Britain and the United States in the Caribbean: A Comparative Study in Methods of Development

By Mary Proudfoot | Go to book overview

Chapter IX
LABOUR

1. THE BACKGROUND

The economic problems of the dependencies are closely bound up with, and in some cases actually arise from, the character of the West Indian labour force which has, in both groups of territories, certain common characteristics and common problems. It is, for instance, very large in relation to available employment, although the actual labour force, in the sense of those actively employed or seeking employment, is probably relatively small in relation to the total population. In Puerto Rico, for instance, in 1949, it was 52 per cent of the population, whereas in the continental United States in the same year it was 57 per cent. There are factors that tend to raise the proportion of the population in the labour force, but other apparently overbalancing factors that tend to reduce it. Thus, it is raised by the relatively low age at which children leave school; by the large number of women wage workers; and by the low incomes of family bread-winners, which tend to induce other family members to look for work. On the other hand, the low levels of employment chronic in the economy have the opposite effect. The conviction that the search for work will be fruitless causes many not to search at all.

The Puerto Rican estimate, based on a 2·6 per cent annual population increase, is a yearly accretion of upwards of 17,000 workers to a potential labour force already numbering 818,000.1 In Jamaica, it has been estimated that the potential labour force increases by as much as 20,000 workers per annum. Employment opportunities, even in Puerto Rico, are not increasing at a rate in any way commensurate. While on the one hand this constitutes a major problem for the governments concerned, on the other hand the existence of a large and relatively cheap reservoir of labour must be regarded as one of the few potential assets of the area, if development is to take place. To summarize an argument developed more fully in Chapter VIII: communities can, in the last analysis, consume only as much as they produce, and the peoples of the West Indies do not at present produce enough to satisfy

____________________
1
See Table 14.

-222-

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Britain and the United States in the Caribbean: A Comparative Study in Methods of Development
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Editor's Introduction vii
  • Author's Preface x
  • Contents xiv
  • List of Tables xx
  • Chapter I - Introductory 1
  • Chapter II - The Constitutional Relationship 10
  • Chapter III - The Economic Relationship 38
  • Chapter IV - The Structure of Society 65
  • Chapter V - The Central Government 97
  • Chapter VI - The Local Government 134
  • 3. Conclusions 151
  • Chapter VII - Political Life 153
  • Chapter VIII - Economic Life 178
  • Chapter IX - Labour 222
  • Chapter X - Social Life 243
  • Chapter XI - Education 281
  • 7. Conclusions 305
  • Chapter XII - Population Problems 307
  • Chapter XIII - The Possibilities of Federation For The British West Indies 330
  • Chapter XIV - The Alternatives for the American Dependencies 350
  • Chapter XV - General Conclusions 359
  • Abbreviations 362
  • Abbreviated References 363
  • Index 419
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