Responding to a growing demographics imbalance in which the retired and close to retirement members of the population are growing while the number of working-age nationals is dwindling, Barbados will soon open its doors to skilled labour, especially persons from the Caribbean Community.
This situation caused Minister of Home Affairs, Edmund Hinkson, to say recently, “I as minister of immigration am firmly of the view that we have too small a population for Barbados to sustain and grow this economy and we will have ‘managed migration’ into this country especially among our fellow Caribbean people who are productive, who will make a mark.”
He said that the island, however, will not be open to “those who are going to be a drain on our economy or public purse,” but will be welcoming “those who are productive, who have skills”.
“We need more young people in this country in their most productive age.”
Hinkson’s revelation of the island’s intent found support in fellow government minister, Marsha Caddle, who has said, “we’ve realised that the population base of the country is not sufficient to generate the revenue that we need to be able to contribute to the standard of living that we want to have.”
The junior economic affairs minister said that 20 to 25 years ago the population group between ages 20 and 29 was the largest, however, “that same cohort is now still the largest, but it is 50 years old. And the 20 to 29 [age group is] now is much smaller.”
With Barbados restructuring its flagging economy to make it welcoming to investors, and a number of major construction projects set to begin this year, she said, “it is not just a question of diversifying the economy and having a revenue-positive policy …but it is also a question of making sure you have the population base to support it.”
This unevenness in the island’s population was the reason that Ronald Jones, a minister in the former government, had pleaded with Barbadians to make more babies to counter the lowering birth rate, which in turn leads to a reduced workforce.
“A declining population will have an impact on what we do to support older generations and national development as a whole,” Jones had said.
But Hinkson dismissed that as the solution for Barbados’ immediate need for a larger workforce.
“We’re not going to do like what the then minister of education said two or three years ago that people must get more children because they will take 20 years plus nine months before a child might become productive if conceived today,” the home affairs minister said.
Barbados’s soon-to-be implemented programme of ‘managed migration’ should provide pointers to sister CARICOM nations on how to implement the grouping’s policy of the right of skilled nationals to work in most of the 15 countries in this body.