The labor shortage in certain sectors is mainly due to a gap between the supply and demand of competencies in the labor market. This is evident from a skills assessment/consultation recently conducted by the Ministry of Labor, Employment & Youth Affairs in the sectors: tourism, ICT, wood, fisheries and construction. The direct reason for the assessment is a previously held pilot vacancy survey by the ministry. That survey, in which the research population consisted mostly of companies in Paramaribo and Nickerie, showed that there is a shortage of labor especially in the Trade sector. The consultations were held from August 8 to 11, 2022 with Minister Steven Mac Andrew personally present. The assessment was carried out by the Labor Market Sub-Directorate. 

In order to specifically ascertain whether there is also a shortage in the above-mentioned sectors and what the possible causes of any shortages are, the Ministry also consulted representatives from these sectors affiliated with the VSB. During these consultations, it was also revealed that all these sectors are facing labor shortages at every level, from lower entry level positions to staff and executive positions. 

For the tourism and ICT sectors, the shortage was even quantified. At least a thousand vacancies were estimated for managerial and staff positions in the tourism sector alone. With regard to filling positions such as cooks, kitchen assistants, guides, etc., the sector is at a loss. With regard to the ICT sector, it has been indicated that there is a shortage of 350 to 500 workers, particularly in the call centers. The shortage of workers in this sector is also noticeable in functions such as software developers, auditing personnel and cyber security personnel. The trend regarding the shortage in certain positions is also evident in the other sectors. In the fishing industry, for example, there is an urgent need for boat captains and fishermen; in the timber industry, machine operators and management personnel are being sought. In the construction sector, huge challenges in attracting competent labor have also been highlighted.   

With respect to the possible causes of the manpower shortages in these sectors, the assessment found that the causes are varied. Nevertheless, it appears that the gap between the supply and demand of competencies can be mentioned as the main cause. In other words, the vacancies cannot be filled to a large extent because the candidates do not meet the desired hard and soft skills and competencies. Another cause that has been mentioned is the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdowns that went with it, which resulted in personnel in the tourism sector in particular being moved to other sectors. Lesser financial appreciation for labor has also been cited as a cause. In fisheries, for example, fishermen are moving away because they can earn better wages in other sectors. 

To overcome the shortage of manpower, the Ministry has been advised in the consultations held to adapt the curricula of the vocational training courses to the needs of the companies. Also, the curricula of formal education should be aligned with the required competencies of the business community. Attracting foreigners and employing trainees are also seen by some of the interviewees as possible solutions to the current shortages.   

Source: Ministry of Labor, Employment & Youth Affairs

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