The Jamaica Employer’s Federation (JEF) is disputing the downgrade in the ranking of Jamaica by the World Economic Forum for gender equality. The current position of Jamaica is 44, down five places from last year, and down 20 places from 2006. Apparently, the JEF cited anecdotal, rather than empirical evidence to make the false claim that there is no discrimination against individuals of a similar level. Moreover, the imputation was made that the poor analysis of data by the World Economic Forum unfairly positioned Jamaica.

It is disappointing that an influential organization such as the JEF, which represents employers, did not articulate a more informed opinion. Furthermore, it contributes to the perpetuation of inequality. Not only do the labour statistics show that more females contribute less in the labour force, but also that women seek employment more than men, despite being more qualified. 

It belies credulity that the JEF can question unjust inequality. Jamaica is not a just society. Human rights in Jamaica are either nonexistence or not enforced. There are relatively few employment rights in general, and mechanisms dealing with subtle and implicit forms of discrimination in particular. The rule of law is not prevalent in Jamaica. There are laws, of course. However, there is no recourse for unfair practices in which the conduct of decision-makers is based on their power, rather than reasonable justification.  There is no systematic mechanism to ensure that the discretion of decision-makers is limited to be in accordance with justice. 

Employment equity issues are nonexistent for all practical matters. The glass ceiling is the informal socially-constructed barrier preventing the likelihood of upward mobility in upper management positions for women which is not explained by the variables of hours worked, work commitment and time devoted to household responsibilities. It is suggested that the glass ceiling replaces traditionally overtly discriminatory policies and practices hindering the participation of women in the workplace.

The JEF wrongfully fails to acknowledge that policies against overt, blatant, explicit, intentional or systematic discrimination do not address the covert, subtle, implicit, unintended or systemic discrimination that women are subjected to on a daily basis. Fortunately, the World Economic Forum recognizes such human rights violations.

In order to promote employment equity, focus must be placed on an analysis of not only the intent of disparate policies, but also on the disparate outcomes and consequences of policies that are under the guise of neutrality or universal application to all workers.   Once the JEF educates its members on human rights and employment equity, it may result in progress for the nation. Discrimination is a normal experience for most Jamaicans. Unfortunately, there is often very little recourse. Human rights are fundamentally misunderstood in this nation.

Antonn Brown,
Mandeville, Manchester

Categories: Letters

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