Unemployment insurance signalled by minister
The introduction of unemployment insurance is being considered after the Government paid out million of dollars in benefits in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.
The news came after it was revealed an extra 400 families had been forced to rely on Financial Assistance as a result of the pandemic – a figure the Government said was unsustainable.
Curtis Dickinson, the finance minister, said: “The Ministry of Labour has recently begun to engage in an exercise of consultation around unemployment insurance.
“The genesis for that is that the Government this year will spend approximately $60 million in support of folks who were adversely affected by Covid-19.
“I would argue that $60 million per annum bill for unemployment benefits is fairly expensive and probably not sustainable.”
Mr Dickinson, speaking on Wednesday night, said that Government was examining several models to see how funds could be raised to help people thrown out of work.
He added: “We need to assess what the public appetite is for the concept of unemployment insurance and we need to assess those models to understand their impacts.
“No decision has been made yet around what the funding model’s going to be.
“There could be a variety of different situations – it could be a combination of the government, the employer and employee.”
Mr Dickinson emphasised the proposal was still in the early stages.
He said: “We’re still looking at it but, as I said before, I am not expecting to introduce any new taxes in the 2021/2022 budget.”
Jason Hayward, the Minister of Labour, said yesterday about 75 per cent of the estimated 2,250 people now getting government help were on Financial Assistance and the rest were on the supplemental unemployment benefit introduced since the pandemic hit last March.
He added the present arrangement, with the Government as the sole contributor for unemployment aid, was too expensive.
Mr Hayward added the Government would seek “input by employers and employees” as well as an actuarial analysis before unemployment insurance was implemented.
Mr Hayward said: “Additionally, the Wage Commission, chaired by Cordell Riley, will recommend minimum and living wage rates to help support struggling families whose wages do not cover their basic needs.
“The aim is to increase the quality of life for low-income earners, allowing persons to provide for themselves and their families.”
He added the Government would table a Bill in Parliament after it had examined the commission’s report.
Mr Hayward said the legislation would introduce “a statutory minimum wage and a national living wage”.
He added “managed immigration” was part of the Government’s strategy to build economic growth.
But he admitted: “We recognise that it will not be enough.”
More than 110 people have signed up for a series of training and development programmes launched in September.
Categories covered include cleaning, administrative assistant and horticulture training, restaurant and waiter service, and computer literacy.
Mr Hayward appealed to anyone who was job-hunting to register with the Department of Workforce Development.