On October 7, World Day for Decent Work, young workers networks from PSI’s affiliates launched surveys to gauge young workers’ views about the direct impact of Covid-19 on their lives - in a region where at least 65% of lab technicians, public health workers, doctors, nurses and community health workers are women; 40% of them being under 35 years
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Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Caribbean have again taken a beating. This time from the economic fallout as a result of the Covid-19 public health crisis. Travel restrictions, health protocols, border closings, and “lockdowns” across the world meant that the once vibrant tourism markets in the Caribbean are practically empty of tourists and are now struggling to recover.
Thousands who worked in and depended on tourism are now out of work. Many of them are young people who work in the hotel, restaurant and catering sector, and the entertainment industry. Many others are informal workers who ply their trade on beaches or in tourist hotspots across their countries. At least half of them are young women.
Also, those who are working feverishly to take care of populations across the Caribbean are predominantly young workers in health and social services. At least 65% of these lab technicians, public health workers, doctors, nurses and community health workers are women. About 40% of them are under 35 years.
Jasmine Suffren Chair of the SLCSA young workers network
Covid-19 will be with us for a long time. The effects will be around for even longer, especially for Saint Lucia that is very, very dependent on tourism.
“From what I am seeing and hearing, Covid-19 will be with us for a long time. The effects will be around for even longer, especially for Saint Lucia that is very, very dependent on tourism. As chair of my union’s young workers’ network, I’d like us to be more involved in making contributions to the solutions that will make things better for my country, family, friends and the population as a whole”, said Jasmine Suffren, chair of the SLCSA young workers network.
Also, ministries of health called on young doctors and nurses who were preparing to graduate from medical schools, to join the fight against Covid-19. These new doctors and nurses supplemented the already severely short-staffed health workforce. Authorities called on these young healthcare workers to care for those who routinely need health and social services or who were suffering from chronic illnesses and Non-Communicable diseases (NCDs). They are continuing to make a valuable contribution. But their continued or full-time employment in the health and social services sector is not guaranteed.
A number of Caribbean governments established task forces or national committees to chart recovery efforts to guide social and economic planning. But young people are not involved in the planning to ensure resilience and that SIDS build back better.
With that in mind, on October 7, World Day for Decent Work, young workers networks from PSI’s affiliates the Saint Lucia Civil Service Association (SLCSA) and the Public Service Union of Saint Vincent & the Grenadines (PSU of SVG) launched surveys targeted to young workers in their country. The survey will gauge young workers’ views about the direct impact of Covid-19 on their lives.
The results will help inform the recommendations that the unions’ young workers’ networks will make to their unions and decision-makers as they develop roadmaps and policy responses.
“We are anxious to find out what young people in SVG are thinking and what they want my union to be doing. The results (of the survey) are going to be so important for us in the union. We are young leaders in our unions. We can do this”, said Kendra Horne, chair of the young workers network of the PSU of SVG.
Along the same lines, young leaders from trade unions and civil society in Trinidad & Tobago responded to the serious omission by engaging with young people in the twin island state to “amplify the ideas, perspectives and voices of youth, particularly youth leaders on national development post-Covid-19.” They produced and submitted for consideration Youth Covid-19 Response Initiative Report - Youth Mainstreaming at the Centre of Development.
Young workers in Saint Lucia and St Vincent & the Grenadines engaged with these young activists. They decided to follow the example of their colleagues in Trinidad & Tobago. They also want to transform their unions as well as make their contributions to national development.
Young workers' recommendations
At a Regional Youth Conference held in January, Caribbean young people made a number of recommendations. These take on greater influence in the face of Covid-19. They recommended the urgent need to:
Establish partnerships with youth-led and youth-serving organisations to raise awareness of youth rights to decent work and employment opportunities;
Advocate for decent work, social protection and removal of discriminatory and corrupt practices related to young people’s economic participation.