McClashie: 'It's not my job to give you a job'

Minister of Labour Stephen McClashie -
Minister of Labour Stephen McClashie -

MINISTER of Labour Stephen McClashie said his ministry has done its part to provide employment opportunities to citizens even though it's not necessarily its job to do so.

Contributing to the 2023 budget debate in Parliament on Tuesday, the MP for La Brea said creating jobs is a multifaceted exercise of the public and private sector, and the government has delivered in this respect.

McClashie said, "As Minister of Labour, citizens say to me all the time, 'When are we getting jobs? You are the Minister of Labour and, therefore, it is within your power to give me a job.'

"Well, I say to them, as I say to those within the sound of my voice, it doesn't quite happen like that. To create jobs requires a couple of things...and these things must work in synergy."

He said job creation includes government policies, legislation, the execution of fiscal incentives and plans in areas, including education, training, business expansion, direct investment, job placement, productivity, technology (digitisation) and national security.

"When we examine the 2023 budget, we can only agree that this government considered all the elements that are required to usher in opportunity and prosperity."

McClashie spoke on reports from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which he said, reflect well on TT compared to many states around the region and the world.

"(The 2021 ILO report) noted that two years after the onset of the pandemic, a deep crisis occurred in the labour markets of Latin America and the Caribbean. As a result, economic recovery has been insufficient to return employment to its 2019 pre-covid levels."

McClashie added that the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, in its Economic Outlook 2021, reiterated that active labour market policies are vital in shaping labour-market recovery from the covid19 crisis.

"(It further) insisted that it is critical to connect people to jobs, through effective training, providing assistance to companies, to retain and recruit staff and providing comprehensive support to people with major employment obstacles.

McClashie referred to the ILO's World Employment and Social Outlook 2022, which says the global social outlook is uncertain and fragile.

"A return to pre-pandemic levels is likely to remain elusive for much of the world across the coming years, according to this report," he said. "Additionally, it is reported that the rise of commodities and essential goods, while labour markets remain far from recovered, significantly reduces disposable income, and thereby adds to the crisis."

Latest data from the Central Statistical Office, he noted, shows local unemployment rising from four per cent in the first quarter of 2019 to 6.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2021, but it subsequently decreased to five per cent in the first quarter of 2022.

"It is important to note that prior to the pandemic, the employment rate in Trinidad and Tobago was very low, especially when compared to the ILO estimates of regional employment in the region of eight per cent in 2018 and 8.1 per cent in 2019.

"In comparison, we are in a better place than our neighbours and indeed most of the world. It is clear that a human-centred approach to recovery from the 2019 pandemic, which puts focus on people and their work, is required."

He applauded his and other ministries' contribution to addressing unemployment.

"Mr Deputy Speaker...the contribution of the Ministry of Labour to the human-centred recovery through our integrated employment policy response to the challenges confronting us.

"The importance of sustainable employment generation is a rapidly changing and technologically advanced context is underscored in the budget."

He said the government continues to help the most vulnerable through its many social programmes, but is undermined by the opposition.

"You know, many people have said that they have applied for these grants and they don't get them, but may I say to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that many people have, in fact, received those grants."

He said UNC MPs were "quite adept" at getting their people to access these grants but then made it sound as if the grants were for PNM supporters only.

"(So) when I hear the narrative that this government don't care about poor people...I often wonder if I'm in Cuckoo Land or something."

McClashie also lauded Finance Minister Colm Imbert's approach in the budget.

"I wish to recognise the Honourable Minister of Finance's courage for tabling a budget that is reflective of our national, social and economic environmental realities, while treating with those decisions essential for our recovery."

McClashie commended Imbert and his team "for bringing to the population a fiscal package, the theme of which speaks to the strength and solidarity of a government and a people facing multiple crises, indicative of an approach of human-centred recovery from the covid19 pandemic."


"McClashie: ‘It’s not my job to give you a job’"

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