Flexible Labour Markets, Workers' Protection and Active Labour Market Policies in the Caribbean
Andrew S. Downes
This study examines the application of the flexicurity labour system in the Caribbean countries of Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. The flexicurity system has its origins in Denmark and combines elements of labour market flexibility with social security for workers. After outlining the elements of the system, the study provides an overview of the labour market in the Caribbean and compares the performance of Denmark with the three Caribbean countries. The comparison shows that there is a much lower level of flexibility and security in the three Caribbean states than in Denmark. The degree of labour market flexibility is examined in the Caribbean context and the discussion indicates that some limited degree of flexibility exist especially work time and functional flexibility. Some attempts have been made to introduce financial flexibility. Some small measure of social protection exists for displaced workers in the form of severance and redundancy pay. Only Barbados has an unemployment scheme which cover workers for up to six months of unemployment. Jamaica is planning to introduce an unemployment assistance scheme. In general, the social protection schemes for workers are weak in the region. In the area of active labour market policies, training programs have been the main area of activity with some provision of employment services for those looking for jobs. All the countries have targeted young persons since these face the bulk of the unemployment in the region. Social dialogue has been developing in the countries with Barbados being at the forefront of this arrangement at the national level. Jamaica has adopted a sectoral approach. While that flexicurity system has some attractive features its full implementation is limited in the Caribbean since the institutional framework has not been fully developed to sustain the implementation of the system and the costs of the system can be a burden to national governments. It is however possible those elements of the system can be applied to the Caribbean countries (and have been applied). Labour market reform in the region can however take elements of the system into consideration.