Today’s Opinion: Disastrous 80/20 rule

POSTED: 05/25/11 1:22 PM

Liberté, Égalité et Fraternité – Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood. That’s the motto of the French Revolution. In 1789, the Declaration of the rights of Man and of the Citizen defined liberty as follows: “Liberty consists of being able to do anything that does not harm others: thus, the exercise of the natural rights of every man or woman has no bounds other than those that guarantee other members of society the enjoyment of these same rights.”
The same declaration defined equality as a legal right: “The law must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in its eyes, shall be equally eligible to all high offices, public positions and employments, according to their ability, and without other distinction than that of their virtues and talents.”
Of course we do not live in 1789 anymore and Curacao is not in France. Still, the political top of Pueblo Soberano ought to revisit history and reconsider its ill-conceived plan for the 80/20 labor market rule.
The initiative law PS submitted to the parliament in Willemstad is designed to give locals a fair employment chance. But the Council of Advice balks at the idea, saying that the draft legislation violates the principle of equality, and that it goes against the country’s State Regulation and against the European Human Rights Treaty.
The Council of Advice finds no justification for the argument that employers prefer foreign workers over locals. If that were the case, existing law offers sufficient options to correct that situation, the Council said.
That PS came with the legislation is in itself not surprising. Locals feel overrun by immigrants, not only in Curacao but also in St. Maarten – on both sides of the island. Just read Daniella Jeffry’s book (see story on page 5) about how French-side locals feel pushed aside by immigrants and it becomes clear that the sentiment bubbles right under the surface here as well.
But Pueblo Soberano’s solution is a road to nowhere. It does not add anything we don’t already have. If the government enforced existing law, like immigration laws, there would not be an abundance of cheap labor pushing locals out of job opportunities.
Forcing companies to adhere to the 80/20 rule would also stifle, if not kill, the economy. That would result in less jobs and in even less opportunities for locals.
So what then is the best way to give locals a fair chance in the job market? Pueblo Soberano knows the answer like everybody else: training; education.
But that is not what a party with strong nationalist tendencies wants to promote. It prefers to change the name of the Peter Stuyvesant College into something most people won’t be able to remember.
Another argument often used is that there is no need to educate, based on the erroneous notion that it is condescending to even suggest that locals are left behind because their competitors for jobs have a better education.
And still, the job market is competitive, as it ought to be. In such an environment, everybody has to fight for work. Employers are not waiting for candidates whose only qualification is that they were born in a certain place.
Nor is it so that because somebody is local he or she will never qualify for a job. Certainly in St. Maarten we have very bright students – young people with a future ahead of them. And let’s not forget: everybody is good at something.
Instead of opting for an 80/20-rule that is sure to drive the already weak economy further into the ground, decision makers will have to look at the quality of their education system, at second-chance schooling, and at creating the right conditions for companies to hire. At the same time, the private sector also has a role to play by offering its employees permanent training so that they keep up to date with developments in their respective fields.

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