by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN) – The COVID-19 pandemic has spared no section of society, including the labour market.
During Day Two of the 2022 Budget Presentations, the Hon Wendy Phipps, Minister of International Trade, Commerce, Consumer Affairs and Labour, highlighted that the local situation mirrors the International Labour Organization (ILO), finding that 65 percent of the unemployed are women.
“What we’re recognising is that the large number of job losses that we’re seeing, at least 65 percent of them are jobs for women, especially mothers, single mothers, and that is of great concern to us. And as a result of that, by extension, we are also recognising that 65 percent of the recipients for the PAP are female-headed households. So we represent basically the same picture as a microcosm to what is happening in the international community,” said the senator on December 15.
Although the Government has sought to ease some of the financial burdens with millions invested in stimulus packages, the Government will have to continue providing support through programmes like the Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP).
“We are proposing that the 2022 estimates, Mr Speaker, provide the necessary resources to support the PAP, capitalised a Severance Payment Fund to facilitate payment of any additional severance claims. In this regard, EC$32.3 million and EC$5 million will be provided for the PAP and the Severance Payment Fund, respectively,” said Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon Dr Timothy Harris during his initial budget presentation on December 14.
In addition, severance claims have been paid since the shutdown of industries in 2020 and have continued for 2021.
The Minister of Labour provided an update on 2,561 claims made to the Severance Fund, which according to the Minister, has been in the red since 2011 because there is more being paid out than paid into the fund. This fact was reflected in the audit report for 2020.
“The total number of claims that we would have received to date is 2,561; total number of claims that are being processed at the moment is 1,277; total number of sevens claims processed today again 2,561; number of claims paid out 2,556; number of claims awaiting payment five and the total amount paid out since the pandemic started and for which persons became eligible for severance payment is EC$42,441,288.98.”
St. Kitts and Nevis participated in the 109th International Labour Conference, and through those discussions, two key areas were highlighted as needing focus, skills and life-long working and inequalities in the world of work.
To address those areas, the Ministry of Labour has decided to adopt seven action plans to be implemented in 2022.
“These seven areas are promoting employment creation, fostering equal opportunity, ensuring adequate protection for all workers, accelerating the transition from informal trading to formal business operations, ensuring gender equality and non-discrimination, promoting equality and diversity and inclusion, and the last two realising universal social protection and promoting trade and development for freer globalisation and shared prosperity.”