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Domestic workers wanted! - Labour ministry survey finds strong demand locally and overseas for low-skilled workers

Published:Thursday | July 12, 2018 | 12:00 AMCarlene Davis

Scores of low-skilled Jamaicans could find employment as domestic workers as there is a high demand for persons to work in this area, locally and overseas, and the Ministry of Labour is projecting that the demand will remain high for the next two to three years.

The latest Employment Opportunities For Low-Skilled Workers in Jamaica prepared by the Planning, Research and Monitoring Unit of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security shows that while there has been an increased demand for professionals in areas such as software engineers and information systems managers, opportunities still exist for low-skilled workers.

According to the survey, housekeepers, bartenders, garbage collectors, fast-food attendants and street sweepers are among the low-skilled jobs that will be in demand.

Reacting to the survey, president of the Jamaica Householders Union, Shirley Pryce, told The Sunday Gleaner that she is not surprised by the findings as from where she sits the need has always been there.

"When we call a session for persons to come for training, it is always oversubscribed. It's not something that people are going into because they can't find anything else to do, it's by choice. Domestic workers are now trained and more empowered," said Pryce.

Come August, the minimum wage, which is paid to several low-skilled workers, will be increased from $6,200 to $7,000 per week, and Pryce said while persons might think this is not enough, there are some domestic workers now earning up to $17,000 per week.

"It's a profession where you can make a living. One of my workers just buy a house, it's a job that you should be proud of, and now, more than ever, domestic workers are visible and have laws to protect them," said Pryce.




She argued that the modern domestic worker is young and offers more than just sweeping the floor and doing laundry, which employers are catching on to.

According to Pryce, domestic workers are being asked to drive for their employers, go to the supermarket and assist with homework.

With the data showing that almost 70 per cent of the Jamaican workforce is not certified, Pryce said she has set up a Jamaica Household Worker Training Institute, but is looking for a venue.

"I spoke to the prime minister (and) he said it was needed and he will help us. It is going to be a good thing to have a training institute for domestic workers because HEART Trust/NTA is not a fit for us.

"Domestic workers go to work during the days, they want a school that they can go to in the evenings and on weekends. HEART Trust/NTA teachers for our courses don't work on weekends," said Pryce.

The Institute For Workforce Education and Development (IWED) in Kingston, which provides certified housekeeping courses, says while it has been offering this course for more than eight years, it has not seen much interest since last year.

"Usually, it is one of our high priority courses that we have here. Most of the persons who come to us, they want to go overseas, and as it relates to them getting employment over there, it is usually very good," said student services coordinator Renee Campbell.

She said the courses normally cost between $25,000 and $35,000, with classes held the weekends.

"It's a great skill to have, especially if you are looking to work overseas in housekeeping or the hotel industry. You don't just learn how to take care of a house, It involves how to communicate with persons," said Campbell.

More than 1,000 jobs were offered to housekeepers, servers and cooks under the United States Hotel Programme last year.,