Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today.
by Britanny Brathwaite
The Barbadian regulatory and policy framework originated when our economy and society were far different.
Decades later, digital technologies have emerged, and the face of work has changed fundamentally, remote working relationships have grown increasingly normal.
It is, of course, possible to refer to the strides taken in neighbouring territories or even comparable economies.
However, any impending labour policy prescriptions for our country must be grounded in the country’s circumstances, which share many common characteristics with our neighbouring countries, but also significantly differ based on our levels of development.
Traditional work processes are increasingly being replaced by focus on innovation and adaptability and traditional learning being challenged by adaptive learning and employability.
In the modern economy it is therefore not simply what a person knows but equally as important is the ability to learn new things, apply those learnings and stay adaptable.
Therefore, policy ought to be driven by rigorous research agendas, guided by relevant global, regional and national labour market as well as, product and services data.
Research produced by the International Labour Organization in January 2020 with projections until the end of 2022 on “Major Trends in the Future of Work” highlighted three major areas which developing countries like Barbados should zero in on: Job Transformation vs Job Creation, Productivity & Economic Growth and Patterns of change in occupation composition.
In relation to Job Transformation vs Job Creation, a thorough understanding at the national level around the volatility of employment in specific industries and the development of a sharing and collaborative economy are suggested as counteractions.
What does this look like practically for us in Barbados? This means in many organizations and even as we grapple with the effects of massive lay-offs, the destruction, re-creation and transformation of the make-up of jobs.
The tasks and skill profiles being recalibrated with a world-view context and our people being educated with the same, the aim being to create structural change which indirectly incorporates our people and the products and services they are capable of producing into global supply chains.
There is therefore a direct link to this type of proactive labour policy creation and educational policies, with the latter also requiring some changes, not with intention to remove any stability or base learning concepts at any level, but there should be the vehement desire to remove any elements which are currently resulting in the stagnation of our people’s skills or the routing of bulks of our human capital into the same areas, over and over.
This also has the possibility to serve as a structural driver to income equality; which is a pervasive challenge particularly in developing countries like ours.
When assessing the data regarding the Global Labour Market predictions produced by the ILO’s Economic Intelligence Unit in 2015 (projections down to 2022) the following figures are reflected for developing countries in relation to skill varying skilled workers.
• Projected shortage of 38 – 40 million high skilled workers internationally
• Projected surplus of 90 – 95 million low skilled workers
• Projected surplus of 45 million skilled workers
– in developing economies like Barbados
If consideration is to be given to addressing patterns of change in occupational composition, policy makers ought to be acutely aware from a national standpoint, of the surplus and shortages which we will face and by extension how grave job polarisation may be for those in the surplus category.
In general, the polarisation of incomes between high and low-skilled individuals could become more pronounced, if not properly addressed and we have witnessed across the region, to some extent here at home and primarily in North America, how these types of structural frustrations among the
middle-skilled cause widespread perceptions of unfairness and social inequality.
If policy action is efficient and proactively addresses bridging the skills gap, it is more likely that the outcome could be positive.
Ensuring that we as a people and by extension Barbados thrive in the future will take vigorous efforts. What we have touched is just the tip of the iceberg.
If we are to continue to create and implement proactive labour policies, the impacts of which are felt by as many Barbadians, we must continuously churn out statistics specific to our region and our nation and create agendas which solve not just the issues of today but those of tomorrow.
Brittany Brathwaite is president of the Human Resources Management Association of Barbados (HRMAB), a national policy contributor & consultant.
This is Part One of a three-part series.