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BEC backs Govt’s plan to retrain jobless

Bermuda Employers’ Council welcomed Government’s plans to retrain unemployed workers as it noted the Island unemployment problem spreads wide.

BEC, which has previously estimated 3,000 people have lost jobs in a two-year period, said the recent Unemployment Registration Drive represents a start as Government tries to evaluate the seriousness of the jobs picture.

Economy Minister Kim Wilson had revealed 1,081 people registered at the drive, with a median age of 38.

Yesterday, BEC director Martin Law, who has been calling for up-to-date national employment figures, said the findings were no surprise and urged Government to press on with plans to stimulate the economy.

Meanwhile Shadow Justice Minister Trevor Moniz argued the results were little more than theatre and repeated the Opposition’s call for Government to produce the actual unemployment figure.

Mr Moniz added Government is not able to help by stimulating the economy because its handling of the public purse has been so poor.

Mr Law told

The Royal Gazette: “Although, as the Minister states, this information is not the definitive word on total unemployment, it is certainly useful information. The more solid data that is collected the better, and this information and collection method can be built upon and expanded. The categories of unemployed and underemployed identified are in line with what we would have expected.

“I believe the Minister has been frustrated by the lack of solid data and this effort has been a step in the right direction. I do not read much into the median age. Fifty percent are younger and 50 percent are older than 38, which only indicates that the spread is wide.

“The BEC looks forward to the next stage of Government’s efforts directed towards retraining, job placement and plans to stimulate the economy.”

Junior Finance Minister David Burt announced on Wednesday that up to 30 unemployed construction workers will be given jobs doing work for the Ministry of Government Estates and Information, while 72 Bermudians will be given training and employment opportunities through a Government and Bermuda College initiative.

Meanwhile people aged 17 to 25 will work restoring historic properties on a youth apprenticeship scheme.

Mr Moniz said in a statement: “We are sure there is some value in the Government’s unemployment registration drive. A Government that learns more about the pressures people face, the better it can formulate and adjust policies to help them.

“What we are not confident about is what the Government can do with the information learned from its unemployment registration drive.

“We say that because the drive itself does not provide conclusive information on just how many Bermudians are actually unemployed and underemployed. From experience elsewhere, we know that there are many unemployed individuals who will simply not respond to a registration drive.

“But a conclusive figure is the difference between a government providing updates on a ‘situation’, as it has done this week, to a government responding to a crisis with resources to help those most in need.

“We think there is an unemployment crisis in Bermuda today, unlike anything in living memory. And we know that the Government, just when it is supposed to step in and help, cannot do so because its mishandling of the public purse seriously weakened its ability to stimulate job creation and provide relief.

“We also see the registration drive as more theatre than substance. Yes, the Government will have collected names and information on individuals affected, but surely the point is to find out Bermuda’s actual unemployment rate, something that virtually all developed countries keep track of. This is especially disconcerting when the Government has the means and the reach to more accurately determine the unemployment rate in Bermuda, a statistic that if measured regularly, would give everyone a better handle on whether our economy was improving or in fact, getting worse.

“To figure it out, we recommend quarterly polling information cross checked against payroll tax returns and social insurance payments. Do that and the results will probably show unemployment closer to ten to 12 percent. To date, the Government has been too slow and reluctant to collect data and too slow to act. We need action, informed action. Knowing the unemployment rate is a critical component of effective action.”

In the BEC’s quarterly newsletter, released this week, Mr Law called for Bermuda to accept it is now faced with a new economic world order.

“This needs everyone, business, workers, Government and the man in the street, to accept that there has been a massive shift in our economic reality,” he wrote. “After acceptance of a new reality the next step is engaging in a national dialogue on how to meet this challenge.

“No one sector can fix the problem alone. Government can’t solve it, business can’t solve it and workers can’t solve it. But collectively we have a better chance. “Job creation and retention is key and the private sector is the only place that this can happen meaningfully, so Government needs to incentivise job creation and retention.”

He called for a better link-up between schools and employers, and for Government to give incentives to entrepreneurs.

“We need to produce school and college leavers with the skills and attitude that will enable their employability,” he said. “This can only happen with more direct involvement of the employer community in our education system. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone but it has a strong history and presence in Bermuda which should be encouraged and supported.

“This is particularly true today when more traditional employment relationships are giving way to more of the outsourcing, individual contractor type of relationship.

“Signs are that full-time employment will become less of the norm and this is already happening. We need to reduce the bureaucratic costs and restrictions on businesses and incentivise employment to create an environment where business wants to start up and expand.

“Young people are particularly vulnerable in today’s job market and it is here where incentivising employment through tax breaks would bear most fruit.

“There is a new economic reality unfolding and we must accept this openly and honestly if we are to deal with it. At the end of the day only Bermuda can deal with Bermuda’s economy. No one else will do it for us and only our competitors will care if we fail. Survival and economic success is up to all of us.”

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Published August 05, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated August 05, 2011 at 9:42 am)

BEC backs Govt’s plan to retrain jobless

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