Chamber chief urges income inequity focus

By NATARIO McKENZIE​

Tribune Business Reporter​

nmckenzie@tribunemed.net​

The Chamber of Commerce's chief executive yesterday said that despite the "encouraging" 1.2 percentage point decline in the national jobless rate, income inequality and unemployment among men must be addressed.​

Jeffrey Beckles told Tribune Business: "It's encouraging in that the overall rate per the report has gone down to about 9.5 percent. One of the things that is concerning is the continuous unemployment among young men."

According to the Department of Statistics, the numbers in vulnerable employment remain relatively unchanged since May 2018 with no difference in accounting for 6.9 percent of total employment.

"Males (11,355) still dominate this category," the Department's May 2019 Labour Forvce study said. "These workers as defined by ILO (International Labour Organisation) are less likely to have formal work arrangements, and more likely to lack decent working conditions, and are often characterised by inadequate earnings and benefits."​

Mr Beckles said: "That's a concern because if you look at that in regards to our social dysfunction you have a huge contribution right there. We have to focus on how we get our young men equipped with the basic skills to get work.

"If they stay in this category they are going to become discouraged workers, and some could possibly turn to crime. While the other numbers look good I don't think we can ignore the potential issues there."​

According to the Department of Statistics, employment rose by 4,330 in May when compared to November 2018, and reached about 215,000 persons. "On a year-over-year basis, employment grew by 6,635 or 3.2 percent," it added. "Meanwhile, the national unemployment rate dropped to 9.5 percent, down from 10.7 percent in November."

The Department of Statistics added that employment gains were driven by private sector jobs, which increased by 1.8 percent to 137,605 persons when compared to November. Additionally, the number of self-employed persons remained unchanged at 32,475 since November 2018. ​

"When we talk about the capacity of our workforce, 62 percent of our workforce only has a secondary education. That's a big number," said Mr Beckles.​ "Of that number it would be interesting to see how many are attempting to sharpen those skills.

"We know that our labour pool is not being enhanced by those skills. That's part of the bigger problem we have. We need to figure out how we are going to encourage that 62 percent to get themselves involved in additional learning, tertiary or otherwise."

He added: "I'm happy to see that there are more employable Bahamians now. Eighty-two per cent of the 215,000 are working. That's a good thing by number, but when you look at the number of people working and the number of people who have major trouble making ends meet you will find there is inequity in income.

"We need to find a way to address that inequity. We have to examine the income equity issue, and then we have to help Bahamians understand how to become disciplined and live within their means. We have a lot of people working and doing things they ought not to on the salaries they have. There is a careful balance that must be struck there."​