Period Poverty in JamaicaIn Jamaica, period poverty affects 44% of girls, and many go without sanitary products for months. The lack of conversation surrounding periods causes stigmatization that dissuades girls from asking for supplies or information. Period poverty enforces gender inequality in Jamaica, as girls miss school and, therefore, vital education due to their periods.

The stigma surrounding women’s reproductive rights and menstruation makes it difficult for women to seek adequate health care and education about their bodies. In countries where education surrounding periods is limited and there is a lack of access to sanitary products, period poverty becomes an issue. UNICEF reported in Latin America, one in four adolescent girls who live in impoverished rural areas do not attend school but instead do unpaid domestic chores and care work. This lack of education limits their knowledge of their menstruation and health. In developing countries like Jamaica, the problem worsens, with period poverty being a central issue facing young girls and women. 

About Always’ Work to End Period Poverty

Sanitary product company Always began a campaign in 2021 to end period poverty. Always found that 35% of girls treat menstruation as a “private matter” worldwide. The company committed itself to opening the discussion surrounding periods by installing a van in busy areas of Kingston, Jamaica. The van- nicknamed the Menstru-Mobile– tested passers-by on their knowledge of menstruation and provided information on period poverty. 

Additionally, for every pack of Always purchased in shops linked to the campaign, the company donates a sanitary pad to girls affected by period poverty, and from 2021-2022, Always donated 200,000 sanitary pads in Jamaica due to this initiative. Always’ aim for 2023 is to donate more than 410,000 sanitary pads to girls in Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago and Panama. These donations are delivered to communities experiencing period poverty through non-government organizations in Jamaica, such as HerFlow.

How the HerFlow Foundation is Educating Women

Shelly-Ann Weeks created the HerFlow Foundation in 2016. HerFlow works to end period poverty in by educating women and girls about their reproductive health and rights. The campaign started by assisting three schools in Jamaica but now works with over 300 schools, government homes and 28 health clinics, with more than 6 million period products donated. 

The Outcome

Initiatives and organizations striving to end period poverty in Jamaica are making an immediate impact. Through donations and collaborations with companies such as Always, these initiatives have supported thousands of girls and made significant progress in ending period poverty. 

– Anjini Snape
Photo: Flickr

Economic Improvements in Jamaica
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, Jamaica’s economy grew after its gross domestic product suffered a 10% decrease. It has done so by producing goods, such as food, beverages and tobacco, with the help of the goods and by self-producing industries such as restaurants, fishing, transportation, communication, construction, hotels, mining, agriculture and forestry. As a result of this, the country garnered its eighth consecutive period of economic growth during the March quarter of 2023, advancing 4.2% year-on-year after making it toward 3.8% growth during the previous quarter. Here is some information about the economic improvements in Jamaica.

Current Growth

After the 2022–2023 fiscal year had passed, the Bank of Jamaica Governor, Richard Byles, reported that the country’s economy grew in the range of 4% to 5.5% and that this outturn is up to par with the outcome that was said to come true by the institution itself. In addition to this, Byles has commented that the economic growth could be indicated by the estimated outturn for the period between the months of January and March 2023, which had a faster growth rate that quarter, ranging between 3.5% and 4.5%, than the period that had the previous fastest growth rate between October and December 2022, where 3.8% was recorded instead.

Predictions about Jamaica’s Future Economic State

Byles added that there were indications that the economy would continue to grow for the April to June 2023 period as a result of the advancements in agriculture and manufacturing production that support the resumption of production at the JAMALCO alumina plant. He further stated that as of May 18, 2023, Jamaica’s gross international reserves remained at a decent rate of $4.7 billion and that the Jamaican dollar increased in value against the U.S. dollar by 0.4%, in contrast to a 3.3% loss over the same time last year. He also commented that the Bank of Jamaica has so far sold $398.3 million through its foreign exchange intervention trading, the B-FXITT program, and an additional $10 million to certain state firms, including Petrojam, resulting in a net purchase of $470.3 million when offset by the bank’s purchases that it made.

How Economic Improvements in Jamaica are Occurring

Byles also stated that despite recent volatility in the banking industry abroad, the domestic financial system is strong with appropriate capital and liquidity. He added that the gross reserves will continue to be adequate in the medium term. Furthermore, he noted that deposit-taking institutions have maintained compliance with prudent liquidity standards and that the quality of the system’s loan portfolio has remained stable in itself.


To continue to combat the economic downturn and ensure economic improvements in Jamaica, Jamaica has progressively integrated climate change adaptation into its policy framework and reinforced its social protection system, which has led to an increase in fairness, a decrease in poverty and a better social structure.

– Deon Roberts
Photo: Flickr

USAID programs in JamaicaUSAID has been actively working in Jamaica since 1962 to alleviate poverty and support various initiatives aimed at benefiting communities. The following is a brief look into the significant impact of USAID programs in Jamaica, particularly in the areas of education, COVID-19 response and energy security.


In 2014, USAID collaborated with the Government of Jamaica on a Government-to-Government scheme focused on improving literacy skills and reading comprehension among children. The project targeted 450 of Jamaica’s poorest-performing schools, with a strategic focus on regions facing high poverty and crime rates.

The ongoing ‘Positive Pathways’ project, running until 2025 with a budget of $15 million, plays a crucial role in providing essential opportunities for Jamaican children to make better choices in their early lives. Key components of the program include business training, career guidance and enhanced psychosocial support.

The scheme primarily targets children aged between 10-17, particularly those demonstrating behavioral issues, as they are at a higher risk of gang involvement and criminal activity. To address this, parenting interventions and conflict resolution training are prioritized to reduce children’s exposure to violence.

COVID-19 Response

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, USAID collaborated with the Pan-American Health Organization, Jamaica Aids Support for Life and various other partners to deliver crucial support in Jamaica.

More than $7 million was invested in funding vaccination efforts, ensuring food security and equipping hospitals with essential equipment. USAID provided 1,000 health care workers with protective gear and distributed care packages, including masks and sanitizers, to 1,500 of the most vulnerable individuals. Additionally, hospitals received extra beds to accommodate severe cases.

During the initial outbreak, immediate relief was provided to the most impoverished in Jamaica. More than 1,000 food and sanitation vouchers were distributed, alongside educational supplies such as book vouchers and laptops to facilitate online study.

In the second phase of assistance, which commenced in September 2021, USAID focused on strengthening Jamaica’s health care infrastructure. The efforts included enhancing logistics and digital information systems to ensure a more efficient vaccine rollout and a stronger response to future health crises.

Energy Security

In 2021, USAID partnered with the Cadmus Group to launch a $4 million alliance dedicated to boosting Jamaica’s energy sector. The initiative aimed to enhance the reliability of energy systems and reduce the risks of major energy loss during natural disasters.

Under the scheme, hundreds of local businesses will be provided with solar photovoltaic electricity systems, a method of energy generation that is renewable and can adapt easily to meet energy demands due to its modular structure.

As stated by USAID, “Damage to the energy system can lead to sudden increases in the price of fuel and reduce access to affordable electricity, including the country’s most vulnerable.”

About 96% of Jamaica’s population is at risk of multiple natural hazards including earthquakes and hurricanes. The alliance, with potential investment reaching $50 million from investors, aims to reduce the nation’s dependence on imported fuels, enhance solar energy generation and increase tourism. As Jamaica’s largest economic sector, improved energy security in the hospitality industry could foster sustained economic growth, create new job opportunities and provide hope to millions of vulnerable and impoverished individuals.

USAID’s unwavering commitment to Jamaica has significantly impacted the lives of the 12.6% of people below the poverty line, offering them a chance to achieve financial stability while safeguarding human rights. The organization’s efforts and achievements have instilled hope and contributed to building a better country for more than 300,000 Jamaicans.

– Oliver Rayner
Photo: Unsplash

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in JamaicaThe COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated poverty rates in countries all over the world, including Jamaica, one of North America’s poorest countries. An island country with a shrinking economy and high poverty rates, the impact of COVID-19 impact on poverty in Jamaica is still alive three years after the declaration of the first public health emergencies. On the other hand, the nation also showed signs of substantial progress in its recovery efforts.

COVID’s Impact on Poverty in Jamaica

Historically, Jamaica has always grappled with high poverty rates, with rates declining in recent years. However, poverty rates have increased since the start of the pandemic, completely unraveling years’ worth of work and successful efforts to combat this crisis. According to the World Bank, Jamaica’s poverty rate increased from 19% to roughly 23% in 2020. Some residents who were beginning to make ends meet in the years preceding the initial outbreaks fell below the poverty line as a result of the pandemic. Many residents are still lacking access to resources such as reliable housing and clean drinking water. Around 150,000 Jamaicans lost their jobs during the pandemic, with re-creation and rebound well underway.

COVID’s Impact on the Jamaican Economy

While enduring aftereffects less severe than some of its neighboring islands, Jamaicans are still reeling from the pandemic’s impact on the economy. The Jamaican economy has experienced its greatest contraction in history as a result of the pandemic. It has struggled to rebound since the post-pandemic era and since the distribution of vaccines and other treatment resources, undoing years’ worth of efforts to promote economic stability and fiscal responsibility.

To remain prosperous and stable, the economy relies heavily on the tourism industry, including hotels and resorts, restaurants and entertainment venues. Overall, the industry accounts for roughly 70% of the country’s GDP. However, travel restrictions from other nations adversely affected the country’s economic climate, with the economy shrinking by 5% and GDP declining by roughly 10% in 2020. As Jamaican air and sea borders prohibited the entry of international travelers, the industry began to destabilize, along with the nation’s economy. Workers in the tourism industry were forced out of their jobs as countries restricted travel and demand for their services declined. According to the Ministry of Tourism, at least 50,000 employees within the industry subsequently got laid off.

Aid and Assistance

The Jamaican government has initiated several programs and efforts to aid residents reeling from COVID’s impact on poverty in Jamaica. One of these is the COVID-19 Allocation of Resources for Employees Program, an initiative that provides cash transfers to members of the population who are the most vulnerable. About 500,000 received aid from this program, including those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic. The program provides an automatic grant of $18,000 to all who received the most recent SET Cash Grant and are unemployed as of Sept. 30, 2021.

Similarly, the Supporting Employees with Transfer of Cash program provides cash transfers to Jamaicans, after verification, who have lost their jobs on or after March 10, 2020. In 2021, the World Bank provided Jamaica with $150 million to contribute to its recovery and rebound from the pandemic. Ozan Sevimli, World Bank representative for Jamaica and Guyana, states, “The operation supports the expansion of the country’s social protection programs to benefit women and men disproportionately affected by the crisis and introduces a social pension for the elderly. It also supports measures for the recovery of affected businesses.”

Jamaica also received aid in receiving and distributing vaccinations to its citizens through COVAX, a worldwide initiative that comprises multiple health agencies working toward equitable distribution of vaccines to the population.

Recovery and Rebound

Despite being slower than most of its neighboring nations, Jamaica has made substantial progress in its post-pandemic recovery efforts. Data from the Planning Institute of Jamaica shows Jamaica surpassed pre-COVID-19 levels of economic growth and recorded its highest level of employment, with 1,269,300 citizens holding a job. In July 2022, Jamaica recorded its unemployment rate at 6.6%, lower than pre-pandemic levels. In addition, the nation’s tourism industry has almost completely rebounded. According to Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, the industry has recovered by 90%. He also looked to 2022 as a “true year of recovery.” At a celebration of the country’s 60th anniversary of independence, he proclaimed, “We expect to close 2022 having welcomed a total of 3.2 million visitors contributing more than $3 billion to our economy.” Considering the post-pandemic trends. Jamaica looks to be on its way to a more prosperous future.

– Nicholas DeLuca
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in JamaicaJamaica, known for its vibrant culture and picturesque beaches, faces a pressing energy challenge that affects both its economy and its people. The island nation heavily relies on fossil fuels, particularly oil, for its energy needs, leaving it vulnerable to soaring prices and environmental repercussions. With energy insecurity and exorbitant waste costs, Jamaicans struggle to afford the high expenses of powering their homes and businesses. However, amidst these challenges, signs of progress are emerging as renewable energy initiatives gain momentum. And the state of renewable energy in Jamaica appears to be having an impact on poverty in the country.

The State of Energy Reliance in Jamaica

Jamaica primarily relies on fossil fuels, particularly oil, for energy production. Around 89% of all energy comes from such sources, with renewables making up 11% combined — solar accounts for only 1%. Since Jamaica imports a majority of its oil from other countries, it is subject to high prices. The cost of imported oil surpassed the profit from exported goods by almost 118% in 2010. As such, the continued use of fossil fuels is not sustainable for the country’s economy or environment.

Its energy insecurity is exacerbated by incredibly and consistently high amounts of wasted energy. For example, Jamaica Public Service Co., the country’s primary distributor, lost nearly 27% of the power it generated in 2017. This loss amounted to more than $301 million. Still, it primarily relies on fossil fuels despite the problems of inefficient infrastructure and high import costs.

How Energy Affects Poverty in Jamaica

Many Jamaicans pay high amounts of money to power their homes and businesses to compensate for import and waste costs. Oil can fluctuate in price, so relying on it puts people in a poor position financially. Out of 82 low-to-middle-income countries experiencing high rates of energy poverty, Jamaica has the highest energy poverty status because it lacks proper energy infrastructure.

Is Jamaica Making Progress?

Even though most of Jamaica’s energy comes from fossil fuels, current trends suggest that this may not continue to be the case. Multiple organizations have already taken steps to implement more renewable power sources. For example, the Jamaica Energy Security and Efficiency Enhancement Project decreased oil dependency by 24% in only seven years. It also developed sources of replenishable energy that Jamaicans can rely on.

The country is also receiving international assistance. The Global Environment Facility gave it a $1.25 million grant to switch hospitals to renewable energy mixes. Based on projections, this can result in saving $3.5 million while reducing energy consumption by 22% yearly. This change directly impacts poverty because it lessens the cost of power in critical sectors, translating to savings for Jamaican citizens.

The Impact of Renewable Energy on Jamaica

Many organizations are working to increase renewable energy to lessen poverty. For example, the founders of Radiant Energy Ltd. believe more clean power could strengthen Jamaica’s economy. Since high costs prevent growth and contribute to poverty, the organization provides clean electricity at a lower price than fossil fuels.

As a result of combined efforts, oil usage took only one year to drop from 104,408 terajoules to 58,276 terajoules in 2020. The reliance on fossil fuels still impacts poverty, but Jamaicans are steadily improving their renewable energy use.

Looking Ahead

Jamaica is working to make energy more accessible and affordable. For example, it exempts solar panels and wind turbines from certain taxes. The country continues to make notable progress in its transition towards renewable energy sources, signaling a promising future for the country’s economy and environment. Initiatives such as implementing domestic ethanol blends and exploring innovative solutions like floating solar panels demonstrate Jamaica’s commitment to sustainable energy alternatives. And as renewable energy becomes more accessible, there is hope that Jamaica can alleviate poverty by reducing power costs, fostering economic growth and creating a more resilient and environmentally conscious society.

– Jane Marsh
Photo: Flickr

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