By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Almost two-thirds of employee firings in the Bahamas stem from ‘behaviour problems’, an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) report has revealed, finding that “the lack of skills” among workers is the main barrier to their hiring.
The report, ‘In Pursuit of Employable Skills: Understanding Employer’s Demands’, found that 62 per cent of the Bahamian companies it surveyed had either dismissed or seen employees resign in 2010-2011.
Noting that the ‘mean’, or average, was for companies to see five dismissals and three resignations, the IDB study added: “The most commonly cited reason for staff dismissals was ‘problems with behaviour’ (65 per cent).”
In some sectors, notably the electricity, water, AC and gas industry, plus human health and social work, almost all companies surveyed (93 per cent and 91 per cent, respectively), had been forced to dismiss employees because of behavioural issues,
And, in the wholesale and retail industry, the IDB study noted that 26 per cent of companies had dismissed staff for absenteeism.
The findings of the report, obtained by Tribune Business ahead of its anticipated public release next week, highlight the other side of the employment/work permit debate.
In particular, the study again raises questions about the level of basic skills (literacy and numeracy, in particular) that high school graduates enter the workforce with, and whether their attitudes and socialisation equip them well for a working environment.
“In practice, when employers search among job applicants, the lack of skills is one of the main difficulties in recruiting,” the IDB study said.
“Overall, the most frequently-named difficulty was under-qualified applicants (34 per cent) followed by applicants’ lack of experience (29 per cent) and applicants’ lack of soft skills (28 per cent).”
Some 52 per cent of companies in the education field, and 49 per cent in the information and communications industry, cited ‘under-qualified’ applicants as the main barrier to recruitment.
And 51 per cent of Bahamian information and communication companies surveyed, along with 39 per cent in the accommodation and food services sector, said “a lack of soft skills” was the main obstacle they faced in finding new employees.
The IDB report also cast doubt on the effectiveness of the Ministry of Labour’s Skills Bank and other services that aim to find work for Bahamians.
“When asked how they found new employees, 39 per cent of firms predominantly indicated they relied on informal networks (friends, colleagues etc), while less than 7 per cent used the Ministry of Labour service and less than 1 per cent used the Internet,” the study said.
When it came to improving productivity, the IDB report said 24 per cent of Bahamian companies - almost one in four - cited the “skills shortage” among workers as among their top two obstacles.
Only two other issues - higher import duty and high machinery/equipment costs - were cited as more important, with 40 per cent of business services firms listing “low staff skills levels” as their main concern.
That is significant for a country that is largely a services-based economy, and the IDB survey said: “With regards to performance indicators for staff which impede productivity, on average, firms said that 15 per cent of their employees had arrived to work late in the previous week.”
The ‘late arrival’ rate ranged from 25 per cent in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector to 7 per cent in health and social work.
“On average, firms said 8 per cent took a longer break for lunch than allotted (from 15 per cent in finance to 2 per cent in mining and manufacturing),” the IDB study said.
And, given the Government’s emphasis in the recent work permit debate on companies having training programmes for their staff, the survey found 47 per cent of companies surveyed trained workers in 2010-2011.
In conclusion, the IDB report noted that skills levels were usually the most important criteria for hiring staff in the Bahamas.
“When asked about recruiting difficulties, most employers point that the lack of skills is the main difficulty in recruiting new employees, and is the main reason for dismissals,” it added.
“Skills gaps are perceived as a major barrier to productivity.”