July 18, 2023
Speakers at the Planning Institute of Jamaica’s (PIOJ) annual Labour Market Forum highlighted the need for integrated population and development policies as the trend in rapid population aging intensifies. For the past 40 years, Jamaica has been experiencing a demographic dividend which has contributed to social and economic development, savings and investment, and an increase in human capital. The demographic dividend describes the number of persons who are available for productive enterprise in the population. A decrease in the demographic dividend will reduce these benefits and may constrain living standards.
In his address at the forum held on July 13, PIOJ Senior Director Social Policy, Planning and Research, Easton Williams, said “As we navigate an era of rapid demographic change, understanding the complex relationship between demography and the labour market becomes increasingly vital for policymakers and planners. The demographic dividend, for instance, presents opportunities for economic growth when a country’s working-age population surpasses the dependent population. Conversely, population aging can pose challenges to labour supply, productivity, and social protection systems.”
Starting in 2002, Jamaica developed baseline National Transfer Accounts (NTA) estimates and updated this in 2019, which showed that 67.5% of the population is of working age, which is between 15 and 65 years of age.
Delivering the keynote address, Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Ronald Lee, used the National Transfer Accounts methodology to explain consumption and production patterns within age groups in the Jamaican population. Other speakers were Researcher from the Estado de la Nación in Costa Rica, Pamela Jiménez Fontana, who spoke on “New and Old Demographic Challenges: Analysis of the Generational Economy in Costa Rica”. Ms Jiménez Fontana’s research on the gender dividend in that country has highlighted the importance of national policies to protect women’s participation in the paid labour force.
Dr Latif Dramani, Professor of Economics at the University of Thiès, Senegal, and Coordinator at the Centre for Research in Economics and Applied Finances (CREFAT) and also the Coordinator of the Regional Centre of Excellence for Research in Generational Economics (CREG), delivered a presentation on Monitoring Demographic Dividend in West African Countries. He noted that the demographic dividend is not an automatic benefit, but an opportunity that required significant and well-targeted investments. In West Africa there is a collaboration called “Africa We Want at 2063”.
In her presentation, PIOJ Labour Market Analyst, Nicola Boyd, noted that in 2019, $1.2 trillion Jamaican dollars was spent on private consumption that was outside of spending on health and education, with this consumption peaking between age 39 and 42 years of age, thereafter gradually declining. Estimates of labour income in Jamaica suggest that labour income peaks between the ages of 42 and 43 years.
Ms Boyd noted that a life cycle surplus occurs when labour income exceeds consumption, and in Jamaica, this is being generated by persons between the ages of 28 and 54 years, which is a total of 27 age cohorts. Using the global NTA database, she explained that this is a relatively short surplus period, as compared to the median surplus period of 33 age cohorts.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has committed to provide more NTA training in Jamaica, and to assist with updating the NTA estimates. These estimates will: increase understanding of intergenerational transfers; provide a foundation for better analysis of demographic dividends and challenges; provide data for social security and pension policies; and support plans to address future demographic changes.
In December 2022, an updated National Population and Sustainable Development Policy for Jamaica was tabled in Parliament, providing a comprehensive and integrated approach to population change incorporating health, education, housing, labour market and other areas of policy and planning.