By Ian Van Buren
At a news conference on September 5, Labor and Social Security Minister Derrick Kellier explained that work permits were not being given out to international (mostly Chinese) workers over Jamaicans. “The business of permits falls under the control of the Ministry of Labour and we do administer a rigorous regime in this regard; in doing so we take an account of certain conditionalities such as investment, economic growth and employment opportunities,” Kellier said. Jamaica is in the midst of economic turmoil, and cannot afford to allow its already staggering unemployment rate to continue to rise.
During the period of April 2012 to July 2013, there were 4,098 work permits distributed by Kellier’s department. Of those 4,098 permits, 1,741 (43 percent) were issued to Chinese nationals. Jamaican workers, especially those searching for work, were very upset over this news, however Kellier and his ministry insist that job postings must be advertised locally so that Jamaicans have the first opportunity in filling positions.
Kellier also explained that locals should understand that the high number of Chinese nationals working on the island is a measure of Chinese investment. “In other words, qualified and skilled Jamaicans are always given preference over foreigners. Jamaica is constantly in search of investments and in fact one of the major priorities of government is to promote and encourage investments that have the potential not only for economic growth but also for employment opportunities.”
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