(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) – More than 20,000 people have lost their jobs in T&T since 2015.
One of the largest mass retrenchments was the approximately 5,500 Petrotrin permanent and temporary employees who were sent home when the refinery was shut down on November 30, 2018.
In part two of his national address to the nation called “It’s Your Business” on January 7, 2019, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said 20,000 people had lost their jobs in T&T since 2015.
Since then, more people have been placed on the breadline.
The most recent was the 178 Unilever Caribbean Ltd (UCL) where workers faced a bleak Christmas when they were thrown on the breadline in December 2019. According to the latest available data from the Central Statistical Office (CSO) contained in the Central Bank of T&T’s Monetary Policy Report of May 2019, the unemployment rate increased to 4.8 per cent in 2017—the highest rate of unemployment since 2012—from 4.0 per cent in 2016.
During 2017, the number of people employed fell by just under 10,000 while the labour force contracted by 4,600 people. This resulted in a small decline in the participation rate from 59.7 per cent in 2016 to 59.2 per cent in 2017.
In the absence of official unemployment data for 2018, retrenchment notices filed with the Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development indicate that retrenchments were higher by over 53.2 per cent (excluding the layoffs due to the closure of the Petrotrin oil refinery) in 2018.
In January-May 2019 retrenchments continued to rise—631 people compared with 412 people in the similar period in 2018. Further, the average number of vacancies advertised in the print media fell by 11.7 per cent (year-on-year) over the first five months of 2019.
Economist: It’s a source of concern
Economist Roger Hosein said “The latest official labour market statistics from the CSO indicate that the unemployment rate declined to 3.8 per cent during the first half of 2018 compared with 4.9 per cent during the same period of 2017.
“On a year-on-year basis, total employment fell by 900 persons, while the labour force contracted by 8,500 persons.
“This resulted in a decline in the labour force participation rate to 58.7 per cent over the first half of 2018 compared with 59.7 per cent during the corresponding period of 2017.”
“The continued decline in the labour force participation rate is a source of concern since this has implications for future economic prospects.”
He said the 3.8 per cent unemployment rate in 2018 was a very low rate, as since 2003 it had been below ten per cent on average.
Hosein said since 2012 the unemployment rate on average per annum had not crossed five per cent which was a very remarkable statistic; on paper, it was one of the best in the world.
He said what was alarming about the T&T economy case was the fall over time in its labour force participation rate which stood at 63.9 per cent in 2006 and collapsed to 58 per cent by 2018.
Hosein said the State made the tremendous error in the last 15 years of being too heavily involved in the labour market and basically starved the private sector for workers.
He said while the private sector was expanding, it was expanding mainly in the services sector. The State, he said, wanted to expand in the non-energy export sector, so the economy developed serious structural imbalances that needed to be addressed.
Hosein said, however, one of the most worrying aspects of the labour market data trends in recent times was the sharp decline in the employment of petroleum and gas sector workers—this collapsed from 21,300 in 2014 to 12,600 in June 2018.
He said the petroleum sector was a highly competitive high human capital sector and the loss of 40 per cent of the employed labour force was a frightening eventuality as these skills if they were lost or migrated to nearby Guyana, Suriname or elsewhere will take time to be rebuilt.
Hosein said policy makers would want to ensure for example that by the time the Ruby field comes on-stream with BHP Billiton in 2023, that the sector was not further starved for workers with the relevant skill-sets.
Companies that laid-off workers from 2015-2019
•ArcelorMittal sent home 600 workers on December 2015 and laid off 800 contract workers earlier that year
•200 TMS International Corporation workers were also let go in 2015
•Central Trinidad Steel Limited (Centrin) sent home 200 workers on February 2016.
•Over 800 Construtora OAS workers were laid off on March 2016
•Caribbean Development Company which produces Carib beer retrenched 15 workers on May 2016
•66 workers of roofing producer, GGI Trinidad Limited were sent home on August 2016
•Over 100 workers of the Tourism Development Company were retrenched on August 2017
•16 workers at the Trinidad Cement Limited (TCL) were put on the breadline on September 2018
•Petroleum marketing and wholesaling company Unipet laid off seven supervisors in October 2018
•Approximately 5,500 Petrotrin permanent and temporary/casual employees lost their jobs when the refinery was shut down on November 30, 2018
•TSTT retrenched over 500 workers on November 15, 2018
•99 non-academic staff at the University of TT (UTT) received separation letters on August 2019
•178 Unilever Caribbean Ltd (UCL) workers were thrown on the breadline in December 2019.