T&T ‘invisible’ unemployed | Local company
In the 2021 budget, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said the government’s goal was to boost jobs. But what exactly is the state of unemployment in Trinidad and Tobago? And if this figure is not readily available, how does a government adequately plan to create opportunities for the unemployed?
LAST week, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said the government had reviewed 21,656 applications for wage relief grants in 2021.
The wage relief grants, valued at $ 1,500, were to support private sector workers whose jobs were affected by public health measures imposed by the government in its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic at T&T .
The grant covered the period May-July.
“As of September 10, 2021, payments had been made to 6,560 eligible applicants. The process continues, ”Imbert told Parliament.
The difference between the number of people applying for the grant and those receiving payments is 15,096 people, all from the private sector in service industries.
There is little data or research to give an accurate picture of these applicants: if they do not receive financial support from the state, how do they cover their living expenses? The impact of lockdowns, the actual number of people who have lost their jobs or the number of businesses that have closed their doors and left workers unemployed are also suffering from a lack of data and research.
The National Statistical Institute project, a proposal in preparation for years, is still before a special joint committee of Parliament.
As it stands, the Central Statistical Office (CSO) is the official source of T&T data.
The latest data it released showed an unemployment rate of 5.1% for the second quarter of 2020.
With the country’s total labor force at 604,100, CSO data has 31,100 unemployed and 21,300 identified as unemployed and seeing work.
In the category “Other unemployed” in the graph above, the figure rises to 9,000.
In September 2020, the Sunday Express sent questions to the Ministry of Labor to determine if it had data on how the pandemic had affected jobs in the country.
In December 2020, they replied: “The ministry is currently preparing a report focusing on the impact of Covid-19 on employment in the country. Data extracted from social grant applications filed with the NIB and the Ministry of Social Development will be used in the report. In addition, similar reports prepared by other stakeholders will be used to complete this report.
In response to a question from the Sunday Express, Minister of Labor Stephen McClashie said: “The Department of Labor is not the source of truth about unemployment statistics at T&T. This is the CSO.
He said what the ministry is doing is entering information about vacant positions in the public services and layoff notices.
The Central T&T Bank collects data on the basis of business closures. For example, when Petrotrin closed, there was a specific figure on job cuts and layoff notices in the dailies.
The Central Bank’s May Monetary Policy Report, released on July 16, observed that “the labor market slowdown continues to spread to the economy despite the partial reopening.”
“The constraints on economic activity were also reflected in the labor market, with layoffs reaching 2,744 people in 2020 against 1,530 people in 2019,” the bank said in its 2020 Financial Stability Report, which reported was released on August 3.
This report noted that there was significant exposure of financial institutions to the household sector.
“Household debt contracted for the first time since its compilation (2003) due to containment measures linked to the pandemic and the resulting slowdown in economic activity. Nonetheless, the stock remained high at around 48 percent of the banking sector’s loan portfolio.
“Rising unemployment and falling income levels, exacerbated by further restrictions, may have increased the financial sector’s vulnerability to households. While extended loan deferral programs have helped cushion the immediate shock to banks’ financial soundness indicators, the quality and profitability of assets can be compromised as loan obligations mature after the end of the moratoriums. “, did he declare.
In an interview with Newsday in 2019, CSO director Sean O’Brien said workforce statistics were notoriously late due to the difficulty of obtaining data.
“If the non-response rate is too low, we have to replace this sample because the data quality is unreliable. We have to replace this neighborhood with another and then start over, ”he said.
Labor force statistics, for example, are supposed to come out quarterly, with no more than two quarters late. In T&T, they are four quarters behind.
“People think that if the labor statistics are late, it is just that the CSO does not publish them. But the CSO cannot just invent the data. We have to get it back from the source and if the source doesn’t cooperate you are going to have these delays. We cannot provide you with data that is not accurate. As you can imagine, precision and timeliness are at war in this industry.
So how does public sector employment compare?
Public sector workers received their full pay throughout the pandemic. In his 2021 budget, Imbert said the government would seek to fill all vacant positions in the civil service.
“Madam President, in this post-pandemic era, we are improving the efficiency of the public sector apparatus. With the increase in technology, digitization and digitization, we are improving the performance of the public sector while controlling the growth in spending.
“As we take various approaches to reform key institutional arrangements, using an e-governance ecosystem, we will transform workforce human resource management arrangements, change budgeting practices and procedures, and introduce results-based approaches to policy implementation.
“Madam President, we were able to reduce our annual public spending to around $ 50 billion, of which $ 10 billion was funneled into the direct public service of approximately 62,300 people. In addition, transfers to statutory authorities and state enterprises represent over 12,000 additional employees.
“As a first step, and in the context of our situation of limited income, we are freezing the filling of all vacant positions in the public sector,” he said.
Imbert, in his Spotlight on Contribution to Budget 2020, said public sector wages and salaries cost taxpayers at least $ 20 billion per year, or about $ 1.5 to $ 1.7 billion per month. .
This includes direct charges, earmarked funds, transfers and grants, and statutory advice, and excludes the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).
In the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) Second Quarterly Caribbean Bulletin for 2020, an article titled “The Pandemic Continues” noted strong pressures in the T&T labor market due to Covid-19, with particularly severe conditions. difficult for low-income households.
The IDB collected data from an online survey, in collaboration with Cornell University, which showed that 67% of low-income survey participants suffered job loss during the Covid lockdown -19, compared to only 23% of high-income households and 49 percent of middle-income households.
The survey also mapped business closures, with 60 percent and 59 percent of low- and middle-income businesses closing, compared with 45 percent among high-income businesses.
The report notes that labor supply has also been strongly affected, observing that during the period January to May 2020, only 180 daily job vacancies were posted in the non-energy sector, i.e. half the number for the same period last year where 340 daily ads were posted. checked in.
The report notes, however, that recent and high-frequency data on unemployment is “unfortunately lacking”, so it is not easy to estimate the employment impacts of the Covid-19 crisis.
The survey also showed that government social programs have expanded, with more people able to access measures put in place to respond to the Covid-19 crisis, including food cards, relief grants. wages and unemployment and rent assistance. But, according to the IDB, there is also room to improve targeting, as middle- and high-income households have received social benefits.
The report concluded that the Covid-19 crisis is likely to have medium-term economic consequences, which could involve sluggish economic growth, rising unemployment, rising public debt and sustained pressure on the country’s external accounts.
“While Trinidad and Tobago has substantial financial reserves – the Heritage and Stabilization Fund, significant public sector assets, liquid sinking funds – to maintain macroeconomic stability in the short term, these policies are not more affordable in the medium term.
“Engaging in economic diversification, improving the ease of doing business, improving public sector governance, mobilizing non-energy revenues and rationalizing public spending will be needed in the future. At the same time, there is a need to protect the poor and the vulnerable from the negative economic consequences of the Covid-19 crisis, ”he said.