The Zika virus is taking a bite out of productivity in Barbados.
Local private sector officials say complaints about the mosquito-borne infection and water shortages have caused a spike in the level of absenteeism.
“Absenteeism is one thing; but when we start to disaggregate the information that is coming to us as to why people are being absent, we are hearing far too much of Zika and the other that is critical is water,” Chairman of the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) Alex McDonald told journalists at a media conference this afternoon.
“We are hearing lots of people, and as a rule of thumb, just listening to business colleagues who never had an absenteeism rate that was high last year or maybe taking two days off last year, [workers have so far] taken 12, 13 or 14 days off this year, and the year is less than 60 days old.”
McDonald said an assessment by some local companies with affiliates in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and/or Latin America found that Barbados normally recorded absenteeism levels that were way above the other countries.
He explained that the absenteeism rates in Barbados were twice as high as those in the OECS and four times as high when compared to those companies in the Latin America and the wider Caribbean region.
However, the private sector executive stressed that it did not mean that the Barbados work force was “lazy” or “deliberately sabotaging efforts”.
With water outages cited as another reason for staying away from work, McDonald called for the “chronic shortage of water” to be addressed urgently with “an approach which speaks to conservation” and distribution of water.
“It has to be done better and we think that the private sector can assist but we need to be engaged at a meaningful level. It is impacting on the way we do business and the work that we are doing,” he said.
Other contributing factors, McDonald said, included inadequate transportation, a diminished quality of supervision, a lack of engagement of workers in their jobs, and issues relating to child and elderly care.
“We have reached a point where between 60 and 70 per cent of the workforce is taking advantage of all of the casual days and sick days on a regular basis,” McDonald said.