The fact that the bulk of salaries paid in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) are way below regional average should come as no surprise to the country’s residents.
Further, Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday says that the The Caribbean Society (CSHRP) for Human Resource Professionals report showing this, only further confirms what he has been saying for years.
CSHRP’s second annual Caribbean salary report, PayPulse 2023, found that Barbados is the highest-paying Caribbean country, with 53.3% of jobs paying above market value.
Antigua and Barbuda placed second with 16.7%, and Jamaica placed third with 13.3%.
SVG was at the bottom of the list as the lowest-paying country, with 73.3% of salaries being below the average market value across the region.
The Vincentian opposition leader, commenting on the findings, said the survey shows that three quarters of the salaries that are paid in SVG are below the average paid in the Caribbean.
“So St. Vincent, we are the lowest paid country in the Caribbean,” Friday said, adding, “And this is what we have been saying all along.
“Because what it shows is that the hardship that people are feeling, the fact that you’re working, you can’t seem to get ahead in St. Vincent, that a lot of people leaving to go,” he said.
The opposition leader said he has always cited Antigua as one example, “because it’s true, a lot of people go there because they get better pay.
“People go to St. Kitts, they go to Barbados; they leave, they go Trinidad,” he said, adding that young Vincentian professionals are migrating.
“These are people who have options, they feel that … their talents are better rewarded elsewhere and they go. And because they want to get ahead.”
The opposition leader said that when he talks to people, they are not just concerned about the availability of jobs.
“… it’s not just a concern of a job. Of course, you want to get a job, but you want to get a job that helps you to get ahead. You don’t want just to be working from paycheque to paycheque, and you just basically spinning top in mud,” he said.
He said young people want to be able to build a life, raise a family, build a home, afford a mortgage, buy a vehicle, and set aside something to educate their children.
“You want to get ahead, you want young people to get ahead. And so this is what this study demonstrates,” Friday said.
“And it is absolutely in keeping with the message that we have been speaking to the people of this country, that is to say, jobs has to be our number one priority, because you have 41% of young people unemployed,” the opposition leader said.
“And moreover, a lot of the people in the country who are employed, are being underpaid or being poorly paid. And so, they can’t get ahead. So, there’s that dissatisfaction as well. And they’re looking for an off ramp to get out of this country to go somewhere else.”
Friday said that SVG is losing its best talents as people seek employment in other Caribbean countries.
“St. Vincent and Grenadines continues to lag behind. And you become a failed country when you can’t keep your brightest and best. And there’s so many other things that are connected to that,” the opposition leader said.
“As I’ve said in the past, when you can’t keep young people working and get them employed in the workforce here, then it means that that undermines the national insurance service as well, because you want young people paying into that service, because they’re going to be paying for a long time before they actually use it in retirement.”
He said the study underscores what the opposition has been saying.
“… we don’t talk off the top of our heads. We go, we talk to people, we do our own research and canvassing and going around the community and talking to people and hearing what they’re complaining about.
“… first, many can’t find jobs. And then when you find a job, you’re still not getting paid well, and you’re catching hell.”
He said the cost of living in SVG is high and the government is doing nothing to help.
“There are other countries that government is doing things to help,” he said, adding that in some Caribbean countries, public servants and people who receive state assistance get a double payout to offset costs.
“In St. Vincent, what we getting? Is just more taxes, higher taxes, and cost of living crushing people and their families,” Friday said.
He said the study confirms the approach that his New Democratic Party has adopted, that SVG must generate more jobs but must also focus on generating better-paying jobs.
“That is not happening now. And after 22 years or more in office for this present administration, they can’t come to the people now and suddenly say that they are going to be able to deliver it. They have proven that they cannot deliver it,” he said.