Formal jobs on the upswing in SVG

KINGSTOWN, ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES — A new report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has found that formal jobs in St. Vincent & the Grenadines are on a sharp incline after the COVID-19 pandemic.

This marked improvement is particularly noteworthy as many other Caribbean countries continue to struggle with informal employment, which international organizations such as the IMF and others have been strongly urging regional governments to address.

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Higher growth has improved employment figures. (Photo by Igor Vetushko on DepositPhotos)

“Formal employment surpassed pre-pandemic levels in 2022 and is estimated to have continued to grow in 2023, fueled by the recovery in tourism and higher demand in other services,” the IMF noted in its Staff Concluding Statement of the 2024 Article IV Mission on SVG.

The IMF conducts annual country consultations to assess the economic progress made by nations around the world. This concluding statement comes after it concluded its report on St. Vincent & the Grenadines.

In its report, the IMF said the nation’s economic growth accelerated from 3.1 percent in 2022 to 5.8 percent in 2023, driven largely by significant public and private investments and a robust recovery of tourism.

Informal employment had been on a concerning rise in the Caribbean region since the pandemic, as the near-total shutdown of tourism left thousands unemployed and forced to find other ways to feed their families and make a living.

However, organizations like the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) have pointed out the challenges created by this, as informal employment leaves Caribbean workers even more vulnerable to external shocks like the pandemic or extreme weather events — which are becoming increasingly frequent due to climate change.

To date, SVG has been one of the few Caribbean countries to effectively get a handle on informal employment and turn the figures around.

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    Youth unemployment challenges

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    Youth unemployment, especially among males, is a challenge. (Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels)

    Despite the positive growth the country has experienced, the IMF found room for improvement in youth unemployment figures.

    “Nevertheless, recent compounded shocks have left a lasting negative impact on employment of young men,” it said in its report.

    This challenge is not unique to SVG, as many of its neighbouring Caribbean nations have also experienced challenges with youth unemployment among males. Over in Jamaica, the situation has reached the point where government leaders have, on several occasions, publicly called for more young men to get off the streets and take up formal jobs.

    While the IMF acknowledged and applauded efforts on the part of St. Vincent’s government to address youth unemployment, such as curriculum reforms and technical training programmes, it also suggested areas for added efforts.

    “A well-functioning labour market, with skills attuned to market needs and higher participation, is critical for boosting productivity and employment, especially in view of the rapid population ageing,” the IMF report noted.

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