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Shortage of construction workers in the Caribbean

Construction labor shortages in Barbados, the Bahamas, St Lucia, the Cayman Islands and Trinidad and Tobago.

The Caribbean is currently one of the busiest construction regions in the world. Increasing tourism is driving demand in the Caribbean, not just for more hotels and condominiums, but for everything that the modern tourist needs to go with them, such as new roads, bigger airports, banks and shopping malls.

The entire region is busy, but islands particularly benefiting from such additional construction and civil engineering work include Barbados, the Bahamas, St Lucia, the Cayman Islands and Trinidad and Tobago.

Since the late 1990's Barbados has seen an increasing construction boom, the island began to see new hotels, redevelopments, new homes, office complexes, condos, and mansions being developed across the island. The current boom in the Barbados construction industry has caused a shortage of skilled labor such as masons and carpenters.

With the current boom in construction in Cayman expanding each month, the demand for construction workers, and in particular Caymanians, is skyrocketing. As a result, most worksites remain staffed by a majority of expats.

Trinidad and Tobago’s increasing oil and gas economy have produced a construction boom and consequently a shortage of skilled workers in the country. Skilled workers from Jamaica could soon be called in to help with reconstruction of several buildings in downtown Port of Spain, Trinidad.

Trinidad and Tobago's economy has been on a strong growth path for the past decade, driven by expansion in the natural gas and manufacturing sectors. More recently, the spiraling price of oil has given additional impetus to the economy, and has been driving construction.

Luxury homes, shopping malls and office complexes have been built in recent years and more are on the drawing board, as Trinidadians, with the support of their partners in the Caricom, vie for the headquarters of the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

Already, a handful of categories of skilled workers, as well as graduates of the University of the West Indies (UWI), are supposed to have the right to live and work in Caricom member states without having to comply with work permit requirements, but some countries have been slow in implementing the necessary regulations.

In the meantime, the Trinidadians have being examining short-term options for the construction sector, based on a proposal first floated by the country's trade and industry minister, Ken Valley. The initiative has broadened beyond Jamaica to involve other Caricom states, to recruit workers in construction and related industries where there continues to be an evident shortage.

Jamaicans have in recent years increasingly found jobs in the Eastern Caribbean, particularly in Antigua. But most of these workers are either white collar professionals or tourism workers who go with substantial skills learned on the job.

Construction Companies currently recruiting large recruitment drives in the Caribbean include Carillion and Creative Design.

Debbie O'Halloran

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