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Jamaica - Finding Employment

Anyone who is not a Jamaican citizen must obtain a work permit before starting employment or self-employment on the island.

This process requires the submission of a number of original documents, each of which must meet official specifications. A non-refundable fee is paid to open an application, so you will not receive the money back if your application fails for whatever reason.

You will be asked to attend an interview with an official from Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA). They will start by checking that your stated identity and criminal record are genuine, as well as ensuring you have enough means to support yourself without asking the Jamaican state for financial help.

The key aspect of the process is to ensure your employment is not being offered to the detriment of the local Jamaican population. Therefore, the employer must provide convincing evidence that they have tried to recruit locally and explain why this was not successful. Furthermore, your own qualifications, skills and experience will be examined to ensure you are genuinely better suited to the role offered than a local worker would be.

Self-Employment In Jamaica

If you are intending to earn money in Jamaica working on a self-employed basis, you must receive a work permit before doing so.

The process is the same as for employment, except that the evidence from employers is replaced with your own submission to explain your work and suitability for that work. The PICA officials will again be assessing your plans against the impact on the local population.

So, for example, if you are hoping to set up a cleaning company or a market stall selling local goods, your application is unlikely to succeed. The skills provided are readily matched by the local population and your presence would reduce the income of existing local businesses.

However, if you are an experienced factory manager looking to set up a consultancy business, or a digital nomad running an established online business, then you are bringing new skills and experience into the country. Do remember, though, that your finances must be stable enough to support yourself throughout your stay. PICA officials will not approve your work permit if it looks like your money could run out in three months.

Remember to run your business properly throughout your stay in Jamaica. That includes paying the correct taxes – see the Taxes section of this country guide for more information. If you employ someone, follow all the employment laws properly – there are a lot – and treat the required employee taxes correctly.

Insurance For Working Life In Jamaica

Consider your insurance position carefully. Think about the impact that loss of possessions or good health would have on your ability to earn your living in Jamaica.

The country’s crime rates are high, and there are some areas you should avoid altogether. This means you will need to insure your digital equipment and premises in case of burglary, and make sure all vital information is consistently and efficiently backed up. You don’t want to lose a month’s income if the one digital version of a client’s report disappeared along with your laptop in the middle of the night.

If you have a car, you have to insure it by law. If you are a self-employed person, remember to include ‘business use’ when buying the policy. However, before you decide to buy a car in your new home, read the ExpatFocus article Staying Safe In Jamaica As An Expat to think about whether driving in Jamaica is for you.

A health insurance policy is a must. In the Health section of this country guide, we discuss the difficulties facing the public healthcare system. As a self-employed person, or an employee without adequate sick pay, you cannot wait months for treatment if this stops you working. Private medical treatment is expensive at a time when you can least afford it. This is a risk that is often overlooked before an accident or illness strikes. Taking out the right level of health insurance means you can get the treatment you need when you need it.

Major Industries In Jamaica

Agriculture has formed a major part of Jamaica’s commercial history. Labour for the plantations, especially sugar plantations, fuelled much of the British demand for West African slaves. Many people were enslaved and transported to work in Jamaica. The British slave trade was abolished by an act of parliament, and many years later all British slaves were freed. However, agriculture continued to be the main business on the island until the 2000s. With money to be made from the export of sugar, bananas, rum and coffee, one in five jobs remains in agriculture today.

Bauxite and aluminium production are also important sources of employment thanks to the composition of local sedimentary rock. Health tourism has been a small but growing industry. That may seem strange given the pressures on the public health system, but Jamaica allows private patients to combine treatment with a restful and enjoyable holiday.

The creative sector is thriving in Jamaica. Reggae is known all over the world for its distinct sound, while schoolchildren in the UK learn the work of Jamaican poets. Art, theatre and a wide range of digital work provide much inspiration and employment for Jamaicans today.

However, by far the major source of employment and income for Jamaica comes from the tourism industry. More than one million visitors a year spend approximately US$2bn on hotels, restaurants, spas, activities, attractions, taxis and other vacation items on the island. This industry benefits the tourism businesses of course, but also provides jobs in construction, technology and training services. The government is also a beneficiary, thanks to the tax receipts across the supply chain.

What Is The Average Salary In Jamaica?

It’s easy to take a look at the salaries in Jamaica and not understand how low they are, thanks to conversion rates. Each Jamaican dollar is worth less than a hundredth of a US dollar or British Pound, so what appears at first sight to be a large number is a lot lower than it appears.

According to, a registered nurse would typically earn US$ 8,529 per year while a software developer would earn US$28,188 in Jamaica in 2017/18.

Expats tend to be higher paid because they have been given permission to work in the island specifically for their higher-level qualifications, skills and experience.

What Is The Unemployment Rate In Jamaica?

According to the website Trading Economics, Jamaica’s unemployment rate in the third quarter of 2018 fell to a historic low of 8.4 percent. It reached its peak of 16.35 percent in 1997, but over the past 25 years, unemployment has averaged at just over nine percent.

Unemployment is often skewed towards young people, so those aged under 25 are more likely to be unemployed than the older age groups. Women are also more likely to be unemployed than men.

Entitlement to unemployment benefits and other benefits such as the state pension are calculated on the basis of contributions paid by the individual. You cannot arrive in Jamaica and immediately claim benefits.

Read more about this country

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