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I had seen the articles published in the local newspapers recently regarding a call by the Jamaica Federation of Musicians and Affiliated Unions to ban work permits being issued to foreign nationals for employment in the local hotel industry. I was riled up about it, for sure, and was even ready to protest since meaningful employment in a field of my interest is a bit difficult to get and was probably being occupied by someone who didn’t even live here.
Of course, I got around to doing more research and seeking out other opinions. This was how I was able to find comments from the Entertainers of Jamaica Association, stating that the permits should in fact be kept in play in accordance to a 1973 CARICOM agreement. Both article links have been embedded for your full reading.
I laid my protest card down and decided to think. The average Jamaican is more than likely musically (or otherwise creatively) inclined, and whether or not they had received official training there’s probably a great chance that they would end up pursuing this field. Logically, one would want to be employed in a role where they can be useful and produce with their skills as much as they could to maximum capacity. How is it then, that with such a large supply of individuals working actively to curate the cultural treasure of Jamaica, foreigners would still need to be imported to such a large degree? This is by no means an attack on foreign performers, nor am I against globalization or integrating with economies we would benefit from. But where does the local man/woman really stand?
There is the point of view that if we do go ahead with banning foreigners, then they might just do the same and ban us. I’m beginning to understand that this is just not a risk our entertainment sector is willing to take, as we generally know that in the creative world one cannot seek to survive from Jamaica alone. The consensus (emotional or deduced from experience) is that the money for sustainment simply isn’t here, and if it were, the local population hates to give full monetary support. We’d have to deal with the “bawling down” of prices, the underemployment and possible ill-treatment of those who do manage to get the work, and the “friendship economy” that tends to dictate who these opportunities go to.
On the other hand, there are companies and unions here doing work to ensure that the playing field is level; it just appears to be that these entities may not be pushing hard enough, or may not be able to come to agreement on these issues. In some cases, it is even preferred that foreigners come here to work so that new skill sets will be shared and learnt, thus improving our local offerings. Whether it relates to the underdevelopment (or absence) of laws pertaining to copyright, performing, content creation, etc., the average man tends to cry out in distrust as he feel he is fighting a losing battle.
Personally, it would be amazing to study to my craft; be employed locally in the booming sector that drives this country the most; and be able to live and earn internationally as well as locally without feeling that options are few or non-existent. If I’m not touring, teaching or producing, there’s no real sustenance for a music career and I’d be forced to have to seek non-creative means of employment. You’d ask why I don’t create my own employment; I’d have to ask you for a myriad of things that I would need to accomplish this in Jamaica’s 2020, which I would probably have to hassle you for if you could even provide it, or wanted to for that matter. In my experience, this has never quite worked out – and if the creative sector isn’t hiring and the non-creative sector is unfeasible, then I, like many others, am simply left with idle hands. We know what the Devil can do with those.
I wonder what other local creatives have to say.
Blessings in abundance!