EDITORIAL: Worry over work permits

THE issue of work permits has been a very contentious one and for a long time. Last week a letter writer to this newspaper dealt with the subject when he queried why so many work permits were being sought to bring foreign workers into Barbados. It surfaced again yesterday during the CBC’s public affairs programme, Walter Point Two. In that programme one of the co-hosts, who referred to the letter, believed that it is not something that can be ignored, assuming that is the case, for much longer. He referenced the proposed revenues which the Government anticipates it will obtain from the issuing of work permits and from the applications. An amount of just over $900 00 is earmarked from applications, and a further $4 million from the work permits, are expected to flow into Government’s coffers this current year. Those amounts are highlighted in this year’s Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure passed in Parliament last March. However, despite this, there is the opinion that the 3 000 work permits which are anticipated for the current financial year are too high.
It is not uncommon to hear some Barbadians complain that they are unable to land jobs in Tourism and in Construction in particular, although they have all the credentials to fit the requirements for the positions being offered to outsiders.

While some of the allegations may have merit and have affected those looking for employment, there are certain aspects about Barbados which cannot be ignored even if they are not palatable to the affected nationals. Even as the Government continues to grapple with severe economic difficulties, Barbados is still a very attractive place to live and to work. This would make it ideal for foreign investors and workers, and those companies which have moved to benefit from the prevailing environment. Barbados also has a population that is not growing, prides itself as part of a global economic system and a key player in the Caribbean integration movement. There are certain skills which are not available here even though one of the presenters on the CBC programme suggested that when that happens locals should be trained to create that pool of expertise that will prove useful at a later date. However, many will argue that given the present economic challenges, nationals would want priority.

A business consultant attached to an offshore company in Barbados agreed that she has heard complaints about the situation. The accountant said that what appears to be happening in many instances, is that job advertisements are structured in such a way to rule out locals being selected for the posts. Not being successful, applications are then made for work permits However, in urging some caution on the matter, she said that there are several Barbadians working in other countries.

Is this something Government needs to look into and to deal with? When this newspaper put the question to Labour Minister, Senator Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, she said that as Barbados creates jobs in the face of a population that is hardly growing, the country may have to look to migrant labourers not only to fill the positions, but to help prop up the National Insurance Fund. So it appears there is no real issue here.

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