‘Weak safeguards against job cuts will hurt COVID-19 response’

TRADE unionist Danny Roberts says countries like Jamaica with weak safeguards against employment termination, high rates of informality, and a heavy dependency on the service sector are likely to lag behind in the economic recovery process in the post-COVID-19 period.

Speaking at a virtual forum hosted by the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) at UWI, Mona campus on ‘The Economic Impact of Covid-19’ last Friday, Roberts argued that a correlation exists between labour market outcomes and public health measures. He noted that although the country performed well from a public health and safety perspective, the measures to be adopted from a labour market perspective will be significant in defining the long-term impact on the country’s economic recovery efforts.

Roberts, head of the Hugh Shearer Labour Studies Institute at The University of the West Indies Open Campus, pointed to the World Health Organization’s emphasis on ‘testing and tracing’ since it causes less labour market disruptions than quarantining, isolation and lockdown, and that greater reliance on testing and tracing is seen as crucial in providing the level of public confidence that will boost economic activities.

He said that the immediate imperative is to ensure the survival of the tourism sector, and its reopening on June 15 must conform to the standard health and safety protocols including testing and tracing to ensure the requirements of a sustained industry on which hundreds of thousands of lives depend. But, according to Roberts, it cannot be business as usual as the opportunity to deepen the collaboration among the various players in the industry, including those in the entertainment sector, must be given utmost priority.

He emphasised the urgency of introducing policy measures to go well beyond the attempt to simply recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, to providing fundamental structural changes to Jamaica’s labour market that guarantee income, employment and social protections for all categories of workers, particularly the most vulnerable.

Roberts also pointed to the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on young people – disrupting their education and training; reduced earnings and employment; and posing a challenge for them to re-enter the labour market and transition into better jobs. He called for the Government to adopt targeted employment policy measures, combined with supportive macroeconomic policies, to prevent young people from becoming a “lockdown generation”.













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