Barbados has been widely promoted and justly so, as a place to live, work and play. It would seem that this has not escaped fellow Caribbean brothers and sisters and those in the international world. Barbados ought to be proud of the fact that it can attract persons from all parts of the world who would want to make it their home. The extension of this is that it becomes their place of work, even if they are engaged by international or regional companies. Taking a positive look at this development, it augurs well for the economy of Barbados, provided that there is the attraction of foreign investors, who bring a minimum number of expatriates who are employed in the corporation or company; leaving way for the mass based employment of locals.
Where Barbadians may be quite supportive of the slogan that the island is the best place to work, live and play, it is highly unlikely that they do not hold fast to the idea that the gateways to the nation are to be flung open to all who seek employment on its shores.
Be that as it may, every objective Barbadian who shares this view ought to consider that there is need to balance the scale as far as their views are concerned on this issue.
For starters, it is important that as a people we cast our minds back to the 1950’s and 1960’s where there was mass migration to England, Panama and Cuba. Ever since then, big city life and the green bucks that apparently float around North America, and in particular, Unites States of America and Canada, have driven Barbadians, other Caribbean citizens and people from all parts of this earth, to journey as immigrants to the perceived lands of opportunity. Many of those who have been fortunate to gain entry on a non-immigrant and/or student visa, have since chosen to make USA, Canada or England their home; either as residents or citizens.
The hard fact of the matter is that these persons are absorbed in the workforce of those countries. Based on the size of the United States and Canada, the argument can be presented that these lands can accommodate the numbers. This may be a logical argument, but not necessary a sound one, as it is limited to the country’s ability to absorb the numbers. Consideration must also be given to the level of business and the potential for medium and long term growth and sustainability; as these hold implications for employment levels. Taking on board the existing employment trends around the world today, it may be difficult to call into question the soundness of this argument.
It is an established fact that people will gravitate wherever opportunities for meaningful employment could be found. It is for individual governments to manage the process so as to regulate the influx of immigrant labour. Immigration policies are not to be taken lightly. Moreover, they should be stringently applied. In the current scheme of things where the movement of persons is driven more and more by the need to find economic solutions in order to survive and moreover, against a backdrop of rising unemployment as in the case of Barbados, the protection of jobs for locals has become more apparent.
Moving back to the issue of geographical size, small island states like Barbados may not have to cope with the problem of illegal immigrants on the scale that is being experienced by the USA, where according to the Pew Hispanic Center, the number of illegal immigrants in the United States in 2011 was estimated at 11.5 million people. However, there is a need for the local Immigration Department to monitor the entry and exit of those who legally enter the country, remove those who enter illegally, and carefully manage the application for work permits; so as to ensure that Barbadian jobs are not needlessly surrendered to expatriates.
*Dennis De Peiza is a Labour Management Consultant with Regional Management Services Inc.
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