Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo is defending the unemployment rate, as well recent suggestion by Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy that the country was on course for full employment, with thousands of jobs to be created in the tourism industry in the coming months.
Byer-Suckoo Thursday said there was no reason to dispute the unemployment rate of nine per cent, stating that unemployment in Barbados has been “dropping steadily” in recent years.
“I have no reason to discredit the unemployment figures. They came from the same place that it came from when they told me it was 12 per cent,” Byer-Suckoo told Barbados TODAY.
“I know sometimes the question is asked, ‘how do those figures represent everybody who is not working?’ But not in Barbados and not anywhere in the world do the unemployment figures represent everybody who is not working. Unemployment, using international standard for labour market information, speaks to persons who are looking for work and cannot find work,” she explained, adding that the figures did not include people who were studying but not working, or people who were unemployed but not seeking employment.
“I have no reason to discredit the figure. Those figures come from the same source they have been coming for how many decades. When they told us the unemployment was at 12 [per cent] we had no problem accepting that. Now they tell us the unemployment is nine per cent we have a problem with that?”
Earlier this year Sealy announced at a news conference that several tourism-related construction projects that were due to come on stream would create more than 14,000 jobs over the next three years.
At the time he explained that full employment did not mean zero unemployment, but rather employment for those who were seeking jobs.
Critics have dismissed the idea, saying the job creation would not result in full employment. They have also questioned the unemployment rate, which stood at 10.2 per cent at the end of the third quarter last year, according to Government figures, but has since been said to have fallen to around nine per cent.
Byer-Suckoo explained that when the tourism minister spoke of full employment he did not mean zero unemployment.
“No country boasts of zero unemployment. So you have heard Minister Sealy say the Ministry of Tourism is going to lead the way in Government providing jobs. He called a figure that I heard was refuted because it seemed particularly large,” she said.
“But he was not speaking only of direct tourism jobs. He was speaking of direct and indirect jobs, and we are told that . . . for every job that is created directly in tourism you can expect a spin off of at least two to three times that in the other services that are provided, including taxis, persons being able to do building,” she said.