COVID-19 causes major spike in unemployment – BoG

…saw major decline both in Private, Public Sectors

The Bank of Guyana

The first half of 2020 was characterised with a decline in both private and public sector employment, one of the fallouts of the coronavirus pandemic that saw Guyana limiting economic activity to essential services and reducing hiring at public corporations.
This is according to the Bank of Guyana’s recently published half-year report, where it is stated that during the period until June 2020, there was a significant decline in Private Sector employment.
This was primarily so in the services sector such as wholesale and retail trade and transportation, which would have been affected by more persons opting to stay home and conserve money, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the other hand, public sector employment fell by 3.3 per cent up to the end of June 2020. This was due to lower employment by Central Government, while the rest of the public sector employment saw a reduction of 8.7 per cent.
Employment in public corporations, which would include entities like the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) and the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI), declined. This was particularly the case with the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), which saw a 12.7 per cent drop in recruitment.
“Labour unrest, which was confined to GuySuCo, registered an increase in the number of work stoppages to 50 from 20 at end of June. (Work) days lost were higher at 13,868 from 4418 at the end of June. Wages lost increased to $37.9 million from $13 million for the same period last year,” the report stated.

As part of its policy to downsize sugar, the former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government had closed down the Rose Hall, Skeldon, Wales and Enmore Sugar Estates.
However, little to no provisions were made for sugar workers, who were thrown on the breadline. In addition, communities in the sugar belt have suffered the economic and social effects of the closure of the estate.
The current Government has taken several steps to restore the estates that were closed, including engaging the help of the Indian Government for technical experts to assist Guyana to reopen them.
GuySuCo has already commenced the process of rehiring sugar workers who had lost their jobs under the last Administration. In addition, there have been assurances that over 400 sugar workers have been rehired.
Many Guyanese have meanwhile felt the effects of COVID-19 on an economic level, with businesses closing their doors, layoffs and a slowdown in the circulation of money. This was compounded by the political paralysis Guyana found itself in from the elections in March 2020 until President Dr Irfaan Ali was sworn in on August 2, as the previous Government refused to concede defeat.
When COVID first arrived in Guyana earlier this year, the former APNU/AFC Government had taken steps ranging from closing its borders to mandating that only essential businesses open their doors.
During its five-month extension in office, the former Government did not provide any economic stimulus for the remaining businesses which remained open. Guyana did not have a budget since the last one was passed in November of 2018, until September 2020 when the PPP passed its emergency budget.