ILO Caribbean Resilience Symposium

Labour experts call for greater investments in digital, blue and green economies, skills development and reduction of inequalities to improve crisis recovery in the Caribbean

Government Ministers, employers’ and workers’ representatives as well as academic researchers and development agencies gather for ILO Caribbean Resilience Symposium

News | 19 May 2021
18 May, 2021 (Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago) – The International Labour Organization (ILO) Caribbean Office kicked off a three-day virtual conference to discuss policies and actions to improve how job markets can build long term resilience to ongoing climate risks and the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the high-level opening ceremony of the ILO Caribbean Resilience Symposium, which is being held from 18 to 20 May, ILO senior leadership were joined by regional Ministers of Labour, employers’ representatives and trade unions to address crisis response and put forward solutions for minimizing disruptions to employment and quickly regaining productivity.

“The socio-economic effects of COVID-19 on Caribbean Small Island Developing States has shown us that jobs and livelihoods, and the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth - are key for crisis recovery,” explained Dennis Zulu, Director of the ILO Caribbean Office as he welcomed participants to the event.

Vinicius Pinheiro, Regional Director of the ILO Office for Latin America and the Caribbean. commended Caribbean countries for responding to the employment impacts of the crisis – particularly through social dialogue.

“Caribbean employers’ and workers’ organizations have engaged with Ministries of Labour and Ministries of Health to address challenges and craft their responses to protect workers and keep businesses afloat,” he highlighted. “At the policy level, we have seen tripartite partners involved in the discussions on stimulus and packages not only at the macro level but also at the industry level, so the region has a lot to showcase to the world.”

The Regional Director also emphasized innovative ways that the region can successfully adapt to the new normal.

“The Caribbean has a big role to play in engaging in global labour markets via the digital economy. And of course there is a need to invest in the green economy and the blue economy in this transition to a new reality focused on a human-centered approach,” he explained.  

The Ministers of Labour for Guyana and Saint Lucia also attended the event to discuss how their governments are working to help employers and workers to sustainably recover from the crisis.

“We are in the process of re-establishing the Ministry of Labour in the Cooperative Republic of Guyana,” said the Honourable Joseph Hamilton, Minister of Labour for Guyana. “The three pillars we have set are capacity building and the need for training and retraining of workers; human development; and workers’ welfare. We cannot discuss decent work without discussing access to decent housing, healthcare and education. The worker must be healthy and well and satisfied socially to perform in the sphere of work.“

"As part of the national strategy for recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and a commitment to a longer-term resilience, Saint Lucia has accepted the ILO’s recommendation to implement a national Public Employment Programme (PEP) geared to the generation and institutionalization of decent, productive and sustainable jobs while at the same time presenting a tool to complement private sector employment creation and offer a policy instrument to tackle the problem of unemployment in our society,” explained the Honourable Stephenson King, Minister of Infrastructure, Ports, Energy and Labour for Saint Lucia. 

Leaders from regional employers’ and workers’ organizations also spoke at the event and underscored that the pandemic and other crises are opportunities to reduce vulnerabilities that have long plagued Caribbean labour markets in order to achieve a healthy and resilient future of work.

“Building resilience and diversification of economies have been ongoing priorities for the Caribbean and the region has long known and experienced its vulnerabilities to external shocks but we did not anticipate the nature and magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic,” explained Wayne Chen, President of the Caribbean Employers’ Confederation. “The crisis has also provided us with a chance to address and adapt to future of work issues such as prioritizing social dialogue by implementing task forces inclusive of workers, employers and civil society. It has also accelerated the digital economy as we realize the opportunities that come with working and learning online.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic brought to the fore the reality of existing inequalities in quite a number of our societies. If at the end of the pandemic or as we get to be able to manage living with the pandemic, we do not make fundamental and radical changes to the structure of our societies, then we would have wasted the sacrifices that have been made – in terms of loss of lives in the region and among the diaspora and the psycho-social impacts that the pandemic has had on us,” advised Andre Lewis, President of the Caribbean Congress of Labour. 

The event also featured closed sessions for workers’ and employers’ organizations, as well as a closed Ministers of Labour Roundtable, chaired by the Honourable Colin E. Jordan, Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations for Barbados.

Topics that will be discussed over the course of the three-day event include skills development; social protection; occupational safety and health (OSH); policy frameworks; labour market information; employment services; public employment programmes; social dialogue; just transition to environmentally sustainable economies; and enterprise development.

Media contact: Shireen Cuthbert –