CHARLESTOWN, Nevis — An estimated $1.2 million has been disbursed in severance payments since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nevis, according to Hon. Spencer Brand, Nevis Island Administration (NIA) Minister of Labour.
Minister Brand spoke on the matter during his presentation during the 2021 Budget Debate in the NIA on December 10.
“All across the various sectors we see there is that claim for severance payment and to date approximately $1.2 million has been paid in severance,” said Hon. Brand.
At the time of his presentation the Department of Labour had received about 717 severance payment claims.
Brand said that while $1.2 million has been paid so far from the Consolidated Fund to honour claims, he is hopeful that there will be significant movement in the settlement of existing severance claims in time for Christmas.
The Minister pointed out that the economic fallout from the pandemic has resulted in a stark increase in unemployment in almost every sector of Nevis’ economy. Hardest hit was the tourism sector, which ground to a halt in March when the borders of St. Kitts and Nevis closed.
“The labour market’s statistics on the island of Nevis, the data for our review period January to September 2020 showed that the number of jobs on Nevis ranged from 6,137 in February to 4,706 in September, with an average of 5,384 jobs per month.
“For the same period in 2019 we saw there was an average of 6,072, which gives an indication of approximately 11.3 percent decline or 688 in the average number of jobs in 2020 as it relates to 2019,” said Brand.
“It is clear that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the job market on the island of Nevis, with percentage ranging from 5 percent all the way up to 33 percent, but I believe there is certainly hope on the horizon.”
Hon. Brand highlighted the fact that although the top five economic sectors saw some measure of decline in the number of jobs available, the NIA has maintained its workforce.
“The public administration and defence sector accounted for an average of 1,827 or 33.9 percent of jobs this year. This sector however saw a decline in just 1 percent or 14 jobs in 2020 versus 2019.
“This is significant because it continues to be the policy of this government as far as possible not to do any retrenchment as it regards labour,” said Brand. “We want to ensure we keep as many of our people working as possible, and 1 per cent in this climate is indeed commendable.”
The Minister thanked Chief Labour Officer Mr. Gary Liburd and his staff at the Department of Labour for their yeoman’s service to the people of Nevis. He said they have been working under significant pressure during this difficult and trying time.