There is no fiddling with the unemployment numbers.
This assurance has come from Governor of the Central Bank Cleviston Hayness, who dismissed the notion that the recent data showing the number of people who are considered unemployed in Barbados was not a true reflection of the reality.
Unemployment for the first three months was estimated to have reached 17.2 per cent, an indication that some 22,000 people were in search of work, especially youth and women.
Stating that any level of unemployment was of concern, Haynes explained that without income people would be unable to spend and keep the economy growing.
“So that is one of the concerns. There is the other concern of a possible increase in deviant behaviour that sometimes occurs when there is a spike in unemployment and therefore from those perspectives the actual number of persons who are unemployed we want to be able to see that go down,” said Haynes.
However, with several individuals, including Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn, raising questions about whether the unemployment rate was higher than reported, Haynes explained that those who were not actively seeking gainful employment were not counted in the numbers.
“It is not that somebody is playing with the numbers. This is just the pattern of behaviour that individuals have,” he said.
“It is not to say that it is not a legitimate statistic, it just means for a period of time somebody may say ‘well, I don’t want to work, children are home at this point I am going to stay home until let’s say school restarts’.
“That influences the overall number that you get and that is why I think for individuals it might appear as though there is a disconnect between what they see on the ground and what the statistics are saying.
“Perhaps persons who are getting unemployment benefits might decide that ‘while I am getting this benefit I am not offering myself into the labour force, but when this runs out then I will come back’,” he explained.
Pointing out that the situation was not unique to Barbados when it comes to some unemployment people not seeking employment and therefore not being counted among the unemployed, Haynes explained that this trend tended to happen immediately following a major event that resulted in people being out of work.
“What we have observed when we look at what happened between 2013 when we had layoffs and what happened last year when the COVID struck, and I think also what has happened earlier this year, is that each time there was this sort of major event, the number of persons who are not offering themselves to work actually increased and that will sort of, in a sense, bias the unemployment rate down,” he explained.
Haynes, who was responding to questions during his half year economic review, said what was necessary to get people back to work was growth in the tourism sector and a diversification in the economy.
Adding that “everything is a process”, Haynes said: “The economy is very dependent on tourism and therefore in the short term what we need to see is that improvement in tourism.
“Over the medium term we want to be able to see a slightly more diversified economy, not that you reduce the size of tourism, but that the size of tourism as a share of the overall economy actually falls. And that is a process that has to come on stream but I think if we can get the growth going that is what will help to reduce the unemployment level,” said the Governor.
“We recognise that based on the statistics there are persons who may have temporarily dropped out the labour force perhaps while they are receiving unemployment benefits, and therefore as those persons come back into the labour force we have to be able to get them engaged. At the same time, businesses have to look at their processes, improve their efficiency so we become more competitive and improved competitiveness hopefully, will lead to improved employment over the medium term,” he said. (MM)