Poverty in JamaicaMany view Jamaica as the heart of the Caribbean, with beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters. However, Jamaica has long faced an uphill economic climb that continues to plague the nation. While Jamaica’s GDP saw growth from 2013 onward, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted the economy. The state of poverty in Jamaica indicates regression since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The poverty rate in Jamaica rose 4% in two years, sitting at 23% in 2020.

Tourism Industry in Jamaica

Due to the nation’s heavy reliance on the tourism industry, the COVID-19 pandemic affected Jamaica significantly. The tourism industry alone accounts for $60 billion in gross domestic product while generating 2.8 million jobs for the citizens of Jamaica, according to Prime Minister Andrew Holness. In 2019 alone, a staggering 4.2 million tourists flocked to the beaches and resorts on the island.

However, once the pandemic hit Jamaica, the tourism industry came to a halt as did tourism-based income. The gross domestic product decreased by 9.9% in the year 2020, accounting for the steepest decline in the island’s history. During the peak of the pandemic, in July 2020, the unemployment rate reached 12.6%.

The CARE Programme

To combat this harsh reality, the Jamaican government stepped up to the plate to assist citizens. One of the most significant moves the government receives applause for is its implementation of a social and economic support program called the CARE Programme.

In order to improve the state of poverty in Jamaica, the program provided “compassionate grants to those who were unemployed or informally employed” before the onset of the pandemic. Those facing unemployment as a result of the pandemic received “temporary unemployment benefits” and the program supplied grants to small businesses and self-employed individuals whose income decreased due to the pandemic. The CARE Programme also provides aid to ill, elderly and disabled Jamaicans as well as other economically disadvantaged groups by boosting aid through existing initiatives. The program also gave incentives to companies in specific sectors to retain employees who fall in the lower-income bracket.

Due to the government’s generous and swift reaction to the pandemic, the state of poverty in Jamaica has continuously improved post-pandemic. In the year 2022, the percentage of people active in Jamaica’s labor force has risen. According to Carol Coy of the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) as of April 2022, “The overall number of persons in the labor force rose by 24,900 or 1.9% to 1,350,300.” In addition to its renewed workforce, Jamaica anticipates that tourism in the nation for the year 2022 may bring in approximately USD $2.9 billion while drawing up to 2.5 million tourists to the island.

Looking Ahead

The perseverance of the Jamaican citizens and the government has led to a historic turnaround for the nation’s economy post-pandemic. While poverty has long ridden the island, the resiliency of the Jamaican people has brought the nation back from the brink of complete economic collapse. The current state of poverty in Jamaica makes it apparent that the future is more prosperous than ever.

– Austin Hughes
Photo: Flickr