A ‘great debate’ on jobs and the economy is coming soon, states Minister
Bermuda will soon begin ”the great debate” on the issue of the economy and jobs, according to Economy Minister Kim Wilson.
In a recent address to the Sandys Rotary Club, Senator Wilson said a public discussion, involving both the international business sector and the public, would be announced soon.
“I want to explore with the electorate the matter of jobs, work permits, and the methods that should be used to protect Bermudian jobs,” she said.
“In the not-too-distant future you will hear more about a partnership between my Ministry and the International Business sector where we plan to engage in the great debate so that every Bermudian understands where we are today and is given an opportunity to provide their views.”
She said that there are several areas of contention between businesses and some sectors of the public that need to be addressed, such as the issue of work permits.
“Some argue that the moratorium on certain categories of work permits has a knock-on effect in the economy,” she said. “Yet those who are unemployed argue that Government is not doing enough to help them find and secure employment.”
She said Government hopes to expand the opportunities for Bermudians in the international business sector by making it easier for the companies to do business here by extending the maximum work permit to ten years for top executives and offering opportunities for residency for equity partners to provide a sense of belonging.
“Some suggest that Bermuda has a competitive advantage when it comes to quality of life, its location, well developed infrastructure, pleasant population and political stability.
“However, Bermuda does not allow anyone who invests in the Island to make it their home, while other jurisdictions do.”
At the same time, Government hopes to encourage Bermudians into fields that currently rely on foreign workers by placing moratoriums on work permits and providing training opportunities for locals.
One example she described was that of landscaping, one of the areas she said where a large number of work permits have been requested.
In order to help Bermudians take advantage of those jobs, she said she had recently unveiled a Certificate in Basic Horticulture endorsed by the National Training.
“It is intended that the graduates will advance to challenge a Red Seal (Canadian) or City and Guilds certification,” she said.
“With the introduction of this programme, we are not only addressing the need for skilled workers in this field, we are also decreasing the need for work permits and sustaining employability to enable businesses to continue with their operations.
“Programmes designed to produce greater numbers of skilled resources to provide industry with what they require is our primary focus. This extends beyond larger industries such as international business and starts to address the gaps in the support services as well.”
While there are enough jobs for the Bermudian work force, she said many Bermudians are not properly trained, or simply not willing to fill the available positions, forcing businesses to rely on foreign workers.
“The most recent official data tells us that, despite a decline in the number, there are in excess of 38,000 jobs in Bermuda,” Sen Wilson said.
“Therefore the issue for Bermudians is not a shortage of jobs but rather a question of sufficient desirable jobs and/or jobs for which individuals have the appropriate education and training.
“It’s been said that in the present time, the new reality is that for the first time in many generations there are Bermudians facing structural unemployment because there are too few jobs for the skills they currently have.”
Closing her statement, she said: “We are working hard to create a balance, to grow the economy, create new jobs, maintain the existing business and get Bermudians back to work.
“There are a number of very real plans and strategies in play to ensure that Bermuda continues to prosper.”