The secretary of the Department of Labor and Human Resources (DTRH), Carlos Rivera Santiago, admitted the trend towards low participation in job fairs organized by companies representing employers, but does not attribute the conduct to the majority of companies Job openings offer the federal minimum wage of $ 7.25 an hour.
“Unfortunately that is what is happening in a large part of those job fairs, in which almost no one comes,” Rivera Santiago said to questions from THE SPOKESMAN about this labor phenomenon.
The official assures that it is a “mistake” to believe that all job fairs have little beneficial offers for workers.
“I think that those arguments that are being made (of the minimum wage) do not really reflect the reality of what we are seeing. It is a matter of going to these job fairs and asking these employers, because what we have seen is that they are not paying the minimum wage. We even went to a hotel where they gave a person up to $ 10 for cleaning rooms, paying for a medical plan. Some even give recruitment incentives and in hotels they give food incentives, “he said.
He insisted that there are jobs available on the island, although on the other hand he accepted that it is necessary to “completely reexamine the governmental apparatus” to increase the labor participation rate, which has remained at 40% for years.
“There could be some kind of minimum wage job offer, but to say that they are all or the majority, it is a generalization that for me is not correct. Employment is available. There are all kinds of jobs available and, definitely, depending on what is required for the position and the preparation, since a salary is established, “he said.
The PUA factor
Currently, around 77,000 people benefit from the regular unemployment program and more than 100,000 people benefit from the Pandemic Unemployment Program (PUA). A person eligible for both benefits can receive up to a maximum of $ 540 per week.
“When we all go out, we see all the businesses operating and that contrasts with the fact that we still have such high unemployment numbers. This is evidenced by the number of signs in almost all the establishments ”, he added.
Given the panorama of available social benefits, Rivera Santiago asserted that many people decline to join the labor market because “when they add and subtract they do not see a benefit.”
He reiterated, however, that it is not correct to reject a job to continue receiving unemployment.
“I believe that social benefits have a purpose and I believe that they should also be used appropriately. That is, there is no fraud and that it is real when people need it. Unfortunately, fraud situations continue to arise. A person who continues to declare under oath that he is unemployed and was called to work and stayed at home, is committing fraud, “he said.
Labor participation worries
The labor participation rate in Puerto Rico – which remains at 40% – is lower than that of other jurisdictions in the United States, according to Rivera Santiago. The figure, in his opinion, is worrying, and denotes that it is necessary to “completely reexamine the governmental apparatus” although focusing on creating an environment for economic development and entrepreneurship.
The official understands that it is not necessary to amend the 2017 labor reform that extended the probationary time period and eliminated vacation days for employees, but acknowledges that this law has defects.
“The labor participation rate in Puerto Rico practically all this time has been at 40% and it is the people who work. At the state level it is 60% and in other countries of the world it is 65%. That lets us see that we have a problem in Puerto Rico about how we get people to enter the labor market. We are not doing something right for people to move, so we have to reexamine the governmental apparatus and how social aid works. Also, how can we make the labor market profitable, ”he said.
He reported that he met with the secretary of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC), Manuel Cidre, to discuss legislation and other steps that promote labor participation and reduce the cost of creating companies in Puerto Rico, improve the granting of permits for the establishment of businesses and reconsider the tax aspects for professionals.
“I don’t know why historically the DTRH area and the economic development area have been operating in conflicting positions. There are no employers without workers. There are no workers without employers. It is a close relationship that we must have because to the extent that we have entrepreneurship and good companies in Puerto Rico, we will also have jobs. So we have to advocate for both areas, ”he said.
“Has the labor reform been effective in creating jobs for you?” He was asked.
“No, because we have the same 40% labor participation. So what we had before is as bad as what we have now. We have the same percentage of labor participation. So that turning to the past does not solve the situation in Puerto Rico either, ”he replied.