The International Labour Organisation (ILO) said sustainable solutions are urgently needed to address the collapse of Caribbean tourism employment because of covid19.
In a release, the ILO referred to its new publication – Tourism sector in the English- and Dutch-speaking Caribbean: An overview and the impact of covid19 on growth and employment.
The ILO reported almost half a million Caribbean tourism workers face the prospect of decent work deficits in the form of job losses, reduction in working hours, and loss of incomes, with the worsening of working conditions. The move to informal employment appears as a concrete possibility.
“It also advises that recovery from the adverse impact on sector jobs could be prolonged by a reversal in economic growth, and calls for a human-centred approach to resilient and sustainable solutions.”
The report included ILO guidance and data as well as research done around the region to demonstrate the severity of the crisis on the sector’s labour market.
On average, the tourism industry directly contributes up to about 33 per cent of the region’s GDP and over 52 per cent of export receipts. With approximately 30 million annual entries per year (the majority of which are cruise passengers, or from the US), the industry provides direct employment to 413,000 workers in the Caribbean. This figure represents, on average, 18.1 per cent of total employment. If indirect and induced employment is considered, such figures could rise to 43.1 per cent.
“While Caribbean labour force data is not yet available to determine exactly how tourism workers have been affected by the crisis thus far, studies conducted by regional organisations and preliminary national administrative data, however, have begun to paint a picture of what is happening,” explained Lars Johansen, director of the ILO decent work team and office for the Caribbean.
Reduced sample surveys indicate that 71 per cent of hotels had laid off staff by April 2020 to address the revenue shortfall caused by the crisis, some 66 per cent had also reduced the work-week or hours worked, and 53 per cent had cut salaries.
Tourism, the ILO noted, is traditionally a labour-intensive industry with a higher than average multiplier effect on employment in other sectors (for example, agriculture, food processing, construction, transport, as reflected by indirect employment figures). The industry tended to benefit vulnerable categories of workers experiencing disadvantage in the labour market such as youth, women and migrants and, more generally, is capable of absorbing workers with limited skill levels.
The ILO said most regional countries have taken multi-pronged approaches such as direct transfers for individuals and loans, grants and tax relief for businesses.
“Special attention should be placed on dismissed workers to ensure the shortest and most productive spans of labour market detachment through measures aimed to enhance their human capital such as upskilling and retraining.”
The ILO also stressed in line with the already developed country and industry-specific protocols for the resumption of activities, occupational health and safety for workers and customers will remain paramount.
“I’m confident that the tourism that emerges from covid19 will be different from the tourism that we have grown used to. And the key difference will be significant integration of tourism and health functions to ensure the safety and health of visitors and locals alike,” said Neil Walters, acting secretary-general of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation.
The ILO said there is also room for more sustainable recovery mechanisms such as positioning the tourism sector to lead the green and blue economic transition and job creation, which can be pursued through tripartite social dialogue between governments, employers’ organisations and workers’ organizations.