The Barbados Employers’ Confederation (BEC) is challenging the unemployment rate released by the Economic Affairs Division this week, suggesting that the actual figure is much higher and could rise even further later in the year.
The latest figures showed that at the end of the second quarter – April to June – the rate was 13.2 per cent, an increase from the average 11.7 recorded up to March.
The statistics, derived from the Continuous Household Labour Force Survey, indicated that the total number of unemployed persons stood at 19,100, of which 9,400 were men and 9,700 were women.
However, BEC executive director Tony Walcott said that based on the mass public sector layoffs earlier this year, he believed the unemployment numbers were much greater.
“While I am not competent to comment on or evaluate the data-gathering methodology of the Government Statistical Service in the conduct of the Continuous Household Labour Force Survey, it appears to the untrained eye that with the major redundancies in central Government and the statutory corporations since the start of 2014, the reported level of unemployed persons does not seem to reflect that reality,” he said.
And he said based on all indications it was “a reasonable expectation” that the rate could rise even further during the rest of the year.
The BEC has suggested that an exercise be undertaken to relate the claimed 125,400 people employed to the numbers recorded as active contributors to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS).
“That would be a significant way to validate the reported numbers,” said Walcott.
“Additional statistics to help us truly understand the state of unemployment in Barbados would be the number of new claims for unemployment benefits during the period January 1 to June 30, 2014; the number of applications made by individual employees for severance payments during the period January 1 to June 30, 2014; the number of applications made by individual employers for rebates from the Severance Payment Fund. A further statistic worthy of analysis would be the number of employed persons actively registered on and contributing to the NIS at June 30, 2008 and June 30, 2014. We at the BEC are not provided with that information,” he added.
Walcott also said the level of underemployment also needs to be ascertained.
He said: “You may be aware that where employees work for more than 21 hours per week, the employer must deduct, and remit to the NIS, their contributions. While these individuals are reflected on the NIS role, the reality is that they are not fully employed, as several organisations over the recent past have been using the facility of shortened work hours as they try to keep their organisations afloat and as many persons as possible employed”.