum on its latest report titled ‘Brain Gain: Solving the Labour Shortage and Competing for Global Talent’, last week.
During the event at AC Hotel in New Kingston, CaPRI researchers pointed to issues such as the bureaucratic, expensive and inefficient hurdles that businesses and other employers face in getting permits for immigrant workers.
In noting the concerns, Charles Jr said steps are being taken to overhaul and transform the process, which includes automation of the work process regime.
“So, we are disposing of the legacy system and moving towards more efficient business processes that will see us introducing a new web-based application that will allow for access online, greater efficiency, cutting out the process by perhaps 50 per cent estimated or more, and ensuring… safety for those who will interact with the ministry,” Charles Jr stated.
The transformation of the work permit process is expected to be completed next year, according to the minister.
He elaborated that, “We are moving now into the phase of completion and testing, which will allow us to completely transform the work permit regime hopefully within the next year.
“That will see most, if not all, of the issues that are consistently raised around one year for a (work) permit (for immigrants) – which I’ve never seen that myself – (but) that will see those things disappear,” Charles Jr assured.
In fact, the minister said even without the automation of the process, over the last two months, the ministry has made certain adjustments to the process, resulting in them being able to “shorten the time for the work permit below five weeks”.
This, said Charles Jr, is indicative of the ministry identifying the issues, determining the strategy going forward, and advancing the solutions.
Meanwhile, the minister said the Government has never had an “adverse policy in terms of bringing the necessary skill to the country.
“Of course, the priority must be to prepare our people to participate in the labour force,” Charles Jr stressed.