As a result of COVID 19 crisis, people throughout the world became unemployed thus forcing Governments to offer relief and stimulus packages to its residents. The good news is that some countries particularly in the Caribbean may not have to offer relief packages to individuals because they have unemployment benefits being offered through their National Insurance Boards. In the Turks and Caicos Islands, we do not have any legislated unemployment benefits through National Insurance. However, if we were to do this, the National Insurance would have to increase its rate to accommodate this added benefit as the funds collected now is to cover other benefits and retirement.
Unemployment benefits are payments made to unemployed persons based on a percentage of their previous insurable earnings. The amounts paid and the length of payment vary depending on the countries but some countries pay up to 55% and up to a year.
In the USA, the employment benefit is a jointly Federal and state program with each state administering its own insurance programs within the guidelines established by the Federal Law. Payments are as high as $783 and as low as $235 per week depending on which state you are in.
In Canada, the unemployment insurance is 55% of your average weekly earnings up to a maximum amount. The maximum annual amount is $54,200 and so workers can received a maximum of $573 per week. It should be noted that Canadians pay 1.62% of their insured earnings in order to receive employment insurance in the even they lose their jobs.
In the Bahamas, individuals can get paid a weekly rate of 50% of the average insurable income to a maximum of $200 per week. The minimum amount is $62.31. The payment is for a maximum period of 13 weeks as long as the individuals are unemployed. Self-employed persons, voluntarily insurance persons or persons who are partially employed do not benefit from unemployment benefits.
In Barbados unemployment benefit is paid to eligible unemployed persons at a rate of 60% of your weekly average insurable earnings. Unlike the Bahamas, this also applies to persons who have laid off or kept on short time employment.
Turks and Caicos
In TCI, we do not have any unemployment benefits but this is something that the Board of National Insurance and our Government should seriously consider. I know the timing right now is not ideal given the drastic situation we currently faced. However, in the meantime, we can start the consultation process on unemployment benefits and when the economy bounce back, we can implement the unemployment benefits legislation because in the long run it will pay off. The COVID 19 crisis is a prime example of why we should have had unemployment benefits.
As mentioned in the introduction, if we were to launch an unemployment benefits program, this will required an increased in the National Insurance Rate. However, I know the populace may be against this because it is means additional deductions from their gross income. However, we cannot and should not expect to get unemployment benefits for free. There is a cost for everything. Imagine if we had an unemployment benefits something to similar to Barbados. If we did, the benefits received from the Unemployment benefits would be substantially higher than the $1200, it will not be a one off and it will be for all employees in all sectors who are temporarily unemployed. Of course there are some drawbacks to unemployment benefits in that it may encourage some persons to remain unemployed since they are getting benefits. However, one of the conditions of getting the benefit is that unemployed persons must demonstrate that they are actively seeking employment.