Caribbean labour market improvement hinged upon pandemic response

By Rayne Morgan

LACAC — With economies slowly beginning to rebound as coronavirus mitigation efforts continue globally, a recent United Nations (UN) report noted that the Caribbean labour market is poised to improve throughout the remainder of the year.

However, several international organizations, including the UN, have cautioned that recovery could be hampered if the COVID-19 pandemic worsens.

The UN 2021 World Economic Situation Prospects: Latin America & Caribbean report noted, “As movement restrictions are gradually easing, labour markets have started to improve and this trend is expected to continue in 2021.

“While employment gains, especially in some of the hardest-hit countries, are expected to lift household spending and buttress the recovery, some of the damage to labour markets…will not be quickly reversed and will leave lasting scars.”

According to the report, this region is “projected to see a moderate recovery in 2021 and 2022”. But it also outlined that “recovery from a historic recession will be uneven and fragile” as “resurgence of infection rates could lead to a renewed tightening of containment measures”.

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    The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) similarly noted in its 2021 Latin American and Caribbean Macroeconomic Report that while growth is expected to reach 4.1 percent this year, such recovery assumes countries continue to open up, vaccine rollouts proceed smoothly and global economies begin achieving widespread immunity to COVID-19.

    A rollback to strict measures, including lockdowns, “would allow for only 0.8 percent growth in selected countries in 2021”, the report noted.

    Like the UN, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) also expects an increase in labour market participation in the region for 2021, projecting that it will improve by 3.4 percentage points, from 57.7 percent in 2020 to 61.1 percent in 2021. But the ECLAC likewise underscored that progress will depend on how well countries are able to battle the pandemic and its effects.

    To this end, Director of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Decent Work Team and Office for the Caribbean has urged all countries in the region to focus on a “human-centered” recovery.

    “This means prioritizing employment, income and social protection, workers’ rights, social dialogue and accounting for new elements accelerated by the recent crisis,” he said.

    “Those include changes related to technology and work arrangements, such as, for example, digitalization and teleworking, as well as the challenges that go with them, such as connectivity gaps and digital literacy.”

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    United Nations World Economic Situation Prospects: Latin America & Caribbean —

    Inter-American Development Bank Latin American and Caribbean Macroeconomic Report —

    Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean Recovery Paradox —

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