Labour Day has its origins in the labour union movement, specifically the eight-hour day movement, which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest. It is a time to celebrate the role of workers in the economy of Sint Maarten and address the real economic issues we are faced with.
So far, 2015 has been a relatively good year for the labour market on Sint Maarten. The execution plan, is currently being drafted for implementation of the approved counterpart policy, which has faced concerns by several stakeholders. This policy as it is envisioned; should ensure that educated persons attain the necessary experience to excel in the labour market.
I can safely say that Sint Maarten has not experienced mass lay-offs. A large number of our people are still employed; this is evident in the results of the last labour force survey. The aforementioned survey showed a decrease in overall unemployment by three percent (3%) since 2009. This proves that Government's policies are indeed working. While we continue to collaborate with our Social Partners in the tripartite committee, we encourage them to continue fostering and supporting the principles of social dialogue, as we move ahead towards continued success.
Even in light of these positive changes, there are areas that still need a lot of attention; especially as it pertains to youth unemployment, although this is down more than three (3) percentage points from that of 2009. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), the world is facing a worsening youth employment crisis: young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults and over 75 million youth worldwide are looking for work. It is for these reasons that stimulating youth employment continues to be a big part of my ministry and we will continue to work across political lines, closely collaborating with other ministries to support projects and implement policies which address and enhance this issue.
Sint Maarten like the rest of the world is faced with an increasing informal economy. This sector continues to negatively affect the capability of government; as the tax base is eroded which in turn affects the financial viability of the social benefit funds. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO) the informal economy is significantly impacting the world of work, with as much as 40–80 per cent of the labour force in developing countries are working within it. Increasingly, transition to formality has emerged as a priority policy agenda in developed and developing countries. New policy initiatives and approaches are taken in different regions that facilitate this transition through multiple pathways. In Sint Maarten an inter-ministerial workgroup to determine the size of this sector has been established. Customization of a policy and subsequent execution plan is necessary to address this issue in our territory, in addition to having reliable statistics.
I hereby encourage the workforce of Sint Maarten, to perform their responsibilities to the best of their abilities. I also invite all Employers to create a favorable, safe and healthy working environment for their staff and at all times strive to be good corporate citizens. This involves remembering to respect our labour laws, and your employees, for without the worker there would be no business.
Once again on behalf of the Ministry of Labour, I wish you a happy Labour Day 2015!