More than 20,000 people in Trinidad and Tobago have lost their jobs since 2015, with more than 5,500 being sent home when the Petrotrin refinery closed down on November 30, 2018 in what has been a slew of job losses in the oil producing Caribbean nation in recent times.
The Trinidad Guardian in an article published on Saturday pointed out, “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.”
The article cited data from the Central Statistical Office (CSO) contained in the Central Bank of T&T’s Monetary Policy Report of May 2019, which said the unemployment rate increased to 4.8 percent in 2017—the highest rate of unemployment since 2012—from 4.0 percent in 2016.
Trinidadian economist Dr Roger Hosein finds these developments worrying for his home country’s economic future.
“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 percent over the first half of 2018 compared with 59.7 percent 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,” the Trinidad Guardian quoted Hosein as saying.
Hosein, according to the article, 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.” He said the State wanted to expand in the non-energy export sector, “so the economy developed serious structural imbalances that needed to be addressed.”
The economist believes that the loss of 40 percent of the labour force in the petroleum sector is the most worrying development of the labour market data trends. The article said that employment of petroleum and gas sector workers collapsed from 21,300 in 2014 to 12,600 in June 2018.
He said that because these jobs are highly competitive, the loss of such a staggering percentage of oil and gas workers to Guyana, Suriname or elsewhere would take time to be rebuilt.