By Harald Linkels
Kralendijk- The general problem of persisting poverty on the three BES islands cannot be blamed on unemployment. That is one important conclusion from the report drawn up by the consultants of Regioplan, related to determining the level of subsistence level on the islands. The relatively low unemployment on the islands is no surprise. Figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), which are published annually, also show that unemployment is in general not a big problem on Bonaire, St. Eustatius or Saba.
Unemployment on Bonaire is comparable to that the European Netherlands. With an unemployment rate of 6.7 percent in 2016, the proportion of unemployed people on Bonaire was slightly above that of the European Netherlands in that year (6.0 percent).
Saba has the lowest unemployment rate of the three islands. An unemployment rate of only 3.3% was measured on Saba in the year 2016, which can be described as quite low in both relative and absolute terms. St. Eustatius on the other hand had the highest rate of unemployment in 2016, namely (7.1%). Regioplan notes that the figure on St. Eustatius shows a slightly decreasing trend, which started in the year 2014.
The relatively low overall unemployment does however not mean all is well on the labor market of Caribbean Netherlands. One group seems to struggle to find employment, namely job seekers between the age of 15 and 25. Of that group, no less than 20.2% was without employment in the year 2016. Regioplan also notes that labor force participation rate increases sharply as the level of education is higher, meaning that finding stable employment and sufficient income are much bigger issues for those with lower levels of education.
Although the low rate of employment on especially Saba sounds like good news, it is good to remark that in general economists consider an unemployment rate of less than 4%, also as problematic. This usually means that it is (very) difficult for employers to find new employees, when people leave the company.