GIS:-A report from the Department of Statistics revealed that the unemployment rate decreased from 22.1 percent in 2016 to 20.1 percent in 2017.
The Government of Saint Lucia, encouraged by a decrease in the unemployment rate for the first quarter of 2017, has renewed its commitment to help create an enabling environment for employment.
According to the latest report released by the Department of Statistics, when compared to the same quarter (January to March) in 2016, the unemployment rate decreased from 22.1 percent to 20.1 percent. Youth unemployment figures for the two comparative quarters also decreased slightly, from 11,700 in 2016 to 10,700 in 2017. The report also shows that Saint Lucia experienced increased activity in tourism, accommodation and food service activities; and increased employment in the construction, financial services, education, and manufacturing sectors.
During his budget address in May, Prime Minister Hon. Allen Chastanet stated that the government hopes to reduce unemployment to no more than 15 percent by 2021, and that creating sustainable employment was one of government’s strategic areas of focus. Consequently, government is concerned about the rates of under-employment, the employability of the Saint Lucia workforce, and youth unemployment—especially among males. Figures show that the unemployment rate among young males increased in first quarter, from 35.3 percent in 2016 to 41.6 percent in 2017. In comparison, the unemployment rate among young females decreased for the same quarter from 39.2 percent to 35.6 percent. Saint Lucia currently has a working age population of 145,000 with a labour force participation rate of 69.8 percent.
Addressing these issues in the 2017 budget, Prime Minister Chastanet noted that Saint Lucia has room to grow.
“Over the past decade our unemployment rate increased from 14 percent in 2007, to above 20 percent where it has stubbornly remained. Youth unemployment has followed a similar trend and has remained extremely high at 43.1 percent,” he said. “It is an extremely sad reality that over 20 percent of our productive labour force is unemployed. This means that we have substantial capacity for expansion, growth and development.”
The prime minister expressed optimism that in the near future more people will be trained and employed in a variety of sectors including information technology, tourism, agriculture and infrastructure, and credited such projects as the Royalton, which opened in February, and The Harbor Club, set to open towards the third quarter, for an improvement in employment rates in the tourism and construction sectors. Additional projects include the OJO Labs call centre and the proposed DSH Pearl of the Caribbean in the south of the island. Coconut Bay also has plans for a 200-room expansion expected to employ a minimum of 400 persons during construction and an additional 320 jobs on completion. Other major investments include the Fairmont Saint Lucia Resort in Choiseul, Curio by Hilton in Rodney Bay, Honeymoon Bay Resort in Cannelles, Vieux Fort, the Range Development’s Black Bay Project, and Sandals Resorts International’s addition of a fourth resort.
Government also looks forward to the implementation of the National Apprenticeship Program, and new agricultural opportunities for generating income and employment in rural areas by expanding and diversifying production. A road infrastructure program is also expected to increase employment with restorative works to be carried out throughout the island over five years.
Prime Minister Chastanet said the aim of the government is to create an enabling environment for the growth of entrepreneurship, and to support the private sector by providing incentives, enhancing government support services, improving efficiency in the public sector, and addressing the existing skills gap.
“We are currently working on a comprehensive incentives package that will create employment within the private sector and provide much needed support to businesses within Saint Lucia,” he said.