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

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Jamaica
Jamaica, the fourth largest island country in the Caribbean, is hungry. The root of hunger is based on inequality and racism. Grassroots projects and programs are developed to alleviate an empty tummy. Here are the top 10 facts about hunger in Jamaica:

  1. Jamaica is highly focused on the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDG), especially the ones that address the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger across the globe. After the devastating global recession, Jamaica is keen that their strategies for poverty reduction are financially supported.
  2. Jamaica is not all poverty yet lines of marginalization are obvious. Not far from the country’s wealthy communities live the Jamaicans that have limited access to clean water, food supply, health care and education.
  3. Hunger in Jamaica is largely a reflection of racial inequality. With a heritage rooted in slavery, descendants of black slaves hold a much larger probability of residing amongst the poorest classes of Jamaica. Meanwhile, descendants of the white race and mixed-race plantation owners tend to be much better off.
  4. Most Jamaicans in poverty spend more than half of their income on food. Due to Jamaica’s extreme inflation and reliance on imports, hunger in Jamaica is greatly exacerbated. Despite governmental food subsidy programs, Jamaica’s poor have to spend a large portion of their small incomes on the basics just to survive.
  5. The main cause of nutritional problems in Jamaica still appears to be the lack of economic access to food. With almost 20 percent of the national population living below the poverty line (and many additionally living in rural lands, an unfortunate compounding factor), access to socio-economic infrastructures is nearly impossible.
  6. The rural land doesn’t encapsulate all of Jamaica’s poverty, as high levels of malnutrition in the cities have been observed as well. The urban sectors exemplify an unfortunately high level of unemployment and a decreasing percentage of mothers that are breastfeeding their newborns, ultimately depriving young children of essential nutrients.
  7. Teachers and school staff in Jamaica see hunger as a painful challenge in the everyday lives of students. Inattentive, moody and exhibiting behavioral problems, hungry children struggle to reap the benefits of their education due to malnutrition.
  8. Food For The Poor, a charity organization, is spearheading self-sustaining agriculture projects at schools in order to provide healthy foods for daily meals and combat hunger in Jamaica. At-risk students gain hands-on experience in agriculture and learn methods of self-sustainability. School staff notes that the rate of student attendance has greatly improved as a result of these projects.
  9. The National Infant and Young Child Feeding Policy is an advancement introduced to reduce rates of morbidity and mortality among children. In a nutshell, the policy advocates for the promotion of both breastfeeding and adequate weaning practices. From ages six months to two years old, the policy seeks to encourage breastfeeding and, subsequently, adequate solid foods. According to both the WHO and UNICEF, the mental development of children who are exclusively breastfed is better than those who are not.
  10. Executed by an NGO, The Roving Caregivers Programme (RCP) focuses on providing child-rearing knowledge and practices to parents of children younger than four. Through home visits with trained personnel, families are given ideas for income-generating activities and are provided a heavy focus on the health and nutrition of the children.

The above-mentioned facts about hunger in Jamaica reflect the need for a global shift in the widening gap of global income inequality. To be hungry and experience malnutrition is largely a result of lacking an adequate income to feed a household as well as little to no access to healthy and nourishing foods. Luckily, the presence of grassroots programs and education are turning the tides and allowing for a self-sustainable community, and these facts are just the beginning of instilling awareness among the masses.

– Mary Grace Miller
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in Jamaica
Even though Jamaica is now a predominately middle-class nation, poverty still resides in the more rural areas of the country where crime, lack of education, unemployment and natural disasters are common. As a way to combat these issues, the Wesley Foundation sends missionaries to alleviate poverty and make an easier life for civilians.

Why is There Poverty in Jamaica?

There are 14,000 Jamaican citizens living in extreme poverty, and in 2015, it was estimated that the unemployment rate in Jamaica was 13.5 percent. Unemployment runs high throughout the country, with some of the only jobs available being farming, fishing and tourism-based positions — the latter of which bringing in the most income.

Poverty also stems from high youth crime rates. Children living in poverty in Jamaica are often orphaned, a status which makes them targets for gangs and street violence. Jamaican children also face unequal opportunities in receiving secondary education. The high cost of secondary education makes a lot of children living in rural areas of the country unable to attend school, especially paired with the region’s frequent lack of adequate school supplies and teachers. These occurrences make it even more difficult for children living in poverty in Jamaica to receive a proper education.

According to The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, Jamaica is the third most unprotected country from natural disasters in the world. The country is affected by hurricanes, flooding, landslides and earthquakes. The development of towns in environmentally sensitive lands has increased with the growth of population and urban poverty, which makes an even larger number of people affected by natural disasters.

What is the Wesley Foundation Doing?

In an interview with University of Georgia student, Madison Fields, she recounts how she spent her sophomore spring break with the Wesley Foundation helping fight poverty in Jamaica in March 2018. The Wesley Foundation is an Christian organization that helps mold college-aged students to become closer to Christ through their efforts on different college campuses.

Fields and the other missionaries spent their time in Mandeville, Jamaica where they built sidewalks for students and teachers at Youth With a Mission (YWAM). YWAM is a Christian-based organization that provides learning facilities for children in different parts of the globe.

A Foundation of Sustainable Solutions

Fields said that the YWAM school in Mandeville is located at the base of a mountain — a spot where heavy rain runoff collects and causes major flooding, and students and teachers were often injured from walking to school in the deluged grass. To solve this issue, Fields and the other missionaries dug up the grass, mixed concrete with shovels and carried buckets of mixed concrete and water up a hill to where the school is. “The sidewalks definitely helped the teachers and kids walking from building to building,” Fields said. “It helps especially when it rains because it provided a sturdy area for them to walk on that doesn’t get washed away.”

The Wesley Foundation also helped subside poverty in Jamaica by contributing to “Homes for Help” — volunteers built a home for a single mother and her children, and renovated the roof of a school to withstand tropical storms. “The base was a concrete slab they originally had to put their pigs in but we used it to build the house,” Fields said. “And then at a school, we painted the roof with roof compound to keep it from weathering too bad and make it last longer.”

Through sustainable efforts such as these, the Wesley Foundation should continue to pave the way in creating positive global impact.

– McKenzie Hamby

Photo: Pixabay

poverty reduction in Jamaica
The poverty rate in Jamaica has declined dramatically between 2015 and 2016, marking the largest annual decrease in poverty in a decade. Job creation and government policies have allowed for significant poverty reduction in Jamaica.

The Minister of Finance and Public Service, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke, reported that the poverty rate fell 4 percent in 2015-2016, dropping from 21.1 percent to 17.1 percent. This is a six-year low for the nation and representative of a larger trend. Poverty levels in Jamaica have fallen to their lowest since 2009, for a total drop of 19 percent.

These figures, delivered by the Minister of Finance and Public Service in a public statement, came from the Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions, which is a survey conducted annually by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica.

Both Rural and Urban Areas of Jamaica Seeing Poverty Decreases

Not only has the national level declined, rural and metropolitan areas are also seeing significant poverty reduction in Jamaica. Rural poverty has seen an 8 percent decrease in poverty to 20 percent, while the poverty rate in the Kingston metropolitan area has hit an eight-year low, dropping 2.5 percent to 11.9 percent.

It is important to note that not all towns have seen a decrease in poverty rates, indicating that it is an unbalanced decline, which could point to the need for policies that target all vulnerable groups in the nation. While it is good news that the rates are decreasing, there is still room for improvement.

Causes of the Decline

According to Clarke, unemployment rates are one of the key areas that have prompted the decline in poverty rates. He states that “the unemployment rate has been falling steadily from a high mid-teens in 2013 to 9.6 percent in January 2018.” The Jamaican government has focused on job creation, which is helping spur poverty reduction in Jamaica.

There has also been a 12 percent increase in agricultural output, which brings in money to the economy and creates jobs.

The Future of Poverty Reduction in Jamaica

The Planning Institute of Jamaica is expecting the poverty decline identified in the last decade to continue. This is based both on government policies and increased job creation, said the Director General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica, Dr. Wayne Henry.

It is expected that job creation in the wholesale, retail trade, construction, hotel and restaurant industries will continue into the future. These industries have seen large increases in the past few years. For example, the wholesale and retail trade industry was up 7,900 persons, and construction was up 7,300 persons in 2015-2016.

The Planning Institute of Jamaica has also said that they will keep an eye on the Poverty Reduction Policy that was launched by the Jamaican government this year to see how it impacts poverty reduction in the nation.

Other institutions are also contributing to poverty reduction efforts in Jamaica that promise further reduction in the future. The Caribbean Development Bank pledged $1 million to renew its program helping countries in the region support poverty reduction efforts.

Huge strides have been made in poverty reduction in Jamaica, and through policy and job creation, the trend will likely continue.

– Katherine Kirker
Photo: Flickr

The media misrepresents Jamaica in a variety of ways. It portrays Jamaica as a population full of recreational drug users and criminals. It also depicts a land full of tourist scams and impoverished people struggling to survive.

Misrepresentation #1: Everyone in Jamaica smokes marijuana

The TNI Drugs and Democracy Programme reported in a survey taken by the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA), 60 percent of the Jamaican population smokes marijuana and uses tobacco and alcohol. The Jamaica Constabulary Force stated only nine percent of Jamaican’s use cannabis.

Marijuana use in Jamaica has been tied to the Rastafarian religion. Most Rastafarians consume it as part of spiritual rituals. However, not everyone in Jamaica is a Rastafarian and not everyone in Jamaica smokes or participates in the sale of marijuana. In fact, up until 2015 when lawmakers in Jamaica decriminalized it, selling and using marijuana was illegal for over 100 years.

Influenced by the U.S., Jamaica is set to become part of the legalized marijuana market, which will create income for its local farmers and change how the media misrepresents Jamaica.

Misrepresentation #2: Locals and tourists don’t mix

While tourist scams are real in Jamaica, tourism in the country is still at an all-time high. Tourism brought in earnings of more than $2.5 billion in 2016 from nearly 4 million visitors. The booming tourism industry can benefit both the locals and the tourists.

Jamaicans can set up shops for dining and shopping near tourist-heavy areas and the visitors can experience the local culture and interact with the locals. There is even a program in place called Meet the People that matches locals with tourists to spend time together based on similar interests.

Misrepresentation #3: Poverty is crippling Jamaica

More than 400,000 people in Jamaica live in poverty and 14,000 live in extreme poverty. That’s close to 15 percent of the country’s population who don’t have access to a decent way of survival. Although the percentage is not uplifting, it is far from the worst across all countries. Out of 164 countries, Jamaica ranks 119th on a scale of the percent of the population living below the poverty line. In comparison, the U.S. is ranked 126th.

Jamaica’s poverty concerns have to do with the country’s struggle to keep a consistent gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate. Jamaica’s GDP growth rate has fluctuated between .5 percent to 1.4 percent within the last few years, creating challenges for the poor. However, the growth rate is expected to rise significantly in 2018, creating a steady decline in the poverty rate through 2020.

Although some facts about Jamaica can’t be overlooked, grave information attached to those facts and how the media misrepresents Jamaica are skewed. Jamaica has grown into a thriving, middle-income country.

– Naomi C. Kellogg

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in JamaicaIn the 2007 Human Development Index published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Jamaica ranked 101 of 177 countries – the second-lowest in the Caribbean, ahead of only Haiti. Since then, the nation’s rank has climbed to 94; however, human rights in Jamaica and national human development still face several obstacles that need to be addressed.

Poverty and public security are the primary human rights concerns in Jamaica. Gang violence and violent murders are rampant and affect a majority of the population, especially the poorest. Although there has been a slight decrease in gang activity in the last few years, gang violence still accounts for a majority of murders in Jamaica. Last year, the Acting Police Commissioner reported that 65 percent of murders were linked to gangs.

Police violence is also a major issue. The state’s answer to significant violent crime has largely been to respond with its own violence. Human rights activists in recent years have reported the prevalence of unlawful killings on behalf of the state police force on the order of – or complicit with – higher authorities. Since 2000, it is alleged that the Jamaican constabulary force has killed over 3,000 people. Although these killings have been decreasing since 2010, the numbers are still high. In 2016, there was an average of two police killings per week.

Beyond the killings themselves, international human rights watchdog organizations have claimed that police officers perpetuate an atmosphere of fear. The planting and tampering of evidence, along with the intimidation and terrorizing of witnesses, are commonplace.

Another major obstacle to improving human rights in Jamaica is the treatment of the LGBTQ community. Hate crimes directed at these individuals have been committed both by citizens and the police. Between 2009 and 2012, estimates show that over 200 attacks, including physical attacks, mob attacks and home invasions, were directed at LGBTQ members. More recently, the government has formally acknowledged the issue and has put in place initiatives, such as a division of the police focused on diversity, to help aid the problem.

The state of human rights in Jamaica over the past decade has been improving. Initiatives on behalf of the government and the support and direction of human rights organizations have attempted to systematically address the issues that plagued the Jamaican community, and have already made progress. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement and as long as Jamaica suffers from chronic poverty, human rights issues will always be present.

Alan Garcia-Ramos

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Jamaica
With over 2 million stopover visits, the tropical island of Jamaica remains one of the most popular tourist vacation areas; renowned home of Reggae legend Bob Marley and the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt. However, within and around the outskirts of paradise lives the poor and those experiencing financial hardship.

Yet many remain oblivious to the existence of poverty in Jamaica. The poverty rate in Jamaica remains at 16.5 percent, after increasing in the past two years.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) will be providing $50 million in support of the Jamaican Government’s efforts to help alleviate poverty. The IDB investment loan was initiated to support poor families who were beneficiaries of the Program of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH).

With the aim of alleviating poverty in Jamaica, PATH was put into effect by the government within its social safety net budget. The IDB’s project was put into place to provide financial and health stability for eligible beneficiaries of the PATH program such as children and pregnant women.

“The Integrated Support to Jamaica’s Social Protection Strategy project is a continuation of support by the IDB to the reform of Jamaica’s SSN,” said Therese Turner-Jones, IDB country representative for Jamaica said.

She noted that since 2000, in partnership with the World Bank, IDB is to achieve greater equity, efficiency and effectiveness. This included a previous investment loan in 2009 to reduce the life-threatening effects of the food price crisis on the most impoverished.

For two consecutive international financial crisis periods, the IDB has created scheduled loans against social spending as well as to protect against labor policies. Their efforts have promoted human capital and supported the networking of the poor into labor markets.

Turner-Jones outlined that the Integrated Support to Jamaica’s Social Protection Strategy project will help reduce the negative impact of fiscal adjustment on the poor.

The IDB loan for $50 million is set to continue for 25 years, with extended overtime of 5.5 years and an interest rate based on LIBOR.

The IDB has come on board to support the long-term development plan for Jamaica, Vision 2030 Jamaica, to reduce poverty by ensuring access to basic goods and services, responsive public policy, opportunities for sustainable livelihoods and social inclusion.

Shanique Wright

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Jamaica Poverty rate
Jamaica has struggled with poverty, unemployment and crime for the past half century, but the nation has recently seen ambitious government economic policies bear fruit. Discussed below are the leading facts about poverty in Jamaica and their implications.

8 Facts about Poverty in Jamaica

  1. Jamaica is not in extreme poverty and is regarded as a middle income country. For comparison, Jamaica has about 1/20th the GDP per capita of the United States, but a four-times-higher GDP per capita than the nearby country Haiti.
  2. Since the 1970s and 80s, Jamaica has experienced serious problems with poverty and unemployment. Through the 90s, unemployment remained around 15 percent, with poverty above 25 percent. The unemployment rate is currently 14 percent and poverty is 16 percent.
  3. A serious hindrance to Jamaica’s development has been slow rates of economic growth. In the past 30 years, Jamaica has had an average annual GDP growth rate of less than one percent. The slow growth rate is a major cause of persistent poverty in Jamaica.
  4. Relationships between Jamaican officials and crime groups cause widespread corruption, which results in many of Jamaica’s problems. The corruption not only hurts law abiding Jamaican citizens, but makes foreign investors far more hesitant to get involved in Jamaican industry.
  5. Public education in Jamaica is not entirely free. There is a registration fee and other school expenses that are not covered by the government. As a result, many of the nation’s most poor children are not able to attend school.
  6. Jamaica jumped 27 places in the 2015 Doing Business ranking, as the Jamaican government has improved its credit rating and decreased the national debt. It is hoped that the improved ranking will increase investment and alleviate poverty in Jamaica.
  7. The World Bank has a positive outlook for Jamaica’s economy, with forecasts of the country’s GDP growth rate climbing to over two percent in 2017.
  8. The Jamaican Government is currently working with the UNDP and the European Union to alleviate poverty on both a macro and micro level. Poverty alleviation and achievement of Millennium Development Goals remains a top priority for the Jamaican government.

Despite Jamaica’s history of poverty and some ongoing problems, economic forecasts for the country remain optimistic. It is possible that Jamaica will experience an economic resurgence and alleviate problems of unemployment and poverty in coming years.

John English

Photo: Pixabay