By Balford Henry
THE Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MLSS) says that 16 illegal operators of private employment agencies were identified by its inspectors during the 2017/18 financial year.
The MLSS says that of the 16 identified, three have since complied with the regulations to become legalised, while the others are closed.
The ministry says that under the Employment Agencies Regulation Act, private operators of these agencies are required to provide current information regarding the number of individuals registered, vacancies and placements on a quarterly basis.
However, there was no indication as to whether the other 13 are still making efforts to become legal or have permanently closed down.
According to the ministry's Annual Performance Report, the monitoring is done by its Employment Agency Unit (EAU), whose objective it is to alleviate unemployment through issuing licences to employment agency operators, allowing them to seek employment opportunities for clients both locally and overseas.
The unit operates islandwide monitoring of the agencies to ensure compliance with the Act, which has been in effect since 1957.
The unit also has authority for recommending the granting, renewal or revocation of the licences.
The examination of the agencies includes checks on the office premises to determine if they are conducive to business. In addition, the unit also ensures that proper mechanisms are in place for record keeping, and that information is submitted to the MLSS on a quarterly basis, in accordance with the law.
The data from the unit showed that for 2017/18, 6,893 Jamaicans were placed in employment locally and overseas. This indicated that there was a significant increase of 4,575 or 197.4 per cent in the number of Jamaicans placed, both locally and overseas, by the legal agencies, compared to 2016/17.
This increase was attributed to a rise in the number of students who participated in the J1 student work and travel programme, as well as a vast improvement in data coverage for 2017/18.
Of the total number of placements, 1,089 or 15.7 per cent were placed locally. Closer examination of the data revealed that 5,933 people were registered with private operators to source employment overseas, while 1,636 were registered for local employment. Of the 5,933 registrants seeking employment overseas, 5,804 were placed in jobs.
It also showed that 2,822 people were placed on the H2B Hospitality Programme. This is 2,758 more than the previous year.
The unit says that for 2018/19, it is projecting to implement action to regularise more illegal operators as well as implement action to increase public awareness, including conducting workshops, and review the Employment Agency Regulation Act.