The New Today

Commentary

Budget alert 4.1 (C): Exploring unemployment in Grenada

The overall unemployment rate has exhibited a declining trend, and this was also manifested in the trend in unemployment among females. However, the unemployment rate among females has been consistently higher than males and above the overall rate of unemployment.

Therefore, the trend in the rate of unemployment among females should be monitored to facilitate timely and targeted intervention. This is important as according to the Grenada Survey of Living Conditions (World Bank 2021), there is a higher rate of poverty among female headed households stating: “On average, female-headed households are observed to be poorer than male-headed households”.

The Grenada Survey of Living Conditions continued: The poor live in larger households with more children. As a matter of fact, poor households have on average 2.1 more members than the non-poor…” Therefore, unemployment among women has a significant impact on the standard of living of households.

The unemployment rate among females was 15.8per cent based on the labour-force survey of the fourth quarter of 2023. This unemployment rate was above that of males (7.2 per cent) and above the 11.1 per cent overall unemployment rate.

The results of the quarterly labour-force surveys of June, September and December of 2023 showed fluctuations in the rate of unemployment among females. The rate of unemployment for females was 14.6 per cent as at the quarterly survey of June, and increased to 18.1 per cent as of the survey of September and declined to 15.8 per cent as at the labour force survey for the fourth quarter.

The movements in the rate of unemployment among females in the quarterly surveys of 2023 showed moderate improvements compared with the previous periods. In 2019 and 2020, the rate of unemployment among females was 18.3 percent and 21.6 percent respectively, and the rate was 19.5 per cent in June 2021.

A higher unemployment rate for females compared with males is a constant feature of the structure of unemployment, and this has been manifested in the previous labour-force surveys.

The comparative unemployment rates for males and females are depicted in the following table:

The cross tabulation of the results of the labour-force survey for the fourth quarter of 2023 by sex and age highlighted a higher youth unemployment (15 – 24years) in females. Based on the labour-force survey of the quarter ended December 2023, the unemployment rate among youth was 17.9 per cent for males and 29.3 per cent for females, representing a decline in the rate of unemployment for both males and females.

However, the unemployment rate among young females has been stickier than males. As of June 2023, the rate of unemployment among young males was 37.8 percent and the rate for young females was 34.9 per cent.

The rate of unemployment for males fell drastically to 12.6 percent while that of females remained elevated at 36.6 per cent in the survey of the third quarter of 2023. In 2020, the unemployment rate for males was 40.9 percent and the rate for females was 37.8 per cent, and in the second quarter of 2021, female youth unemployment stood at 42 per cent and males at 36.2 per cent.

The rate of unemployment for females was also higher than males for the age group 25 – 64, with 5.7 per cent rate of unemployment for males and 14.0 per cent for females.

The unemployment rate of 9.6 per cent for this category is lower than the 11.1 per cent overall unemployment rate and there is almost full participation of this age group in the labour-force.

Economic growth will contribute to the reduction in the rate of unemployment. This must be combined with direct policy intervention to reduce the unemployment rate within the age group 15 to 19 and the rate of unemployment among females.

Reduction in the rate of unemployment among females could contribute to improvements in the quality of life of households.

The rate and structure of unemployment is one indicator of the trend in the welfare of the population. The other indicators are the rate of poverty and the distribution of income.

Indicators of poverty and the distribution of income are not compiled regularly, and according to the Grenada Survey of Living Conditions and Household Budget Survey [SLCHBS], the poverty survey is undertaken every ten (10) years.

This period is too long a gap to assess the impact of public policies. It is therefore necessary to establish interim indicators to measure the welfare of the population.

The rate and structure of unemployment provides an indicator of the trend in monetary poverty. As the economy expands and unemployment falls, the rate of monetary poverty is likely to decline.

The unemployment rate will need to be combined with other indicators such as education, health, household amenities and access to electricity, water and internet services to determine the trend in multi-dimensional poverty.

Knowledge is power and Experience is the greatest teacher.

Laurel Bain is a Grenadian-born former economist with the St. Kitts-based Eastern Caribbean Central Bank