More jobs can be created in St. Vincent and the Grenadines by the economic growth that could accompany a larger population.
That is the view of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who says the nation’s 106,000 people are too few for the landmass.
“I just want to say this for what it is worth: there are some persons who may feel that the population of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is perfectly — is a good size,” Gonsalves told Parliament on Thursday.
“The truth is this, we are too small. We need more people to be working here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And I know some people take the mechanistic view that you have unemployment already. Well, the point is this, when people move and the economy grows, more jobs are created,” the prime minister said.
He was speaking as he gave an update of a meeting of the CARICOM Prime ministerial Sub-Committee meeting on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.
Gonsalves said the meeting took several important decisions going forward but he wanted to inform the national assembly that the committee is particularly interested in widening the categories of persons who can move freely between countries if they hold a Skilled National’s Certificate.
Currently, there are 10 categories of CARICOM national entitled to free movement under such a provision.
Gonsalves said he recommended an 11th, which CARICOM heads of government will consider at a special meeting in Trinidad later this year.
“I suggest that we look at extending it to look at agricultural workers, and then in relation to the category ‘artist’, I would like to see an expansion of the definition and clarification to include beauticians, nail technicians, cosmetologists.
“It’s a big area of trade, particularly for young women. And, Mr. Speaker, some people may say well, why are we doing this? The truth of the matter, if we have enhanced freedom of movement of persons, we are going to be able to grow the regional economy better,” Gonsalves said.
He said Member of Parliament for East Kingstown, Arnhim Eustace was shaking his head in agreement to the suggestion that the population of SVG is too small.
“… and, as an economist, he understands that and the history of the economies show this and, in any event, leaders have to look way down the road,” Gonsalves said.
The prime minister said if current trends continue, in 50 years’ time, SVG would probably have a population of 80,000 or 85,000
“… our population is not growing and the aged component of our population is increasing,” he said, adding that in 1960s and 70s it was 11 per cent, but in the last census period (2012), it had grown to 33 per cent.
“That would mean that we need more productive people to be working. This is a worldwide trend and we have to make — leaders have to think ahead to sort difficulties out.
“This is the debate that is taking place in several parts of the world and we, ourselves are not immune to that particular trend, but there is an insufficiency of serious discussion on this demographic issue,” Gonsalves told lawmakers.
“All I am saying is that our population is not growing within the country. People are living longer, people would migrate and go overseas, but others would also come and we have a Caribbean community and our economic strategy, whatever you do in the domestic, however you organise the domestic, you have to enlarge the economic space. That is the logic of OECS, that is the logic of CARICOM and we have to encourage this rather than discourage it. And one way to do it is to enlarge the categories to do work,” he said.