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King Laments Saint Lucian Work Ethic

Image of Labour Minister, Stephenson King

MINISTER for Labour, Stephenson King, is calling on employers, employees, trade unions and government to work together to deal with the myriad of social ills plaguing the country, including poor work ethics and low productivity levels.

Image of Labour Minister, Stephenson King
Labour Minister, Stephenson King

King’s call came amid an unemployment rate in the country that refuses to go below the 20 percent mark.

At the end of last year, unemployment stood at 21.6% but at the end of the first quarter of this year, fell to 20.1%. That figure moved slightly higher to 20.8% by the end of the second quarter.

A breakdown of the unemployment rate showed that 20.2% of employable males in the country were unemployed for that period, compared to 21.4% of females.

With respect to youth unemployment for the second quarter of this year, the figure stood at 39.6%.Youth unemployment in that regard refers to persons within the age range of 15–29 years who are looking for work.

King, who recently addressed employers at the 56th Annual General Meeting of the St. Lucia Employers Federation (SLEF), bemoaned the lack of certain skill sets in the country and questioned the skills young St. Lucians are trained in because of their lack of aptitude and attitude to work.

“In our economy today, we ask ourselves what are we training our young people for. But more than that, within the home, do we have that culture of hard work, dedication? Do we have the culture of industry, commitment? In our society today, there is a culture of dependency, mendicancy, of the guys who sit on the block and expect a handout, not wanting to get up and work,” the Minister said.

He said even when some people indicate a wish to work, their attitude towards work begs the question as to whether they really want to work.

“For me, there is a need for social engineering within our country to train our young people at the family level to prepare them to make their contribution and to have an appreciation for the contribution they make to society. It must start within the home,” King said.

He called for the re-engineering of the curriculum taught in schools, noting that school life should not be simply a case of passing exams but involving students to make a contribution to national development.

He said the country cannot continue in the manner in which it does presently and, therefore, should be focusing on engaging employers, employees, trade unions and the government.

The role of the trade unions, he said, must also change, adding that they must refrain from posturing and merely seeking higher wages and better working conditions but must engage the employers in molding individuals who have the right work ethics, discipline, training and commitment, and conviction to participate and fulfill the mantra of a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.

“Until such time, we will continue to lament the fact that our productivity level in this country is low. Unless we improve production, we are doomed to failure,” King said.

According to King, it is increasingly being observed that many individuals are coming to Saint Lucia to take up positions, filling the void created by the inability of St. Lucians.

He said that was possible because “we have failed as institutions to continue to train our own, to ensure that whenever there is a position that our people rise to the occasion”.

“On our part within the Department of Labour, we, too must rise to the occasion. We cannot be seen as a department sitting and waiting to process work permits and collect the fee. We must be able to put in place the necessary mechanics to ensure that as we process work permits that work permits are used as an instrument to determine training, capacity and facilitation,” King said.

The Labour Department, he said, must also be proactive responding to the needs of the country and shaping policy that will help strengthen the country’s capacity and prepare its people to make their contribution to the overall development and enhancement of the country.

Micah George is an established name in the journalism landscape in St. Lucia. He started his journalism tutelage under the critical eye of the Star Newspaper Publisher and well known journalist, Rick Wayne, as a freelancer. A few months later he moved to the Voice Newspaper under the guidance of the paper’s recognized editor, Guy Ellis in 1988.

Since then he has remained with the Voice Newspaper, progressing from a cub reporter covering court cases and the police to a senior journalist with a focus on parliamentary issues, government and politics. Read full bio...


  1. it is always the same baseless argument from those clueless politicians. Where did Mr. King get his information from? Did he conduct any independent survey to substantiate his claim? It is the same stereotypical reasons for youth unemployment. Always blame the victim. If you cannot find a job then it is your fault. If a few unemployed youths sit by the roadside then they have a mendicant attitude. The same brainless accusation over and over.

    The problem is that those clueless politicians have absolutely no idea on how to resuscitate and invigorate the ailing economy. They do not have the faintest idea on the role of government in creating meaningful jobs. Since they are brain dead then the only solution is to blame the unemployed. This is a typical bourgeois politician mentality and stratify.

    Mr. King, instead of pointing your bony finger of indication at the unemployed you should address the growing inequality in the country and ways to curb the rising tide of income disparity. Have you considered implementing an estate tax on the rich with houses valued over $1 million? You can use this money to finance vocational education. Have you considered a luxury tax? Have you considered challenging the banks to engage in quantitative easing? I challenge you to check out quantitative easing. I can assure you that you will never consider those options since you are hell bent on blaming the unemployed.

  2. Poor work ethic?
    When was it rich, productive, progressive work ethic?
    Foreigners are leaving the island with hundreds of thousands of dollars lost, The Yard’s founder, Sinan, and his wife left the island after only two years crying for lost time and money, and so many others.
    No serious businessman comes to these islands.

    Mr. King,
    Poor work ethic comes from mental retardation. Beat that first, … if you can!

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