Jamaican government promises unemployment insurance for citizens

November 26, 2023  -The Jamaican government has promised the implementation of a national unemployment insurance for citizens.

The announcment was made by Finance Minister Dr. Nigel Clarke during the the Jamaica Labour Party’s 80th annual conference in Kingston on Sunday.

Unemployment insurance protects employed persons against the risk of job loss, and it facilitates access to partial income during periods of unemployment.

During his speech, Dr. Clarke said the scheme will soon come to fruition, though he gave no date for when it will be implemented.

“We have a Tourism Workers’ Pension Fund with 9,000 people; we have a social pension introducted by Jamaica Labour Party with 12,000. We’ve introducted paternity leave in the public service, and working with Minister Charles, we will introduce to Jamaica unemployment insurance. You lose your job, you don’t fall down on your face, you can get back up because the government is supporting you on a tempraty basis with income,” Clarke promised to JLP supporters at the National Arena.

Not a new promise

The idea of an unemployment insurance was touted by Dr. Clarke in early 2022. But at that time, he said there needed to be a feasibility study before the scheme could be implemented.

In May 2022, Chairman of the Recovery Planning Committee of the National Disaster Risk Management Council, Dr. Wayne Henry, announced that a feasibility study was completed.

Dr. Henry, who is also Director General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), said unemployment insurance is one of the recommendations of the Labour Market Reform Commission that was housed at the PIOJ.

“It is an extremely robust document. Cabinet has reviewed it and a number of recommendations [were made] and one of those recommendations included looking at the feasibility of establishing unemployment insurance, and because of the occasion of the pandemic that has been fast-tracked,” Dr. Henry said.

“We have completed that, and it is now ready to go back to Cabinet, just for the sort of engagement with unions. So, it’s something we are looking into, making the social protection mechanism for Jamaica much more robust,” he added.

Dr. Henry said that in addition to providing temprary income for unemployed persons, the insurance can also serve as a macroeconomic stabilisation tool during periods of economic downturn by strengthening Jamaica’s ability to respond to economic shocks, while reducing the risk of poverty among workers and their families in periods of crisis.

Unemployment insurance exists in other Caribbean countries such as Barbados and The Bahamas where protection is provided to workers in the formal sector who lost earnings and are unable to obtain suitable employment.

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