The Nation, Sunday 27 February 2000
UNEMPLOYMENT in Barbados is at its lowest ever, 9.8 per cent.
It is the first time since records started being kept 25 years ago that it has fallen into single digits.
A confident Prime Minister Owen Arthur is again saying that full employment is attainable, although he would not be pinned down into setting a date by which it might be achieved.
"The reduction of the unemployment rate from over 25 per cent in the early 1990s to less than ten per cent is a major achievement, and Government is obviously very pleased with this accomplishment," he told the Sunday Sun.
According to statistics released by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs yesterday, the unemployment rate for the final quarter (October-December) of 1999, the unemployment rate stood at 9.8 per cent.
The statistics were obtained from the Continuous Household Sample Survey.
The fourth-quarter rate represents a drop of two percentage points over the corresponding period in 1998. The unemployment rate for men dropped by 1.6 percentage points to 6.7 per cent, while female unemployment fell to 13.1 per cent from 15.6.
"Though fine progress has been made in reducing the unemployment among women, we still have to fine-tune our strategies to improve the lot of women and this we will do," Arthur promised.
The survey found that the labour force up to the end of the year comprised 135 500 people - 2 300 more than the corresponding quarter for 1998. Of that total, 122 200 were employed - 4 800 more than for the last three months of 1998.
There was also a drop in the number of "inactive" people - from 68 300 to 65 700 at the end of 1999.
The main employment sources continue to be Government (permanent and pensionable workers) and general services (all other workers paid by Government). These sectors employed 26 500 and 23 900 people, respectively.
Other major employers were in the distributive sector (17 300) and construction and quarrying (13 700). The manufacturing sector employed 9 900 people while the tourism industry accounted for the jobs of 12 100 people.
"Our lowest unemployment rate has been achieved through the support of every sector of the Barbados society, especially the private sector, and the labour movement who through the social contract, contributed in a substantial way to a climate conducive to an achievement of this nature," said Arthur.