Wednesday 20 November, 2019

ECA, TTMA: Migrant workers can help fix labour shortage

Flashback: National Security Minister Stuart Young  presents a Venezuelan National with her Registration Card. Photo: National Security Ministry.

Flashback: National Security Minister Stuart Young presents a Venezuelan National with her Registration Card. Photo: National Security Ministry.

Urgent focus must be placed on identifying the labour supply and quality shortage that currently exists in T&T’s labour force and determining how and where migrant workers can help resolve them.

This, from the Employers Consultative Association (ECA) and the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) as they say with the growing number of migrant workers present, serious consideration must be given to effective management, wise decision making on the part of employers, Government agencies and the citizenry at large with the number of issues and challenges brought to the fore.

At a joint sensitisation session on opportunities and challenges of labour migration for Trinidad and Tobago hosted at the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business on Wednesday, both agencies agreed that the temporary work status granted to Venezuelan migrants presented a number of opportunities as a solution to the current labour shortage, but urgent attention was required in the areas of compliance with statutory and legislative requirements.

Raising quantity and quality concerns, the TTMA said migrant labour presents itself as a real opportunity but will only bring resolution with affirmative answers to the questions that arise.

“It therefore stands to reason that proper assessment of administrative requirements, management issues, costs and benefits involved must be done to ensure that our businesses and the country at large are attaining net overall gains that will serve to increase national output and strengthen our capacity to move beyond currently undesirable economic conditions,” the TTMA said.

Noting the importance of human capital to the workplace, the TTMA noted that migrant labour forming part of the local workforce predates Government’s decision to allow Venezuelans the opportunity to reside and work in T&T for a specific timeframe.

The construction and medical sectors are major examples of this, having been staffed with migrant workers from Asia, India, African and other regions.

It noted issues of income tax, and the handling of national insurance and other statutory payments remain of concern following the decision to allow Venezuelan migrants to work in T&T for up to a year.

For businessowners, the TTMA noted that considerations include competencies and skills and the work ethic and overall productivity prospective migrant workers would bring; overcoming potential cultural and language barriers, cost and requirements of training and possible security risks presented by these workers to these organisations.

On a national level, the TTMA raised additional concerns about border control and management, and whether policies were being developed to encourage and incentivise greater bilingual competencies such and Spanish and English.

The ECA noted that the situation was one that required urgent attention as T&T could stand to benefit from the opportunities presented by a migrant workforce.

It noted that research suggests that migrant workers contribute to the economies of host countries over the long term, whilst simultaneously boosting the economies in their home countries by their remittances.

In this regard, it echoed the sentiments of the TTMA as it said with over 50,000 migrants in Trinidad and Tobago, Government must ensure the formulation of policies and mechanisms to better manage labour migration, especially given the recent migrant registration exercise and the continued illegal entry of persons into the country.

It hoped to begin a conversation on addressing challenges affecting migrant workers, including conditions for work, discrimination, little social protection and vulnerability to exploitation and human trafficking.

“One of the biggest challenges today is a formulation of policies and mechanisms to better manage labour migration, so that it contributes positively to the growth and development of both home and host countries in societies, as well as advance the wellbeing of the migrants themselves. This area is one the ECA believes needs urgent attention.”

The ECA said while compliance with statutory and legislative requirements was an area of concern, of greater concern was the ability of employers to integrate the migrants into the workplace, while avoiding discrimination or reverse discrimination, as well as addressing the obvious and less evident challenges, opportunities and responsibilities associated with migrant labour.

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