Overseas Employment
Thursday, June 02, 2016

CHAPTER ONE              

  CARIBBEAN SINGLE MARKET AND ECONOMY

The concept of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) is the continuation of an evolutionary process that began with the establishment of the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) in 1968.  CARIFTA facilitated growth in trade within the English-speaking Caribbean, as there was a reduction in import duties and quantity restrictions.  In 1972, the region decided to deepen the integration movement and CARIFTA was converted into the Caribbean Common Market.  This was formalised with the Treaty of Chaguaramas in 1973.  The Treaty expanded the areas of co-operation from trade to include health, agriculture, tourism, other productive sectors and telecommunications.  In addition, the participating countries agreed to have a co-ordinated approach to foreign policy. 

 

During the 1980’s there was increased globalisation of the world economy and this resulted in a re-assessment of the region’s integration process.  Consequently, in 1989 the Treaty of Chaguaramas was revised through nine protocols to facilitate the establishment of the CSME.  The objective is to improve CARICOM’s chances of survival by transforming the countries from small vulnerable individual states to a regional economic space, by facilitating the pooling of all their resources (including human resources).  It is anticipated that this will provide benefits such as a larger market for trade, a larger labour market and economies of scale in production thereby allowing firms in the Community to be more competitive.

 

Labour and the CSME

Labour is recognised as an important component of the CSME and one of the goals to provide the foundations for mobile labour force by the integration of labour markets.  Under Article 45, the Treaty of Chaguaramas states that the ultimate goal of the CSME is to have free movement of nationals throughout the region.  This is being initiated with provisions for the free movement of skilled persons such as university graduates, media workers, sports persons, artistes and musicians.  Protocol II along with Articles 32 and 34 also facilitate the free movement of services and additional skills.  They expand the free movement of skilled persons to include:

  • managerial, technical and supervisory staff, their spouses and immediate family members; as well as
  • self-employed persons involved in commercial, industrial, agricultural, professional and artisan work.

 

The Treaty seeks through Article 63, to ensure that the labour market will be responsive to the CSME’s needs by stipulating that:

  • human resource development measures are to be implemented to provide support to the region’s attempts to improve its competitiveness in the development, production and delivery of goods and services;
  • the region should foster an environment which encourages entrepreneurship;
  • education and training should be strengthened through non-traditional modes such as distance learning; and
  • the curricula for education and training institutions should be developed to meet the specific needs of industries.

 

Improved productivity is vital to the region’s survival.  Article 67.3.(b)  and (c) indicate that one of the objectives of the CSME is to create an environment for enhanced efficiency in the production and delivery of the region’s goods and services.  This is to be achieved by enhancing the productivity of the regional labour force.  Additionally, Articles 67.5 and 67.6 provide for the establishment of regional and national bodies that to set and regulate the standards for processing, production, packaging and labelling.  This means that one area of focus should be the establishment of organisations that will focus on improving labour productivity.

 

Article 73 recognises the importance of industrial relations.  It states that member states should implement measures that promote harmonious, stable and enlightened industrial relations.  The Article also encourages collective bargaining, tripartite consultations and improved living and working conditions.  In addition, each participating territory is to respect the rights of all of the Community’s workers and treat them fairly regardless of nationality.

 

Social Security under the CSME

In order for the CSME to be successful, attempts have been made to minimise the possibility of persons losing social security benefits as they capitalise on opportunities in the region.  Article 46.2.(b).(iv) of the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas calls for the “harmonization and transferability of social security benefits”.  Another article [Article 75.2(b)] indicates that reciprocal social security agreements should be negotiated by the member states.  It should be noted, however, that the CSME only addresses the transferability of long term social security benefits. 

Subsequent to the signing of the revised treaty, a CARICOM Agreement on Social Security was signed.  This agreement outlines the social security benefits of migrant CARICOM workers and seeks to ensure equal treatment as they move from one member state to another.  It allows for benefits to be determined and payments made based on all the contributions made to several different social security organisations.  This will ensure that persons who are retiring do not suffer a decline in income due to insufficient contribution periods to any one social security organisation.  Article 2 of the CARICOM Agreement indicates that it covers:

  • invalidity pension;
  • disablement pension;
  • survivors’ pension;
  • death benefits in the form of pension; and
  • old age and retirement pension.

The social security provisions of the CSME are also positive for the governments as it lessens the likelihood of people becoming dependent on the state. It is also anticipated that it will result in the enlargement of the contribution bases of social security organisations in countries that have net increases in immigration.  Another advantage of the expanded contribution base is that it will decrease the dependency ratio (that is the number of younger persons contributing to social security to support the retirees).  In addition, the CSME will provide more investment opportunities for social security funds.

 

Areas of Focus for the ministry of Labour and Social Security

The Foreign Nationals and Commonwealth Citizens (Employment) Act, 1964 has been amended to facilitate Jamaica’s participation in the CSME.  In addition, CARICOM nationals who qualify under the Caribbean Community (Free Movement of Skilled Persons) Act, 1997 are exempted from work permit.  Workers in this category can now move freely to another Member State and enjoy the benefits and rights regarding conditions of work and employment as those given to national workers.  It should be noted that CARICOM nationals are not required to pay a fee for the processing of their Certificate of Recognition.  To date, 49 Certificates of Recognition have been issued to Jamaicans seeking employment under the CSME.  Additionally, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security has issued 308 Certificates of Recognition to CARICOM nationals who have sought employment in Jamaica.

Provisions will be in place to harmonise and transfer social security gains for persons who qualify under the Caribbean Community (Free Movement of Skilled Persons) Act, 1997.  The CSME does not affect the portability of pensions.  In fact, eight claim applications have already been submitted to the Ministry under this agreement.  Under the CARICOM Social Security Agreement, pension contributions will be totalised and benefits dispensed to the individuals irrespective of their nationality.  The Ministry has in place an International Social Security Unit that is responsible for taking care of the benefits that fall under the umbrella of the CARICOM agreement.  This Unit also administers agreements with Quebec, Canada and the United Kingdom.

 

Plans for the Future

The Ministry of Labour and Social Security has been in dialogue with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and foreign Trade to discuss other social security benefits that are not included in the reciprocal agreement.  This will include the examination of social security assistance including those under the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH) for example.

Regarding the Certificate of Recognition, Member States are currently negotiating to have a standard certificate which will be easily recognisable.  This certificate will bear the CARICOM logo.  The contents of the certificate are however still being examined.

In keeping with Article 73 of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security recognizes the importance of harmonizing the labour laws of the region and is in the process of examining the relevant laws.  A legal team from the Ministry, as well as the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) and the Jamaica Employers’ Federation (JEF) will be reviewing these laws at the Labour Advisory Committee (LAC) level. 

In addition, the Ministry will be embarking on an intense public education programme during this financial year.  Efforts will be made to enlighten the public on the CSME, how it will impact on labour and the endeavors made by the Ministry to address the implications of the integration.

The CSME has implications for the human and social development of the region.  This integration is expected to create opportunities for the region as it increases competitiveness and removes barriers to trade, services, goods, capital and people.  The Ministry of Labour and Social Security therefore plays an important role in this development, particularly as it relates to the free movement of people.     

 

CARICOM Skill Certificates Issued by the Competent Authority

in JAMAICA: 2015/2016

 

 

 

MEMBER STATES

 

 

INDIVIDUALS

Trinidad & Tobago

9

St. Kitts & Nevis

0

Jamaica

346

Barbados

5

Antigua

0

Guyana

8

St. Vincent

0

St. Lucia

1

Grenada

0

Belize

3

Dominica

2

TOTAL

374