Increase in work permits not significant -labour minister
Labour and Social Security Minister Shahine Robinson is maintaining that the Government is committed to ensuring that priority is given to Jamaicans within the local labour force. The commitment comes after her ministry refused only 15 of the 5,717 applications it received for work permits last year.
According to data from the 2017 Economic and Social Survey for Jamaica (ESSJ), compiled by the Planning Institute of Jamaica and tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, 3,257 new applications for work permits and 2,460 applications for renewals were submitted to the ministry in 2017.
This represented an increase in total applications of 758 from the previous year.
Making her contribution to the sectoral debate in Parliament on Tuesday, Robinson said that the reopening of the Alpart bauxite/alumina refinery in Nain, St Elizabeth, construction of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Bogue, St James, and the expansion works at the port of Kingston, significantly impacted the overall numbers of permits issued.
She argued that many of the permits issued were for short periods ranging from three to six months.
"The projection is that there will be 15,000 new rooms (hotel) by 2021. With several projects well under way, significantly more projects than when the other side (PNP) was over here (In Government), road construction is happening on a scale and at a pace never before experienced by Jamaican citizens. Yet, Mr Speaker, there has been no significant increase in the number of permits granted to these companies," said Robinson.
"In fact, the highest number of permits granted in the area of construction during the period was in 2015 when 1,127 permits were granted compared to the period's average of 956," she added.
During his Sectoral Debate presentation earlier this month, Opposition Spokesman on Labour Horace Dalley argued that among other things, the labour ministry was issuing work permits to foreigners to play reggae music in local hotels while scores of Jamaican musicians needed employment.
Robinson rejected these claims.
"Mr Speaker, even with the addition of several hundred new hotel rooms, there has been a roughly one per cent increase in the number of permits granted within the tourism sector. The opposition is disingenuous in its innuendos that this government has been facilitating the entry of droves of foreign workers into the local hotel industry. Not so! And it could never happen under my watch," Robinson asserted.
The ESSJ shows that the demand for work permits was mainly for the wholesale and retail, repair of motor vehicles (986), construction and installation (570), and hotels and restaurant services (454).
The majority of the permits were reportedly given to professionals (2,553) and technicians (1,642).