Unemployment rate 12%, new survey finds

-women, youth seen as disadvantaged in labour force

Dr. Hector Butts

A new Guyana Labour Force Survey has calculated that the unemployment rate stood at 12% in the third quarter of last year, with disproportionately high numbers of both women and youth aged 15 to 24.

The survey, said to be the first of its kind in Guyana in recent years, found that the total number of unemployed persons for the period was 37,119, which comprised 15.3% of eligible females, as opposed to 9.9% of eligible males, as well as 21.6% of youth aged 15 to 24 and 28% of young women.

It noted that among the total resident population aged 15 and above, numbering 550,831 persons, there was a labour force participation rate of 56%, roughly equal to the corresponding 2012 figure of 55.7%. The total employed population was given as 271,068, with 166,873 or 62% being males and 104,195 or 38% being females, while 188,774 of the workers were based in urban areas and 82,294 in rural areas. (The labour force participation rate is the labour force—defined as the sum of persons in employment plus persons in unemployment—as a percentage of the working-age population.)

It was, however, noted that from 2012 to the time of the survey, there was a 9% increase in the participation rate of women (from 34.6% to 43.6%) and a near similar decrease in the participation rate of men (from 77.5 to 68.9 percent). Nonetheless, the survey said the general picture pointing to “a marked disadvantage for women” in the labour market was “confirmed” by the indicator regarding the proportion of women in managerial positions, which was recorded at 37.8%.

Additionally, the survey found that the “worrisome labour market situation of youth” was confirmed by the proportion of youth not in education, employment, or training (NEETs). “It is recorded at 35.2 percent and is higher for young women (63 percent of the total number of NEETs) and young urban dwellers (76.4 percent of the total NEETs),” it says.

Other notable survey findings include that between 48.3% and 52.6% of the employed labour force is holding informal jobs and that for salaried workers the average labour income is $82,636 per month across all the economic sectors, while the figure decreases to $67,064 for self-employed workers.

It also said the weekly hours of work for all workers is 46.8 on average, but rising to 50.6 hours for male workers.

The survey, which can be accessed at the Bureau of Statistics website is the result of a collaboration between the Guyana Government, through the Bureau of Statistics, and the Inter-American Development (IDB), which funded the activity to the tune of almost US$1 million, according to acting Deputy Chief Statistician Ian Manifold, who was instrumental in gathering and presenting the data.

Speaking at the presentation of the findings yesterday at the Marriott Hotel in Georgetown, Manifold revealed that a survey for the first quarter of 2018 is underway and this is being funded by the Guyana Government.


Finance Secretary of the Ministry of Finance Dr. Hector Butts, in underscoring the importance of reliable data for decision making, said that the government will continue to support the Bureau of Statistics in its overall development so that it can hold its own among its peers worldwide.

He pointed out that the need for a labour survey remains an issue for developing countries as decisions are to be made on a credible basis and that credibility is based on the professionalism and integrity that are placed on data collection and analysis.

Butts said government and other stakeholders should find information garnered in the survey very useful and critical for making credible judgements. It can serve two purposes, he said: at the level of macroeconomic planning to determine the impact of labour in the generation of wealth in Guyana; and at the career planning level the information can permit youths and others to effect career planning against the background of projected needs for skills based on both replacement of persons leaving the workforce and demand for new labour via natural growth and innovation in the economy.

The information would also allow for better understanding as to how changes in policies and challenges and opportunities in the economy are affecting jobs, he added. “In this regard, it is critical for the government to establish systems capable of generating imperative data that will inform planning and development functions and promote the implementation of policies that will promote efficiency and sustainable development,” the Finance Secretary said.

To this end, he said that the government is committed to such an agenda and has commenced efforts to establish a modern national statistical agency through the provision of a new housing facility that allows for the effective execution of the functions of the Bureau.

And as part of the institutional strengthening process, he noted that the government in collaboration with the IDB approved a number of technical cooperation programmes aimed at capacity building an execution of critical national surveys. The programmes include an agriculture census (the last one was done since in the 1950s), a project for enhancing the statistical capacity in Guyana, the design and execution of a survey of living conditions and the design and execution of the labour survey.

Fully equipped

Also underscoring the importance of continuous labour force surveys was IDB Country Representative Sophie Makonnen, who also spoke of the importance of having such up to date objective information for evidence-based policy decisions.

She disclosed that Bank, in response to a specific request by the government in June, 2015, approved funding to design a fully-fledged nationally representative labour force survey following the best international practices; execution of the survey in the field for the first two quarters; and support the capacity within the Guyana Bureau of Statistics so that the labour force survey could be executed on a continuous basis beyond the Bank’s support, as a routine activity of the Statistics Bureau.

She said that the Bureau of Statistics is now fully equipped with new technologies and a team that has been rigorously trained to support the continuous quarterly execution that the survey demands.

Guyana, she said, now has one of the most modern Labour Force Surveys not only within the Caribbean, but also internationally.

She pointed out that regular and up to date labour market data will improve the alignment of skills to employers’ demands and can have multiple benefits in terms of employability, productivity and competitiveness, preventing Guyana from falling into a skills gap trap.

“In other words, such a tool should give an assessment of where Guyana’s workforce stands and enable policymakers to plan accordingly,” Makonnen noted.

Quarterly labour market participation and unemployment studies, Makonnen said, are but a step on the path to more evidence-based planning and decision-making on which Guyana has embarked.  She added that they are one of the tools to shape decisions on educational, vocational and on-the-job training activities, programmes and policies, both for private and public sector.

According to the survey, while the information produced is  one  of  the  main  tools  used  to  track  labour market  dynamics,  such  as  unemployment,  job  creation,  and  job  destruction, up to  July, 2017 no such survey was regularly conducted in Guyana.

“This reality hindered the possibility of having up-to-date, objective information to inform evidence-based policy decisions,” it said.

It did note that the findings show a situation substantially similar to that outlined by the 2012 census. However, it said the main differences which emerge from a comparison of the two sources concern; the situation of women who, despite showing a sizeable disadvantage in the labour market, appear to be more engaged in the labour force and be less likely to be unemployed; the substantial drop in the number of workers (and relative share) engaged in the mining and quarrying sector and the reduction in the youth unemployment rate (possibly facilitated by an increase in educational enrolment).

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