THE PRIME Minister says immigrants are getting jobs which Trinidadians do not want.
He was speaking on Thursday night at Conversations with the Prime Minister at Exodus Panyard, Tunapuna.
One person who attended expressed concern about an influx of legal and illegal foreign workers and whether this would result in a reduction of contributions to the National Insurance System. Dr Rowley responded that illegal migration as a source of labour has its downsides, and that is one of them.
"Because if you get the work done and those people are not part of the contributory streams to the NIB, it means that NIB will lose revenue.
"But those jobs that the immigrants are taking up," he added, "let us face it, the only reason why they are getting those jobs in the first place is because local people don't want those jobs. If local people were taking up those jobs in an acceptable way, the immigrants mightn't even come here at all, because there might not have been opportunity for them to get encouraged."
He said an economy like TT, growing and developing and offering a decent standard of living "even though many people will tell you that we living in hell.
"We do have our problems, but rest assured that the conditions of life in TT are better than many, many places in the world."
Rowley said as people's quality of life improves and they move up the standard-of-living scale they leave behind the option to do certain jobs, and those jobs are usually picked up by some immigrant component.
"Whether it is Germany, France, England, Turkey, wherever some immigrants in the country can have a positive benefit in having those jobs filled."
He said the immigrants need to be in the legal circle so that if they get jobs they do make contributions to the economy.
"So that is how we have to approach it – reduce the number of illegals, while not being anti-immigrant. So we work towards that."
Rowley said many have the Venezuela situation "in their sights" and TT is seven miles from that country.
"There are a lot of things happening in Venezuela which have the effect of pushing some of the citizens out of their country. A few thousands of them have come here, some have come here illegally, and illegal migration has its problems. And we are mindful of that and keeping an eye on that situation."
But, he added, "It is not unmanageable and we hope it never gets there."