KINGSTON, Jamaica — A landmark partnership to help informal operators in the agriculture and fisheries sectors transition to formal standards of labour has been launched by Jamaica’s Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce (MIIC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The Honourable Audley Shaw, Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, signatory to the ILO grant agreement, attended the virtual event on February 4. Other high-level participants included the Honourable Floyd Green, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries; the Honourable Dr. Norman Dunn, Minister of State in the MIIC; and Ms. Valerie Vieira, Chief Executive Officer of the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC). Ms. Michelle Parkins, Chief Technical Director at the MIIC, moderated the event.
“It is estimated that approximately 43 percent of the Jamaican economy operates informally,” said Minister Shaw. “The challenge of addressing informality is more severe for workers in the agricultural sector and especially for those in the fisheries subsector. This project will ensure that our farmers and fisherfolks are given the assistance, training and guidance that are required to take them along the path to formality. We want them to understand that agriculture is a business and should be treated as such.”
“The project will see 100 farmers and fisherfolks, who are registered with The Rural Agricultural Development Authority or the National Fisheries Authority, formalize their operations,” said Minister Green. “We know their reality – they operate in this informal space and as such, they are unable to access the keys they need to unlock their true potential to truly modernize and grow our agricultural and fisheries sectors. They are unable to get financing, they are unable to access pension and investment facilities. We want to unlock that potential.”
”Implementation of the project will be led by the JBDC, an agency within the MIIC. My team is excited and ready to deliver. We have placed this project into a programme that we have labelled ‘Beyond Crops and Catch’, specifically to say we are about sustainability,” explained Ms. Vieira.
“We are looking at sustainability in terms of pension, health and investment because we really want to move that narrative and that mental fix away from saying that farming is not a business, so we are really looking at a fulsome engagement with participants.”
This grant agreement supports one of several components that have been agreed with national partners within the multi-dimensional development cooperation programme, approved by the ILO in 2020.
The 15-month ILO programme has as its overall aim, to improve the efficiency and capacity of workers in three target industries – household services, agriculture and fisheries – through various interventions. The ultimate goal is to provide tangible support for persons in these sectors, which will allow them to transform their livelihoods from subsistence activities to economically sustainable employment.
“The Jamaica Formalization Project will receive ILO financial and technical support to strengthen policies for income security, social protection and other incentives for formalization,” said Dennis Zulu, Director of the ILO Decent Work Team and Office for the Caribbean, during the virtual signing ceremony to initiate the collaboration. “It will also feature public awareness and sensitization campaigns to clarify the understanding of the advantages and procedures for businesses and workers to make the shift to the formal economy.”
In addition to ILO support for agricultural enterprise development, the other components will include development of training curriculum for technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and certification linked to fishers’ occupations and needs.
The ILO is already advancing discussions with the Jamaica Household Workers’ Union/Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions and the Jamaica Employers Federation for relevant agreements to provide technical and financial support within the framework of the project. Support will also be provided for interventions of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security; and capacity building for social dialogue among national tripartite constituents, so that they can effectively review and revise relevant legislation for wages and benefits to workers in the target sectors.