Published On: Tue, Dec 15th, 2015

10,000 Syrian refugees

Jacob Gelt DekkerUsing unemployment statistics to manage political decisions from economy to immigration, residence permits, and preferred status legislature for Yu di Korsou ( 80/20 rule) is no longer adequate. The parameter is insufficient and outdated.

Quoting unemployment figures of, say 12% of a labor force, and deciding upon that information to block entry for skilled and qualified foreign workers, is hara-kiri of the island economy.

Unfortunately, many of Curacao’s unemployed are unemployable. Education and training inefficiencies are abundant. The drop-out rate of High School kids, at age 14, is 50-60%. Health conditions, like diabetes, obesity, and drug addiction have reached world records. Criminal records, Curacao has more than 30,000 people with a criminal record mostly from drug trafficking, makes a large part of the unemployed, unemployable. Besides, often due to poor work ethics, the productivity of many of the unemployed is so low that no company will ever hire them.

The unemployment figure may be 12% but at the same time, the productivity potential of the unemployed is extremely low. To make things worse, a graying workforce, migration, and extremely low population growth add to the chronic lack of productivity. The island economy is in desperate need of a productive workforce and, in the absence of sufficient local potential, outsiders need to be brought in. From a productivity point of view, there is a desperate shortage of skilled labor on the island.

Employment is only one aspect of the island’s outdated economic model of a “large industrial complex.” On the island of Curacao, a very large segment of the economy is owned by the government. Along socialist ideology, it employs units of labor with great indifference to skill. The 80/20- labor law allowed birthright to trump merit and skill. For the remainder, relations of friends-and-family makes up for the most favored qualification for employment in a State-owned company.

Not employment in the large industrial complex but self-employment and small entrepreneurship became the fastest growing segment of the economy, and mostly responsible for the global expansion of the economy and wealth creation over the last 30 years. The outdated economic model of Curacao hardly accounts for self-employment and entrepreneurship. Laws and regulations are so restrictive that most start-ups are killed after a short while. Many small companies disappear quietly into the shadow economy, the economy of illegality.

For the island economy to flourish and prosper as the rest of the world, there is a desperate need for self-employment and small entrepreneurship. Liberalization of the labor and business laws and dismantling of union dictatorship is urgently needed.

Curacao has a golden opportunity to select most carefully and invite in, a large number of highly skilled and motivated refugees from Syria and Venezuela. It could provide the island economy with the injection of skilled labor, entrepreneurship, and highly motivated work ethics, it so desperately needs.

By the way, if you have any doubts about Middle-Easterners, look at a large number of Lebanese refugees who now form the backbone of professional and entrepreneurial life in the Caribbean.

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