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UWI economist Dr Roger Hosein estimates that shedding some of the workforce of state subsidised employment programmes like Cepep and URP could push T&T’s unemployment rate to over ten per cent. In his contribution to a recent pre-budget forum, Hosein cited to a table of statistics which showed a rapid increase in the size of the employment in the construction sector and “all other sectors”.
“Significantly, it is in this categorization that Cepep and URP workers are counted and indeed if these sectors were to shed 80 per cent of their labour force, which is my estimation of the surplus labour force therein, the national unemployment rate will probably climb above ten per cent,” he told participants at a pre-budget breakfast series hosted by the T&T Group of Professional Association at the Queen's Park Oval.
As he laid out his “budget wish list”, Hosein argued that too much of the work force is heavily influenced by the public service. “I am estimating around eight per cent to ten per cent is employed in the ‘make work’ sectors and these sectors have expanded too quickly, to the extent that the public sector now has too defined a role to play in labour market outcomes that is technically unhealthy. This has to be monitored. The public sector needs to back down a bit from such a heavy participation in the labour market,” he said.
He added that T&T needs to build stronger ties with Caricom and countries from the Far East. “At the same time there is merit in paying more attention to an enhanced intra Caricom supply of labour, especially skilled, to help the domestic economy bridge gaps between its slowly growing labour force with imported labour. By supporting the CSME process and wooing more regional sources for a supply of skilled labour this would help to boost the revitalisation of the CSME process, which seems to be on pause as it stands,” he said.
Hosein praised the eTeck industrial park concept which he said could have a positive spin off effect of even more industrialisation. “Sir Arthur Lewis . . . indicated that industries are like sheep, they are gregarious and like to move together and so on this logic if we get these E-Teck parks going they have the capacity to promote even further manufacturing sector activity,” he said.
He called for more incentives for local manufacturers, suggesting that measures be put in place to “motivate more manufacturing sector employment that has a greater productivity coefficient than services”. “The flow of labour to agriculture and manufacturing has to be enhanced to improve the economic diversification of the economy,” Hosein said.