5 Important Things About Working In Jamaica That You Need To Know

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Jamaica is a wonderful place. A beautiful island with lovely, and not so lovely, people. And the jewel of the Caribbean.

However, even with all its beauty, there’s a muzzle that’s being placed on some things that happen in our part of the working world. 

I try my best to advocate for young professionals and bring light to the realities at play in our work environment. I try to hear them out and really understand how they’re feeling and coping, because I am them. That’s why I feel it important to put articles like this out there, even if it’s mostly rigged with my opinion and experiences.

I’m not writing this article to rag on Jamaica, I love my country. But there are many undertones about local work culture that are being ignored that I believe need to be addressed if we’re going to improve. Some of you will relate and agree with the points I make in this article. Others will hate this article and think me bombastic.

Either way, here we go.


Startup entrepreneurs are vilified and exiled by financiers

As innate hustlers, our work culture is rife with startups and business owners in various industries. However, if you’ve just started a business don’t even think of looking to banks and other financial institutions for help. You’ll need to find some way to fund that venture yourself. 

And I don’t mean help with just money. I’m talking about even a little advice to help you register your business, breakeven and get to profitability.

You see, these institutions care primarily about their bottom line. And can you blame them? In fact, that’s the reason you’re going to them in the first place. Your bottom line is in the red and you’re trying to get some help to raise it so that you can make a decent living.

With that being said, they’re looking for businesses that have already proven they can make money. They want people who know what they’re doing, are already somewhat profitable and just need a little extra to push them to the next level.

But that’s not you, is it? You need help even getting off the ground. You’re not 100% sure about what you’re doing or that you’ll turn a profit even if the feasibility study you did shows a great demand for what you’re bringing to the market.

Forget business plans and lofty 5-year cash flow projections. Those won’t help you if you’re a startup and have no hard evidence that you’ve been able to sell what you’re pushing.

Let’s also not forget that the banks talk. So if you’ve been to one, best believe the rest are already prepared to shut you out.


Young workers are expected to take crappy jobs, with more work, for far less pay

According to our predecessors we have neither the experience, qualifications nor flat out age to justify getting higher level positions and salaries.

I wrote an article in October about the unfair working conditions for Digital Marketers in the Caribbean, but I believe the same rules apply to people in a number of other industries. 

While there are some exceptions here, this is generally the rule. If you have any aspiration to climb that corporate ladder you’ll need to work like a dog for years and grab yourself some wrinkles and grey hairs to even dream of moving up a rung.


Job placement and advancement are determined primarily by nepotism and favouritism

There’s a saying that goes: “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”

To add to it a little: “It’s not who you know, but who knows you.” 

I believe that statement more accurately matches what we experience as the reality of our work world right now. 

Very often we see family members and friends of management with lesser experience and qualifications get promoted to top positions ahead of someone better suited for the role.


The cost of living is low, and the general affordability of things is 6-feet deep

Compared to many countries around the world, living in Jamaica is pretty cheap. No, it’s dirt cheap. This is the exact reason why foreign investors flocked the country all these years to chip off their piece of the jewel.

However, the average citizen’s ability to afford that life is very low as well. 

Hold on, I’m about to age myself a bit.

I remember when I was in the 7th grade in 2003 and I could go to school with JM$100 for the day, buy a full meal (a beef patty, coco bread and a box drink) and come back home… with change! CHANGE! Today I’m lucky if I can walk to a corner shop and get a doughnut for that price.

But this isn’t just a culinary discussion. Let’s take the conversation closer to home.

If I want to buy an apartment, a good approach is to work and save up a deposit of 10%-20% of the listing price. After that I can go for a mortgage, assuming my salary can handle the monthly payments.

As an example, if I want to buy a one-bedroom apartment for JM$12,000,000.00, I’ll need to have a deposit of at least JM$1,200,000.00 to give myself the best chance at getting and maintaining that home.

That’s great and all, but the average young working professional in Jamaica is barely making JM$1,200,000.00 a year, and that’s below the current income tax threshold. But, I guess if you live with your parents and don’t really eat for a few years you could scrape that together in no time.


Foreign looks better

It’s generally accepted in our culture that anything, or anyone, that comes from a foreign country is better than what’s produced and provided here. That goes for food, clothes, technology and skilled labour.

That’s exactly why even with proven experience and testimonials, local companies will trust the expertise of a foreign agency or company over one that they witnessed develop and grow in their own backyard.


 

Jamaica isn’t absent of great opportunities. What we’re really lacking are empathy, from each other and those before us, and better communication of those opportunities.

I honestly believe that Jamaica is a great place to live, work and raise a family for everyone who wants to do that here. But if we’re not compassionate towards each other in the realm of economy, we’ll never see our country live up to that potential.


 

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