Head of the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) Edward Clarke is expressing concern that Barbados’ welfare system could be at risk as a result of the high unemployment.
And he has issued a plea to workers and employers to adapt to the current changing environment created by the COVID-19 pandemic or face extinction.
At the same time, Clarke has hinted at continued downsizing of businesses as commerce continues to shrink in the ongoing economic challenges.
“The number of unemployed persons at the end of June was probably around 30,000. In this small economy that is a significant number of people to be unemployed. It is not sustainable. You can see what will happen with the social economic fallout. The welfare of the country is at risk and we have to do something to get this resolved,” he warned.
“Whether it is Government, labour or business, we must all put our heads together and find ways to improve the situation in Barbados. As a result of the downturn, there has been no doubt a downturn in business activity across all sectors, and there continues to be a real prospect of continued downsizes of businesses in the private sector as many operators are currently striving to survive,” said Clarke.
The BPSA chairman said while employee retrenchment was not the only consequence of downsizing, it was unfortunately what happened in many cases since labour costs represented a large percentage of operating costs in Barbados.
“Covid-19 has reinforced the importance of training and retooling, improving workforce efficiency, embracing and utilising technology and reinforcing safety and health practices across all sectors of the business community,” he noted.
Adding that business continuity planning had also come to the forefront, Clarke said this could not be accomplished without “a strong and focused team approach”.
According to him, effective use of technology would separate the winners from the losers. This, he added, was clearly seen during the recent shutdown in Barbados.
He suggested that the post-COVID focus for training and retooling should be on problem solving, innovation and service excellence skills.
“Employers must be able to quickly adapt to changing circumstances at various levels of their organisations. Persons must be equipped with not just one skill, but a set of skills. Businesses need employees with a combination of skills that will allow all of them to adapt quickly to the changing workforce,” he said.
“Employers and entrepreneurs must design numerous systems and processes that increase efficiency in their businesses if they want to survive,” added Clarke.
He was addressing the official launch of the Commonwealth of Learning/Coursera Workforce Recovery Programme at the Ministry of Labour in Warrens on Wednesday.
Describing the programme of over 4,000 free courses as “a fantastic opportunity”, Clarke urged Barbadians to take advantage of it.
Individuals are able to register for the courses by visiting the Ministry of Labour’s website, and are required to undertake the studies between August 31 and December 31, 2020.
They will receive a certificate at the end of their studies on offer from over 200 accredited and recognised international learning institutions.