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What are some social issues in Jamaica?

What Are Some Social Issues in Jamaica? || Answered by Aneisha Dobson, Associate Writer.

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Every country, no matter the level of development, faces social issues that have an effect on the populous.

But the beautiful terrains and majestic scenery can act as a mirage that prohibits us from seeing prevalent issues that affect the land we love, Jamaica.

While we have witnessed numerous interventions aimed at addressing these social issues, we have yet to stem many of these issues from the root.

In my opinion, the most prevalent social issues in the island are crime, unemployment, poverty and poor healthcare.

Crime Rate

Undoubtedly, crime is one of the most prevalent and destructive social issue to face an island, and we have our full share.

Bear in mind that the social issue of crime is an umbrella term for various forms of violence, such as homicide, rape, theft, assault, just to name a few.

Jamaica’s crime issue is no secret. In fact, the social issue of crime has caused brand Jamaica to be plastered on the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Crimes committed on the island range from petty theft to gang violence. At one point in time, it was believed that most of these crimes occur in specific areas, predominately the inner city. While this is generally true, we do have cases where many of these acts occurs otherwise.

One of the most recent governmental intervention, aimed towards hijacking crime, is the State of Emergency (SOE), which has been declared on the Western parishes of St. James, Westmoreland and Hanover.


The reality is that there are many faces of Jamaica. The face that we are exposed to consists of white, sandy beaches and beautiful sunsets.

But on the flip side, the other face paints a very different image. The country has struggled with the grip of poverty for many years.

In fact, during the 1990’s the poverty rate stood at 25 percent. While the current impact of poverty here in Jamaica is not as bad, compared to say, our neighbour Haiti, it still has significant impact on the lives of the populous.

Interestingly, there is one theory that many causes of the poverty is Jamaica’s heavy dependence on tourism as its source of revenue for the economy. This was significantly evident during the great global recession of 2007.

The recession caused income around the world to dwindle, which resulted in a decline of tourism. The decline in tourism eventually led to a higher unemployment rate, which perpetuated the cycle of poverty.


While on the topic of poverty, another important factor is education. Prime Minister Andrew Holness pinpointed that the education system is one of the main causes of poverty.

He made reference to the registration fees that parents pay in order for their children to attend school. Parents also have to bear the burden of providing for other school expenses, such as money for lunch and transportation.

In an effort to regularize the registration packages at school, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information advised that the registration package for secondary school should between the cost of $1000 and $5200. However, there should be no cost for registration at the primary level.

The Prime Minster also emphasized that the fees are not obligatory and a lack of payment should not affect the acceptance of any student.

On another positive note, the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) is anticipating further reduction in the country’s poverty rate due to increased job opportunities spawned through investment policies implemented by the government.

The Jamaican Government has worked with international bodies; United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the European Union to alleviate poverty and achieve Millennium Development Goals.


Although the education system in Jamaica is a far cry from perfect, it has produced highly intellectual individuals that have developed the competences to compete with the best in the world.

However, the issue arises after they have completed acquiring their qualifications. Many graduates have found themselves jobless after dedicating years in their studies.

On the other side, there are individuals who are actively seek a job but they lack the adequate qualifications necessary to secure themselves in the labour market. One of the mandates that the current government campaigned on during the election campaign was to implement policies aimed at the reducing the unemployment rate and increasing job opportunities.

Fast-forward to January 2018, Prime Minister Andrew Holness reported a decline in Jamaica’s unemployment rate to a record low of 9.6 percent. He also noted that there was also a decline in youth unemployment and unemployment among male youth. He mentioned that this resulted from expansion and investment in various industries such as, the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), tourism and hospitality, services generally, mining and construction industry.

He also brought to light the shortage of a trained and skilled labour force. In an effort to have synergy between the expansion of these industries and the needed labour force, the Prime Minister Holness declared that HEART Trust/ NTA was been merged with the National Youth Service, Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning and the Apprenticeship Board.

This is aimed at forming one key organization that positions Jamaica to produce the skilled labour necessary to support the expansion in the various industries.

Poor Healthcare

I have always viewed Jamaica as a reactive society. Meaning, we often wait until things get out of control to address the situation. Our healthcare system is an embodiment of this attitude.

Imagine going to the hospital and you are not able to get access to a bed or you are not attended to until several hours later. Well, this is the life and experience of many ordinary

The issues facing the healthcare system are wide and diverse. The Jamaica Medical Doctors Association (JMDA) has cited a lack of proper maintenance as the root to the current issue facing the health system. From malfunctioning elevators and insufficient medication, to inadequate safety gear for staff and insufficient or malfunctioning equipment.

It has also been debated that the ‘no-user fee’ policy implemented has also attributed to the depletion of resources. That abolishment of user fees at public hospitals and health facilities came in effect on April 1, 2008.

Many have criticized the policy as unsustainable given the economy of the country. However, the current administration has stood by the policy and advocated for universal access to health. It must be noted that the no-user policy applies only to public patients and not private patients, patients with health insurance, and non-residents.

Evidently, these social issues are prominent and have had a significant effect on the standard of living of Jamaicans. If we plan to attain Vision 2030 and make Jamaica the place of choice to work, raise families and do business, I think we need a renewed approach to nip these issues from the root.

Be sure to read our article on poverty in Jamaica and safety in Jamaica for additional insights.



▪ HIBBERT, K. (2015, January 4). Doctors blame lack of resources for poor health care. Retrieved from Jamaica Observer:
▪ Jamaica Information Service. (2018, May 1). Unemployment at record low 9.6. Retrieved from Jamaica Observer:
▪ Loop Jamaica. (2019, February 20). Jamaica records lowest average unemployment rate in 51 years . Retrieved from Loop Jamaica:
▪ Mcintosh, D. (2018, May 27). Expect Further Decline in Poverty Rate – PIOJ. Retrieved from Jamaica Information Service:
▪ RJR News online. (2014, May 25). Inadequate funding threatens quality of Jamaican healthcare - JMDA. Retrieved from RJR News online:

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