Free movement of skilled workers could be a gamechanger in the Caribbean
CASTRIES, ST. LUCIA — The government of St. Lucia is hoping that a firm date for the full enactment of CARICOM’s Single Market and Economy (CSME) will be a “shot in the arm” for the region’s labour market.
This comes on the heels of the 45th Heads of Government meeting for CARICOM Member-States, during which representatives from the 15 Member-States met to discuss matters of interest.
CARICOM’s CSME has been long awaited throughout the region.
The initiative proposes to allow the free movement of skilled workers across participating countries, allowing them to take advantage of work opportunities without the kind of restrictions other immigrant workers would face.
In a statement summarizing the discussions of that meeting, and emphasizing its seemingly staunch support for the programme, the government of St. Lucia said: “Citizens of Saint Lucia and of other CARICOM Member-States would be looking closely to the date of March 31, 2024, as a possible milestone for the region.
“The Conference of Heads of Government…agreed to work towards the free movement of all CARICOM nationals within the community by that date.”
It added, “This most recent decision by the Heads of Government, if implemented, could perhaps give a much-needed shot in the arm to the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.”
More workers wanted across the Caribbean
The government of St. Lucia expressed a particular desire to see an expansion of the category of workers allowed to move freely from one Caribbean country to another to seize job opportunities available to them.
It noted that, currently, there has been limited implementation of CSME among participating states.
So far, only a select category of skilled people have been allowed to move freely among participating countries. These include:
- Graduates with university or college degrees
- Media workers
- Athletes and other sports professionals
- Creative workers (artists, musicians and other artisans)
- Domestic workers
However, the government noted the region’s labour force stands to benefit once the programme is opened to a wider range of workers.
Especially in what has been described as a “tight” labour market, and amidst continued high rates of skilled workers immigrating abroad while contention over expatriate workers remains, full enactment of CSME has vast potential to be a game-changer in the region.
Not all countries support CSME
The 15 CARICOM Member-States include Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago.
CARICOM Associate Member-States include Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Cayman and Turks & Caicos.
However, it should be noted that not all CARICOM Member-States or Associate-States have agreed to participate in the CSME initiative.
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