ISSN:
Volume 11, Number 1/2 (2006)
The Experiences of Female Workers in Urban Jamaica: Modern Day Slavery?
Ann-Murray Brown
The aim of this case study was to provide an in-depth description of the experiences of nine (9) young Jamaican women aged 18-25 working in the retail/wholesale industry in downtown Kingston. It sought to assess the general working conditions that the women were subjected to, as well as the social, economic and psychological impact that working in the retail wholesale industry has on them. It was hypothesized that women undergo exploitation while working in these shops, and there were violations of several employment and labour laws. Additionally, one of the intents of this research was to elucidate and bring in focus the importance of gender planning and development as it relates to women and labour in Jamaica; more specifically, young women from a more disadvantaged socio-economic background who struggle daily to eke out an economic survival. The choice of retail/wholesale grocery stores in downtown Kingston for assessment was rationalised by the paucity of documentation of women's work experiences in this sector and the significant policy implications that could flow therefrom.

The research was exploratory as it attempted to delve into the experiences of women working in the retail/wholesale grocery shops in downtown Kingston. The areas which were assessed fell under the categories of 'Wage', 'Physical Work Environment' , 'Work Hours', 'Fringe Benefits', 'Organization of Work', 'Occupational Health and Safety', 'Staff Development' and ' Industrial Relations. Attempts were also made to explore breaches of the Jamaican employment and labour laws and the ILO Declaration on the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work which include, excessive work hours, payment of salary below the national minimum wage, non-payment of relevant statuary deductions, inability of workers' to unionize, lack of health or other fringe benefits, inadequate leave entitlements, improper ventilation and sanitary conveniences.