Samantha was supposed to start a new job on Monday March 30.
“I was excited. I was turning a new page in my life and I was very hopeful about what was to come,” Samantha, 35, told Guardian Media.
After working at the same job for the past five years Samantha felt this move was a positive step towards her goal of professional development.
“It’s not that I did not like my old job or anything, I just felt it was time to move on to something new,” she said.
Unfortunately for Samantha on March 27, mere days before she was set to begin a new work life, National Security Minister Stuart Young provided a list of companies that were deemed essential during this time of COVID-19.
Her job and the new organisation were not listed among them.
“I was supposed to go into the office and sign my contract the day the stay-at-home orders came into effect,” Samantha said.
More than a month later and Samantha says she still has not heard from the company.
“I do not know what is going on. My life is in complete limbo,” she said.
And given the phased reopening of businesses announced by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on Saturday, it is unlikely Samantha will hear any good news any time soon.
The company that she was expected to be working, for now, falls under Phase Three of the planned reopening.
“So I’m here back at square one looking for a job again,” she said.
She is not alone as the economic measures taken by the Government to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 in T&T has left thousands jobless.
Recruitment platform CaribbeanJobs.com says it has seen a 68 per cent increase in the number of applications for jobs on its website between March and April.
CaribbeanJobs.com boasts of over a quarter-million users of its website every month.
“This spike shows that more jobseekers are applying to the jobs currently available on site,” an emailed response from Lerielle Cole-Pierre, the regional marketing manager of CaribbeanJobs.com to Guardian Media stated.
According to the data from CaribbeanJobs.com the most popular jobs people are searching for coming out of COVID-19 are sales, web developers, cyber security specialist, project manager, health and safety officers, online markets/content creators, education specialists, administrative assistants and counsellors (consultant).
CaribbeanJobs.com states that it is utilised by more than 900 businesses throughout the region.
“Naturally, the need for employers hiring staff has decreased due to the pandemic. There are, however, higher demand in industries such as IT, healthcare, delivery, finance, janitorial & cleaning services, and education,” CaribbeanJobs.com stated.
According to the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce based on the number of businesses that have been closed since the stay at home orders were announced the country’s unemployment figure is currently over 100,000 and could escalate.
The Chamber argued that the government’s risk-averse approach to the situation would result in increased unemployment, social tension, increased crime and further stress upon an already fragile economy.
“We believe the most vulnerable businesses would be the micro and small enterprises with annual sales of under $10 million which have seen sales decline by 25 per cent or more over the corresponding period ending April this year,” it stated.
Executive director of the Unit Trust Corporation Nigel Edwards said while we all understand the hardships being faced now the worst thing that could happen is opening the economy too fast and then having to shut it down again.
“Everybody understands the tremendous hardship that many people are going through and nobody wants the country to continue to be in this situation,” Edwards said.
“But the most challenging thing would be to open up the economy and then you are forced to roll that back,” he said.
Edwards likened that situation to someone contracting athlete’s foot, where they think everything is better and it is cured but then it flares up later on.
With this in mind, he called for forbearance and patience.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has forecasted that 9.9 per cent of working hours in the Caribbean are expected to be lost during the second quarter of 2020 because of the impact of COVID-19.
According to the latest data released in the ILO Monitor, that loss is the equivalent of 1.5 million full-time jobs.
But in the face of trying times ahead, CaribbeanJobs.com offered some advice to job seekers during this unprecedented time.
“Firstly, do not become despondent. It is important to understand that this pandemic is temporary. While this is an uncertain time, know that it will not last forever. Companies are still hiring, and others will be hiring again soon. So, stay the course, remain positive and don’t quit,” it stated.
“Secondly, use this time wisely. Update your resume, clean up your social media profiles, sign up for a free account on CaribbeanJobs.com; anything that can do to improve your digital profile and ensure you are ready for your dream job once it becomes available,” it stated.
“Thirdly, assess where you are at in your career. Given the current state of the economy, now is the perfect time to evaluate where you are at in your career. If you are loving your job and want to remain in the industry you are currently in, consider sharpening your technical skills: take an online course, or read up on trends in your industry; anything that ensures you are on top of your game and remain a valuable asset to your company.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, now may just be the perfect time to consider a career change. As we are seeing, this pandemic will give birth to so many new demands—from IT, to education and even online work. Think of your skills, your passions and your interests and figure out how these can create new work opportunities for you,” it stated.
“Lastly, introspect and innovate. One of the best things you can do during this pandemic is to spend quality time with yourself. Whether you write down your thoughts or store mental notes, it is really important to determine how you can improve and become better at your craft,” it stated.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert has said that the government intends to spend up to $6 billion as part of its COVID-19 relief effort.
The government has, so far, spent $934 million through its various ministries and agencies.Around $12 million has been spent on the Salary Relief Grant with $490 million projected to spent in total.
The Salary Relief grant was implemented to provide financial support to people who lost their jobs because of COVID-19
The government has estimated that some 80,000 would fall into that bracket.
The grant is a $1,500 monthly stipend that a person is entitled to for a maximum of three months.
The Ministry of Social Development and Family Services has so far spent $98.1 million with $400 million expected to be spent.
The Social Development Ministry has an Income Support Grant for households with people outside the Salary Relief Grant purview.
Imbert said the government intends to access the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund as well as access grant funding to assist the country during this difficult economic period.
The net asset value of the HSF is US$6.1 billion.
T&T is currently sourcing $2 billion (US$300 million) from various multilateral agencies including US$20 million from the World Bank, US$130 million from Inter-American Development Bank and US$150 million from the Development Bank of Latin America.
Imbert said the country is also pursuing a further US$500million for budgetary support from other external sources.