Government may soon be exploring opportunities for Barbadians to work in the United Kingdom’s (UK) Farm Labour Programme.
This was alluded to by Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan, during a recent courtesy call with Barbadian-born UK Consultant, Cristopher Griffith, an agent with the programme.
Mr. Griffith, in outlining what the UK version of the Canadian Farm Labour Programme would look like, explained there were opportunities for Barbadians in agriculture as the UK sought to “grow a lot more of what it eats” and with the possibility of Europeans no longer coming as labourers creating acute shortages in the agricultural sector.
Explaining the potential areas of work, he said: “We are only talking at this moment of the edible sections, fruits and all the different things you grow to eat, but you have to remember that this is linked very much to the horticultural sector and animal husbandry.”
The agent added that Barbados having a farm labour programme in place for 50 years was very pivotal to the entity UK deciding to engage the island. He also noted that they recognized the island had “an infrastructure, a background and understanding which they could use as a springboard”.
Minister Jordan, while welcoming the interest shown in Barbadians, told Mr. Griffith: “Our mandate as a Ministry and particularly at the level of the Barbados Employment and Career Counselling Service (BECCS) is to make Barbadians employable and to find work for Bajans.
“Barbados is not at this point able to provide work for all of its residents. Even if this were possible, there is still a lot of value, in Government’s mind, in allowing people to get experience outside of Barbados… We believe we need a bigger population if we are to grow; we are envisioning that we would need more people than we have now; that would mean we would need to provide jobs for those people.”
The Minister contended that there was still merit in placing people overseas, adding they would acquire skills and different perspectives which they could bring to bear on what is happening locally.
The Labour Minister, who was accompanied by his Acting Deputy Permanent Secretary, Marva Howell and officials from BECCS, further acknowledged that labourers going to the UK would gain skills and benefits from “exporting their skills and earning in a tradeable currency, whether euros, pounds or Canadian dollars”.
“A small open economy has to be an export-driven economy because we don’t have the market. The Americans can look inwards and the Chinese can, but we can’t. Barbadians working overseas must of necessity bring back some of what they earn to Barbados; they are going to have bills here to pay, they will bring back some, however little. That’s how I see the benefits.”