PHILIPSBURG--Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor VSA Omar Ottley says combatting unemployment remains a focal point for the ministry next year.
Ottley gave Members of Parliament (MPs) an overview of the ministry’s plans of approach with regard to unemployment in St. Maarten in Parliament’s Central Committee meeting on Tuesday.
Ottley said this plan consists of a comprehensive approach in key areas: improvement of the regulatory environment, focus on creating job opportunities and creation of an online portal.
The ministry is implementing the labour legislation and policy-approved Civil Code New Title 10, Book Seven of the Civil Code, replacing Book 7A. He said VSA will finalise the National Ordinance to stop the abuse of short-term labour agreements. They will make the labour law more flexible, review the minimum wage and enforce labour inspection policies.
Furthermore, the ministry plans to facilitate the creation of employment opportunities, said Ottley. VSA will provide beginner, intermediate and advanced skills training to create long-term strengthening of competencies and mentoring of staff to ensure the delivery of the services and products.
Ottley said the ministry has implemented an incidental policy. This would guarantee collaboration with big projects to ensure that job fairs are held in collaboration with the Department of Labor Affairs.
“An essential part of my vision is investing in our human capital – increasing the skills of our people. Through this incidental policy large projects also are committed to investing in our educational institutes through financial donations. From our commitment to investing in human capital businesses have begun to approach the ministry to extend assistance with training,” he told MPs.
One example provided was a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Simpson Bay Resort in collaboration with National Employment Services Center (NESC) which will be offering free job training for the unemployed.
The ministry also has boosted its outreach to ensure persons are registered as unemployed. In the event opportunities arise it has a database for referral to businesses.
One of the outreach programmes recently launched is the ministry’s “Community Days”. The VSA Ministry will be present in Dutch Quarter on Saturday to meet in their community persons who need assistance whether it be for jobs, financial assistance, medical aid, legal aid, and one-on-one discussions with the elderly.
Lastly, the online portal to match job seekers with job opportunities is in its final stage.
Regarding the minimum wage, Ottley said the ministry is working with the Department of Statistics to carry out a study to determine a liveable wage. He said this is in E4 in the Country’s Package and the plan of approach for this measure has already been finalised. In 2022 the ministry will focus on the execution of this plan.
As a mean to increase sustainable living, Ottley said the ministry will be focusing on ensuring an adequate social safety net by amending the Financial Assistance legislation and further developing the Social Care Policy.