The Unemployed of the Eastern Caribbean:*
Attitudes and Aspirations
*St. Vincent, Dominica, St. Lucia,
The research for this report was undertaken at the request of
U.S.A.I.D. under contract number AID/LAC-C-1395. U.S.A.I.D. is not
responsible for any of the conclusions drawn here. Library research of
appropriate literature was begun in June 1980 and continued while in
the Eastern Caribbean from July through October 1980. The field re-
search involved observing and interviewing large numbers of people, as
well as in-depth discussions with appropriate people. As the focus of
the report is on the attitudes and perceptions of the unemployed them-
selves, more than half of the time in the Eastern Caribbean was spent
observing and speaking with those without paid employment,.those whose
households supported others seeking work, and people who spent most of
their professional--and we suspect in many cases much of their private--
time responsible for programs designed primarily for unemployed young
people, and secondarily for older, unemployed citizens. Many people
spent time and patience with two visitors knowing we were in no position
to change their situations; many seemed pleased that someone thought to
ask what they thought and what they would recommend. Although the re-
port is merely a brief summary of some of what we were shown and told,
we hope it will not distort the messages many hoped we would convey. It
was very clear that, far from being ignorant of the difficulty of solving
their problems, most could articulate clearly the complexity of the con-
straints that bind them. Nobody but the two authors, however, are
responsible for the interpretations and conclusions in this report.
We also wish to thank two individuals that helped with the library
research and preparation of the final report: Dr. Robert Lawless of
the Department of Anthropology of the University of Florida, and
Dr. Michael DeStefano of Gainesville, Florida. Too, thanks go to
Mrs. Katherine Williams for her efforts in typing this report.
OBJECTIVE AND OVERVIEW
The objective of this report is to describe and interpret the
attitudes and perceptions of the unemployed toward the limitations and
opportunities of their economic, political and social environment. The
four Eastern Caribbean countries involved in this survey are St. Vincent,
Dominica, St. Lucia, and Barbados. Within the general project design,
special attention is paid to the two categories of people that consti-
tute the majority of the unemployed: women and young people.
The information was compiled between June 6 and November 3, 1980,
from sources including 1. published and unpublished documents,
2. interviews in the Caribbean with numerous people of varying knowledge
and responsibility for the problem, and 3. both formal and informal
interviews with citizens who either were themselves or their family
The findings are presented in three sections:
Part I is a general comparative review of the employment situation
in the four Eastern Caribbean states and a profile of shared responses
to economic insecurity. It is suggested that Barbados differs enough
from the other three states so as to necessitate a different approach in
planning and developing training programs.
Part II is an island by island summary of findings.
Part III summarizes conclusions and recommendations the researchers
consider appropriate for (all or most of the) Caribbean states in the
study, regarding the planning and implementation of projects and pro-
grams aimed at generating employment.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
OBJECTIVE AND OVERVIEW
PART I: COMPARATIVE REVIEW AND PROFILE . . . .
Definitions and Implications of "Unemployment" . .
A Comparative and Contrastive Profile of St. Vincent,
Dominica, St. Lucia, and Barbados . ....
Territorial Differences: Barbados and the Less
Developed Countries (LDCs) . . . . .
Household as Economic Unit . . . . .
Occupational Multiplicity and the Acquisition of Income .
Youth in the Eastern Caribbean: Population Structure .
Occupational Preferences and Aspirations of Youth . .
The Decline of Agricultural and Rural Living Standards .
The Viability of Agriculture as an Occupational Choice .
Women in Agriculture . . . . . .
Women-Headed Households .. . . .
Teenage Mothers . . . . . .
Migration and Remittances . . . .
Education . . . . . . .
The Rastas . . . . . . .
Identity Management and World View . . . .
Crime . . . .
Clubs, Voluntary Organizations, and Informal Groups . .
Skills Training and Income Generating Programs . .
PART II: COUNTRY BY COUNTRY SUMMARY OF FINDINGS ....
St. Vincent . . . . . . .
Unemployment . . . . .
Occupational Multiplicity . . . .
Occupational Preferences . . . .
Constraints to Small-Scale Agricultural Development
Women . . . . . .
Migration and Remittances . . . .
Rastas . . . . . .
Identity Management . . . .
Crime, Punishment, and Rehabilitation. ....
Clubs, Voluntary Organizations, and Informal Groups
Skills Training and Income Generating Programs .
Dominica . . . . . 89
Unemployment .............. . 89
Occupational Multiplicity . . . .... .91
Occupational Preferences .. . . .. 91
Constraints to Small-Scale Agricultural Development 94
Women .. . . . . . 96
Migration and Remittances . . . . 98
Rastas . . . . ... . 99
Identity Management . . . . 101
Crime, Punishment, and Rehabilitation . . .. 101
Clubs, Voluntary Organizations and Informal Groups 103
Skills Training and Income Generating Programs ... 108
St. Lucia . . . . ... . . 11
Unemployment .. . .... ...... 111
Occupational Multiplicity . . ..... 112
Occupational Preferences . ... .112
Constraints to Small-Scale Agricultural Development 114
Women .. 117
Migration and Remittances . 120
Rastas . . . . . 123
Crime, Punishment, and Rehabilitation . . .. 123
Clubs, Voluntary Organizations and Informal Groups 124
Skills Training and Income Generating Programs . 127
Barbados .. ....... . . . 131
Unemployment . .. . . . 131
Occupational Preferences . . . . 132
Constraints to Small-Scale Agricultural Development 133
Women . . . . .. 137
Migration and Remittances .. .......... .140
Rastas . . . . 142
Identity Management . . . . 144
Crime,. Punishment, and Rehabilitation . . .. 146
Clubs, Voluntary Organizations and Informal Groups 148
Skills Training and Income Generating Programs .... .149
PART III: RECOMMENDATIONS ...... . ... 154
BIBLIOGRAPHY .. ... .. . ... .....
St. Lucia 3
PART I: COMPARATIVE REVIEW AND PROFILE
Definitions and Implications of "Unemployment"
The estimated unemployment rate for each of the four territories
under study varies wildly from one study to the next, from one official
report to the other. These ranges are as follows:
St. Vincent 9% 25%
Dominica 7% 22%
St. Lucia 9% 35%
Barbados 7.7% 15%
All of the unemployment rates are very high by general standards,
whether set by economists, politicians, or ordinary citizens. The range
of unemployment rates cited for each country indicates clearly the
-variety of percentages generated by differences in the definitions used
for "employment" and "labor force," and the manner in which the data are
collected. The percentages themselves are not easily comparable over
time as the samples and techniques'of data-gathering vary.
For example, a fairly standard definition of "labor force," as
used by the Commonwealth Census includes "(a) persons who worked for
most of the year preceding the census; (b) those who never worked but
were actively engaged in seeking work; (c) those who for most of the
12 month period before the census were not working and were actively
trying to get work but who had been employed at some time prior to this
period of looking for work."l It is important to note that key words
and expressions need to be defined: what is work? what is meant by
"actively engaged in seeking work?" what does it mean to be employed?
Governments, planners, and citizens concerned with unemployment
often tend to make two assumptions:
1. that employed means that someone is working, is making
money, and is therefore a productive, prospering, worth-
while member of society;
2. that unemployed means someone is not working, has no
money, is in the depths of poverty, and therefore not a
contributing member of the social order.
Sidney Cherniks, The Commonwealth Caribbean: The Integration Experience
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1976), p. 66.
On the contrary, in the Caribbean it is possible to be
1. unemployed while simultaneously having a more than
adequate level of material, financial, and psychological
satisfaction, provided by the general level of prosper-
ity enjoyed by one's household;
2. employed yet living in circumstances of dire poverty
anmd material deprivation,, a situation distressingly
common in the Lesser Developed Countries (LDCs) of St.
Vincent, Dominica, and St. Lucia, although less so in
the More Developed Country (MDC) of Barbados.
In summary, although it is crucial to realize that unemployment,
defined as a lack of income, correlates highly with a condition of
poverty, unemployment does not automatically mean poverty. Neither does
employment mean prosperity or the satisfaction of basic human needs.
Some examples will clarify. It appears that many people who do not con-
sider themselves as "employed" are nevertheless working productively;
for example, housewives, those involved in communal arrangements that
exchange services and goods (such as food) without the involvement of
money, and those young men and women who work with their parents on
agricultural holdings or small business enterprises, who receive no
regular and fixed salaries but do receive food, housing, and basic
clothing needs, and perhaps some spending money. There appear to be
many women who manage to open small shops selling staples and drinks and
operate them while running their households. It is not clear, however,
that these operations are yielding any monetary profits. In such
cases, are they (self-) employed, or have they managed to find more work
to do in already busy lives? Does "actively seeking employment" mean
frequenting employment agencies? What if there is no employment agency
in the country? Does it mean asking at least three or four establish--
ments each day, or week, for job openings? What if you live in a rural
area that is only serviced by bus twice a week, and you have no money to
commute to "town" to job-hunt, and there are no wage-paying opportuni-
ties in the rural area?
What if you are a young woman between 14 and 19 years of age, or a
middle-aged woman in her 40s, neither of whom have been culturally or
educationally prepared for a "full-time" job other than managing house-
holds and'children, neither of whom thinks it possible for them to find
or hold down a job because of household responsibilities? Are they
not to be counted because they are not "actively" looking for work, but
are looking for economic security? What about women who would like to
work at. an income-producing job, or merely would work like it or not, if
childcare could be arranged allowing: her to consider the possibility for
the first time?
Given the concerns of this project to focus on the unemployed with
a: view to considering ways in which they may be aided toward some
financial security and independence, would it be wise to exclude a young
man who has a full-time job that pays too little for him to support his
children, leave his parents-' house,, and set up for himself, his mate and
his children? What about those who work--men, women, and children--on
road crews, filling potholes, clearing gutters, and hauling away dirt
fairly regularly in the months proceeding the survey, and who are con-
sidered employed--but without the surety that the piece work would
continue, and without necessarily making sufficient amounts of money to
pay all the current bills or plan rationally for future ones? What if
the survey were taken shortly before political elections, when patronage
jobs are often more available to voters? Or, waiting until one's party
wins the election--when the percentages may remain the same, but the
individuals actually working may change?
It is not possible to speak of the unemployed as one undifferen-
tiated group. Nor, in some areas of the Eastern Caribbean, is it
possible to reliably say how many, or what percent, of the entire popu-
lation is unemployed. There is a large body of literature that discusses
the complexities of measuring the condition. (See the bibliography for
selected sources.) In addition, this report raises a number of issues
for thought and discussion that deal with work and the unemployed.
Table I:1 gives a breakdown of unemployment as of April 1970.
Although the picture had become much bleaker by June 1980, the figures
in this table are interesting for comparative purposes. Particularly
striking is the unemployment among those in the 14 to 19 years of age
category, which reaches 35.4 percent among females in the states of St.
Vincent, Dominica, and St. Lucia, the single most economically depressed
sociodemographic group in the Eastern Caribbean.
Unemployment Rates by Age Group and Sex April 1970
14 Yrs. of Age & Over
Male and 14 to 19 20 to 24 25 to 59
Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female
St. Vincent 10.7 9.6 12.8 34.2 43.5 12.2 12.5 1.3 2.9
Dominica 7.0 6.2 8.3 28.7 29.6 4.6 9.2 1.1 1.4
St. Lucia 9.1 8.2 10.9 28.4 33.2 7.5 11.9 3.2 3.6
Barbados 7.7 6.0 10.2 28.2 44.5 6.1 12.9 1.3 2.0
ing Barbados 8.9 8.0 10.6 30.4 35.4 8.1 11.2 1.9 2.6
Source: Caribbean Population Census Reports, cited in Growth, Develop-
ment and Unemployment in the Caribbean. Caribbean Congress of
Labour Research Studies, Monograph 4(1977), p. 36.
A Comparative and Contrastive Profile of St. Vincent, Dominica,
St. Lucia, and Barbados
The comparative characteristics of the four states dealt with in
this report can be conveniently divided into the three interrelated
categories of physical, demographic, and sociocultural. The most
immediately influential characteristics are the physical constraints
common to all four states, i.e., they are islands, territorily small,
limited in natural resources, and beset with recurring hurricanes.
Demographically the four states have populations that are small in
comparison with the population sizes that one would expect in viable
nations, yet these small populations are packed into small islands
giving these states high population densities. These small, dense
populations are further characterized by the startlingly high--by any
demographic standards--percentage of youths. Finally, a traditional
characteristic of Eastern Caribbean populations has been the migration
patterns of people leaving the area. Socioculturally the four states
are similar by virtue of their relatively recent appearance as indepen-
dent nations, their common use (with some exceptions) of the English
language, their peculiar racial makeup, and the existance,of a primate
city in each state. The contrasts among the four center primarily on
the unique difference of Barbados as a relatively affluent society.
In developing a profile of these states, it is perhaps easiest to
begin with the physical and demographic constraints common to all four.
Table 1:2 indicates the scale of society we are dealing with:
St. Vincent* Dominica St. Lucia Barbados
Area (Miles) 18 X 11 29 X 16 27 X 14 21 X 14
(est. 1978) 104,900 76,700** 121,500 253,100
(per km ) 270 102 200 569
*Includes the 7 Grenadines.
As an island territory none of these politically independent coun-
tries has the benefit of attachment to a larger land mass that would
facilitate inexpensive transportation, communication,. and movement of
people and trade. To add to the difficulties of developing internal
communications and transportation, three of the four independent states
are very mountainous; Barbados is the exception.
The implications of small size and population may be grasped some-
what more easily through the following equations:
St. Vincent = Hialeah, Florida
Dominica = Joliet, Illinois
St. Lucia = Macon, Georgia
Barbados = Jersey City, New Jersey.
One only needs to think of these American cities cut off from the
mainland, and surrounded by water. As independent states, they would be
required to plan for, fund, and staff an entire national and local gov-
ernment; school, colleges and other educational institutions; health
care; police; fire; transportation; tax assessment and collection; cus-
toms; judiciary; international and domestic airline and airport facili-
ties; welfare; banking; sanitation; national defense; agricultural
production and distribution; post offices; industry, manufacturing and
services; and energy.
Periodic hurricanes are an expectable and natural fact of life for
the region. Hurricanes David (1979) and Allen (1980) were giant catas-
trophes that blew away the bases of national economics, impoverished
nations in one high wind and water storm, and ravaged capital cities and
their shanty town suburbs. Roseau, the capital of financially depleted
Dominica, is still littered with the debris of David; Allih blew in a
year later while homeless Dominicans were still in tents and makeshift
housing. Roofing is now on most houses because of foreign aid (especially
from the U.S.A.), while the seas are held back from the eroded shores
and crumbling roads because of the intervention of the British Royal
Engineers. Even relatively prosperous Barbados was hard pressed to clean
up its relatively light damage; there are simply not enough heavy trucks,
chain saws, tractors and wide streets, not to mention emergency funding,
available to get things back to normal quickly. The basis of the national
economy and local diet, banana, was obliterated in St. Vincent, St.
Lucia, and Dominica for the fiscal year.
Not only is the small population size a difficulty, affording a
very small pool from which the state must find all the variety of skills
necessary, but also the shape of the population is crucial. In this the
Eastern Caribbean is both challenged and constrained, for about half of
its population is under the age of 15. Not only is the size of the pool
from which they recruit labor halved, but also the economy carries the
extra weight of providing adequate services (such as health care and
education) for a proportionately very large number of dependent people,
while under the pressure of planning and creating jobs for an extra-
ordinarily large number of people soon to enter the job market.
One of the traditional sources for jobs and upward mobility seems
to be disappearing. In the past one of the common responses to limited
local employment opportunities was to migrate out of the region. The
major international movement took place between the end of World War II
until the mid 1960s (when Britain initiated its Immigration Act in
1962). During that period approximately 10 percent of the total popula-
tion of the Caribbean emigrated. Although the flow has abated somewhat,
the interest in migration has not. The United States and Canada have
become contemporary targets for the legal or illegal, temporary or
permanent migrant. Florida stands as a beacon to all. Even traffic
within the Caribbean is staggering; Vincentians migrate to Barbados and
Trinidad, Dominicans and St. Lucians to the French or Dutch islands.
Much of the inter-island traffic appears to be undocumented. The demo-
graphic consequences alone are awesome; Vincentians insist that in parts
of the island women outnumber men by 10 to 1, the result of male migra-
tion. Barbadians claim they are subsidizing the nursing professional in
Canada, skilled trades in Britain, and the professions in the U.S.A. It
is commonplace for an American to be asked to sponsor someone's visa
after a moments chat. Taxi drivers in Barbados, when asked to convey
someone to the U.S. Embassy, routinely take the passenger to the visa
office out of town.
These migration patterns have been somewhat complicated by the
imposition of the new governmental structures and responsibilities that
inevitably accompanied political independence. None of these four
states has been politically independent very long, and each has inherit-
ed a long and painful history of colonialism, slavery, and agricultural
monocropism. They remain hindered, to varying degrees, by everything
from undeveloped infrastructure to persistent racial discrimination.
The small scale of each of these societies makes it harder, not easier,
to solve the class and color divisions that persist. The,place and
status of each citizen remains to some extent determined by family back-
ground and reputation influencing activities in all areas from education
to politics. Exceptions exist, but they remain exceptions in view of
continuing patterns linking darker skin color with poorer life chances.
The legacy of sexism makes the most socially and economically limited
group the black female.
St. Lucia and Dominica share an added problem of linguistic diver-
sity; their populations are divided, to some extent, by two different
languages, adding a challenge to the already staggering ones of provid-
ing information to its citizens, of unifying the populations to shared
work toward common goals under common symbols, while running the large
risk of leaving a good number of the population on the education, politi-
cal, and economic margins of society because of language handicaps.
Still another legacy of colonial times, considerably worsened since
World War II, is the growth of a primate city in each state. The concen-
tration of governmental power building on the earlier mercantile center
resulted in the creation of one city to dominate each island, culturally,
educationally, financially, socially, and psychologically. The degree
of concentration in one urban center is striking on all four islands and
with the contemporary collapse of rural economies,, has resulted in a
massive urbanization movement without a simultaneous increase of wealth
or industrialization. The dominance of the "first" city is so great that
in the Eastern Caribbean there is often no second city. Compared to
Kingstown, Georgetown, St.. Vincent, is almost a ghost town. Residents
of Castries, St. Lucia, ridicule the idea of living in Soufriere. For
Barbadians Bridgetown is the center of the insular universe. This is no
surprise, since colonial times the city was the mercantile center of the
economy and the seat of entertainment, schooling, "culture," government,
opportunity, "dignity," social services and patronage. This hinterland
was the area for plantations, peasant farmers, and the toiling agricul-
tural classes, overwhelmingly black, poor, and minimally schooled. Even
today, planners and policy makers concentrate their ambitious industrial
parks, training schools, hospitals, and other benchmarks of progress in
and around the city. Today the problem is excerbated. Migration to the
cities is not the result of industrialization in most Caribbean islands,
nor is it an aimless drift to the bright lights of town; rather, it is a
conscious and calculated attempt to escape from rural poverty and lack
of opportunity in the countryside.
Territorial Differences: Barbados and the
Less Developed Countries (LDCs)
The differences between the four islands of Barbados, St. Vincent,
St. Lucia, and Dominica are real and obvious. What is of importance
here is to state a premise for those who must plan foreign aid and
development assistance to these four territories: Barbados is and
should be considered the exception in this group, and dealt with sepa-
rately. Those elements that differentiate it significantly from the
other three are sufficient to make failures of any plans that wish to
target areas of specific need but are applied to all four"territories
Barbados is a flat island without the mountainous and heavily
forested interior characteristic of the LDCs. Large sugar producing
estates cover the island without interruption while the ecology of the
LDCs limits small-scale agricultural enterprise principally to banana,
to coastal areas, occasional intermontange valleys, and the slopes of
less steep mountains. Vegetable and root crop farming emphasizing a
peasant technology, and peasant modes of production and marketing char-
acterize the LDCs but are virtually absent in Barbados.
The road and transportation system of Barbados is advanced with all
areas of the island quickly, easily, and cheaply accessible. The road
systems of the other islands are in bad repair, dangerous, inefficient,
not well serviced by public transport, expensive for the traveller, and
fail to reach all population centers. In St. Vincent the road network
resembles an inverted wishbone branching out from the capital of Kings-
town. One cannot traverse or circle the island but, from the leeward
side, must travel to capital city and make a journey north on the wind-
ward road. Hurricane damage in Dominica has washed away retaining
walls, demolished bridges, and, in some cases, obliterated the road
itself so that transport is possible only during the dry seasons.
Barbados is an urban society with a population density so high and
compacted that rural-urban distinctions are inappropriate. Although the
other islands show relatively high population densities (per unit of
arable land) their rural-agricultural settlements and villages are not
as well integrated into or serviced by the capital city center of national
society. This lack of integration can be measured by lack of schools,
training centers, health care facilities, penetration of mass media
(particularly newspapers), access to employment opportunities, shopping
outlets, and government services.
In education and training Barbados supports facilities ranging from
pre-school creches through advanced secondary schools, vocational train-
ing centers, a sophisticated technical training college, community
college, and a university offering the Ph.D. in several areas of study.
Students from throughout the Caribbean regularly attend the country's
advanced educational institutions. Although there is some variation in
the LDCs, secondary schooling and beyond is limited and not widely
available outside the capital. Technical colleges with limited resources
and faculty are present in the LDCs though critics claim that given the
conditions in these islands the training is too advanced, sophisticated,
and expensive for local needs.
A mass media communications network either functions erratically in
the LDCs or is totally absent. Television is not available, while the
repertoire of radios is limited to one or two stations playing almost
continuous music. The content of weekly newspapers is usually limited
to extremely provincial local information while magazines, journals,
and miscellaneous publications are not readily found. This is not the
case in Barbados and one finds a greater exposure and discussion of
national, regional, and international news and issues. Barbados is the
headquarters of a number of regional and international agencies. On top
of this, Dominica and St. Lucia are characterized by linguistic diver-
sity with the bulk of the rural population and the less well educated
prefering to speak French patois although English is the official lan-
guage of the country.
Sensitivity to "social issues" such as increased opportunities for
women or special attention to the needs of young people, on the part of
government or the public sector varies as well. Several women's groups,
utilizing government, university, and private support are active in
Barbados in promoting "women's issues." Dominica, Barbados and, shortly,
St. Lucia have a "woman's desk" in government. In St. Vincent, even the
discussion of this topic is considered superfluous by government. Pro-
grams for young people, either entertainment, training, or youth mobili-
zation differ widely in scope and conceptualization. Wide opportunities
for entertainment as well as number of embryonic youth skills training
programs are available in Barbados. Dominica, through a government
ministry, works voluntarily with youth groups in self-help development
efforts. St. Lucia is mobilizing youth through government sponsored
clubs and training camps.
The overall prosperity of Barbados, compared to the other three, is
staggering. Barbados enjoys a relatively high degree of capitalization
that supports a prospering banking and commercial sector, profitable
agro-business sector, assembly plant oriented industry,, and a large
scale tourist operation offering a range of services to a variety of
tourists. The economies of the LDCs languish with assembly industries
hesitating to increase investments or, in some cases, decided to leave.
Banana production, undertaken on small farms of usually 25 or fewer
acres,, is monopolized by Geest and company shippers and distributors
while tourism is, at best, embryonic..
One of the impTications of Barbados's relatively sophisticated
market economy is that its citizens are accustomed to expecting
expansion, increased industrialization, diversification of the economy,
and the training of personnel to fill positions. Many of the young
have grown.up in households where parents have worked a 9-to-5 job,
organized their lives to an industrial time table, and received wages
from mainly one regular source. St. Vincent, as the extreme in this
survey, is so impoverished that the purchase of a wristwatch is a major
expenditure and likely to be considered a pure luxury. Barbadians, by
and large, will think in terms of buying a car; Vincentians would find
the purchase of a bicycle a major step. Although per capital income
measures are problematic, Table I:3 supports the premise that Barbados
is qualitively different.
St. Vincent Dominica St Lucia Barbados
per capital income
US $ $300 $360 $480 $2,000*
(World Bank Atlas, 1975;
*Caribbean Contact, Jan., 1981)
Although one finds serious skill level imbalances, especially at
the lower and middle management levels, Barbados far surpasses, in
numbers, opportunities and training programs, the situation elsewhere.
Also, Barbados tends to function more as a meritocracy at most levels
than do the small-scale, face-to-face societies of the LDCs. Conse-
quently, one finds a sense of optimistic ambition and sense of achieve-
ment motivation more prominent in Barbados. This is coupled with the
fact that Barbados is a more individualistic society wherein people see
activities, commitments and associations spread over a wide range of
personnel and institutions rather than, for example, rooted in their
family or village or place in life.
Finally, there seem to be significant demographic differences be-
tween Barbados and the LDCs. Although Barbados experienced a high
degree of emigration in the 1950s and 1960s, this has slowed down with
the trend reversing so that many people, now older, appear to be re-
turning to the island or migrating to Barbados from elsewhere. The
birth rate has also begun to decline and stabilize at a level far lower
than that of the other islands. Estimates place the 15-year-old and
younger population of Barbados at approximately 37 percent and holding
while in the other islands the figure stands at 45 to 55 percent and in
some cases rising. Thus, for the LDCs more children are being born and
more young people are entering an already depressed labor market.
Without income generating work they in turn become more dependent on
their households and their societies.
There are numerous other distinguishing characteristics, some
stark, many others very subtle, that signal differences between Barbados
and the LDCs and to a lesser extent between the LDCs themselves. How-
ever, this is not meant to suggest a negative rank order of development
possibilities. What it does suggest is that plans for aid must be
devised to work within the context and potential of the host society.
For example, grass roots rural organization and clubs in the LDCs are
strong units of local community organization and would be auspicious
groups with which to build agricultural development efforts. Similar
groupings or clubs in Barbados would be inappropriate, not only because
of the general disinterest in own-account agriculture but because clubs
in this highly mobile society lack a high level of cooperative spirit
Household as Economic Unit
In the Caribbean a "household" is not simply a group of people who
co-reside but also includes the functions of economic cooperation, the
socialization of young, the delegation of duties and obligations based
on a division of labor by age and sex, and the identification of the
individual's responsibilities to the collectivity and the collectivity's
responsibility to him or her. Household is a major building block of
Caribbean society and regardless of the inherent brittleness of the
organization, especially the frequent departures of adult males, the
household operates as an economic collective maintaining the support of
individual members and undertaking necessary social services. Although
individuals own their property (furniture, tableware, clothing, personal
possessions) and control their income, the maintenance of the household
depends on each person's contribution. Children and young people are
assigned tasks based on their age and sex and are expected to perform
chores and services that might otherwise have to be paid for. Girls and
young women are expected to do a wide variety of jobs, including care of
their younger siblings if their mother and grandmother is working. Men
are not directly and consistently involved in child rearing and are
often fairly marginal to most of the domestic aspects of the household.
The amount of demand that the household makes on its members for
domestic purposes has a direct effect on employment potentials. In
poorer households, where every possible source of income acquisition
must be pursued., young people must work, either on a household enter-
prise such as a garden plot or seek out whatever wage labor they can
find. Under such circumstances education is a luxury while the type of
job one qua-l'fiest for is. low status and unrenumerative. Most usually,
especially in the LDCs, jobs of any sort are not available at all. In
rural areas young men usually work on the family garden. Although they
are "productively" engaged, they receive very little other than pocket
money and feel themselves to be unemployed. Young women continuing
their domestic chores. also consider themselves unemployed. They face
the additional burden of becoming pregnant and hence either placing more
of an economic burden on the household, or having to fend largely for
themselves and their dependent children.. Urban young men and women- seem
to face roughly similar circumstances without the presence of agricul-
ture as a source of productive activity for them.
This tends to be the general picture for poorer families in the
poorer islands of Dominica, St. Vincent, and St. Lucia. Children and
young people must work to secure even bits of income for their house-
holds. One cannot afford the luxury of picking and choosing work: they
are desperate for it and there are few opportunities from which to
choose. Even if they are employed it is possible that the wages they
receive are so low that the household is still poor by any measure.
The situation is different in more prosperous households. Since
the main spending and support unit is the household, the fact that
individuals, especially young ones, are unemployed tells us nothing
about the material conditions where they live. If an adequate level of
income is secured from other sources young people have the leisure to be
selective about what jobs they would consider working at. In Barbados,
for example, where there is no real material deprivation and where
household income is relatively high few young people are under a great
deal of pressure to work at low status or low paying jobs ,that, in
Barbados, they consider beneath them. Thus, simply because "jobs" are
provided is no guarantee that one will find people to work at them.
Notice that West Indians from the LDCs go to Barbados as migrant labor-
ers to do work that Barbadians won't do.
Therefore, employment planners cannot afford to think of "unemploy-
ment" simply in terms of "individuals" in the West Indies. As the main
unit of consumption and expenditure is the household, it is general
level of prosperity of the household itself that will play a large part
in determining whether or not a person is willing to work at a certain
job. It will also indicate if a household has sufficient or surplus
income to invest in continuing a child's dependence later into adoles-
cence, for example, by affording the time and money for further skills
or academic training. As mentioned in the Introduction, simply because
a person is unemployed does not mean he or she is poor. The corrolary
is equally important; one can be employed and still be desperately poor
(especially with a large household of dependents).
Occupational Multiplicity and the Acquisition of Income
In addition to relying on widespread networks of kin and friends
that serve as avenues of income flow into households, most West Indians
of all classes fashion a strategy based on the holding of multiple,
part-time, simultaneous or consecutive, informal or formal jobs to main-
tain and insure that several avenues for access to cash are available.
West Indian economies are fragile and their history has been punc-
tuated by a series of booms and busts that have interrupted and, some-
times, demolished the income sources of the region's inhabitants.
Fluctuations in the international market economy, over which the small
islands have little influence, as well as climatic disasters (volcano
erruptions, hurricanes, blights) exacerbate the situation. Individual
West Indians, within their cooperative household units, have made cer-
tain socioeconomic adaptations to these contingencies and have developed
strategies designed to cope with this economic insecurity.
For poorer West Indians not only is one source of income unreli-
able, it is often inadequate to support the individual and those depen-
dent on him or her. Also, in the predominantly agricultural LDCs work
availability is often seasonal ("crop time") and can guarantee income
only during planting or harvesting time. Tourism also takes on this
rough seasonality. Holding "one" job is thus looked upon with trepida-
tion and, in some cases, is considered down right foolhardy. The plan-
ner may think that this is "irrational" economic behavior and thus
alterable with the infusion of appropriate economic measures aimed at
converting the marginal workers into secure one-job to one-person work-
ers. It will be suggested here and in other parts of the report that
occupational multiplicity has taken on cultural dimensions and will not
change overnight or through the pronouncements of national planners.
Occupational multiplicity, especially among the poor, is linked to
concepts of time, work, status, leisure, own-account production, con-
sumption, household roles, responsibilities, and organization.
Although each household works out its own strategy to secure cash
and goods some general patterns emerge. Also, chores for which no
direct compensation is garnered but which may be invaluable services
must be included as well. Let us assume a co-residential house composed
of an adult man and woman, her mother, and several of their children and
assign them the conventional tasks assumed by most poorer West Indians.
Man: Tending agricultural plot ("man's work" clearing,
planting, harvesting) for household consumption and
Estate work during "crop season" to secure cash wages.
Odd jobbing for cash, liquor, tobacco, or reciprocal
Hunting, fishing or gathering.
Occassional government work; clearing brush, cleaning
culverts, grading roadways.
Men's work around house; repairs, errands, upkeep.
Woman: Tending agricultural plot ("woman's work" weeding,
harvesting, marketing) for household consumption
and some sale.
Take in ironing and laundry.
Bake and cook for sale or running small "house front"
Tend. chickens in yard.
Gather fruits for preparation and sale.
Tend. kitchen garden.
Odd.jobbing for cash (road work, custodial work) or
reciprocal "swap labor."
Woman's work around house; particularly child rearing,
careful shopping and food preparation.
Children: Minding younger children.
Tending rabbits, chickens, or pigs.
Work on garden plot and kitchen garden.
Household chores while adults are occupied.
Woman: Marketing or huckstering.
Craftwork or sewing.
The possibilities are numerous and are just as concerned with keep-
ing cash from flowing out of the household as they are with acquiring
it. Also, social roles and relationships are built around these activi-
ties and as interdependent responsibilities become embedded in the way
households are managed and run. It should also be pointed out that
throughout the history of the West Indies poorer people have had to rely
on the mutual support and assistance of each other in times of economic
hardship. Thus, people are not "economic atoms" independent from the
demands and requests of others, secure with their dependable and regular
income. Rather, they must cultivate a social network of friends, kin,
neighbors, shopkeepers, and "significant others" to call upon in times
of need. Therefore, a good deal of energy must be invested in maintain-
ing good, working social ties. To remove one's self from the securities
of this support network and strike out to find one's future in an en-
clave industry assembly plant is risky business indeed and can present
considerable emotional hardship in addition to financial.
Even better off West Indians participate in this economic planning
and strategy development. This is especially the case in the LDCs where
salaries are uniformly lower. It is no surprise to run across a lawyer
who is also secretary of a government department, part-time lecturer at
the secondary school or university extra-mural campus, part-owner in a
small business and small farmer who hires his labor force to work his
land and dabbles in import-export. Actually, obtaining a government job
is ideal. Although the salary is small, it is regular and the "job"
allows one the opportunity to undertake other work; errands, shopping
Through the activities of their members households cope with eco-
nomic vissisitudes by securing many and alternative sources of income.
The responsibilities incumbent in this strategy are immense and people
must always assure that they are not dependent on a particular source of
income to such a degree that it cannot be dropped or temporarily shelved
in favor of another more lucrative or convenient one that unexpectedly
arises. Thus, occupational multiplicity presents great flexibility as
well. It is easier to tell one's neighbor down the street that her
ironing will be a couple days late than to tell an assembly line foreman
that one cannot come to work for a few days because "something came up."
The lady down the street would understand. The foreman cannot and will
Youth in the Eastern Caribbean: Population Structure
High fertility rates in the Caribbean have had a great effect on
the post-World War II age structure of Caribbean societies. In all
populations that have had recent heavy additions through natural in-
creases, there is a pronounced tendency for a high proportion to be
below working age. Table 1:4 reveals that only in Barbados does the
proportion under 15 years of age fall beneath 40 percent of the popu-
In St. Vincent this proportion actually rises to half, thus placing
an extraordinary burden on the working segment (or those who should be
working) of the population. It is expected that the 1980 census, when
processed, will indicate an increase in the percentage of the population
under 15 years of age.
Distribution of Caribbean Populations by Age
Country Under 15 15-64 64 and over Total ratio*
Barbados 37.1% 54.6% 8.3% 100% 83
Dominica 49.1% 45.0% 5.9% 100% 122
St. Lucia 49.6% 45.1% 5.3% 100% 122
St. Vincent 51.2% 43.9% 4.9% 100% 128
*The "dependency ratio" is formed by dividing the age group from which
the economically active are drawn into the remaining population. It
will rise to 100 when there is one "dependent" for every adult member
of the population below 65 years of age. It should be born in mind
that such a calculation does not consider the extraordinarily high un-
employment rates in the Eastern Caribbean, which would increase the
number of de facto dependents and increase the dependency ratio. Such
an exacerbated situation would increase the "dependency ratio" much
Source: M. Cross, Urbanization and Urban Growth in the Caribbean
(Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1979), p. 61.
All four countries demonstrate a larger number of females, in
almost all age categories, than males. In large measure this imbalance
can be explained by the long tradition of emigration. St. Lucia's popu-
lation profile is shown in Table 1:5.
by Sex and Five Year Age Groups
Source: St. Lucia Ministry
of Trade, Department of Statistics, St. Lucia
Digest (Government of St. Lucia, 1979), p. 3.
Out of a total population of 118,338, 49.6 percent were 14 years old
or younger in 1979. Females begin to outnumber males in the 10 to 14-
year-old age category and continue that lead throughout the life cycle.
With these high figures in the 10 to 14, 15 to 19 and 20 to 24 age
groups, coupled with high fertility rate, one can expect the consequence
that now and in the near future there will be an increasing number of
school age women bearing children.
St. Lucia is not unique. Data from the 1970 Commonwealth Census
indicates the distribution for St. Vincent and Dominica as shown in
Population Distribution by Age and Sex
St. Vincent Dominica
Ages Male. Female Male Female
0-14 22,390 21,813 17,204 16,914
14 1,198 1,187 869 852
15-19 4,424 4,677 3,325 3,563
20-24 2,727 3,239 2,269 2,599
25-34 2,984 3,990 2,515 3,210
35-44 2,600 3,644 2,271 2,881
45-54 2,256 3,046 2,166 2,719
55-64 1,938 '2,396 1,759 2.143
65 plus 1,473 2,717 1,549 2,552
14 plus 19,600 24,896 16,633. 20,519
All Ages 40,792 45,522 32,968 36,581
Total Population 86,314 69,549
Source: Angela Cropper, "The Integration of Women in Development for
Windward and Leeward Islands of the Caribbean" (paper prepared
for the Policy Branch of the Canadian International Development
Agency, Barbados, 1980), p. 5.
The population structure of Barbados differs from those of the
LDCs. For the 1975 population estimates one finds roughly 33 percent of
the population 14 years old and under compared with figures in the high
40 percentile and low 50 percentile for St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and
Dominica. Projections for 1980 and 1985 call for a steady decrease of
this figure. Male-female ratios in all age categories are more uniform
in Barbados with females gaining an ascendancy in numbers only later in
life beginning at age group 30 to 34, as shown in Table 1:7. The 1975
population estimate and the 1980 and 1985 population projections were
constructed with the following assumptions:
1.. the pattern of mortality will continue at the same level;
2. the level of fertility will decline marginally;
3. the level of emigration will continue at roughly the
Population of Barbados by Age and Sex
1975 estimate and 1980 and 1985 projections
14 and under
14 and under
total and %
Source: Ministry of Finance and Planning, Barbados Development Plan
1979-1983 (Barbados Government Headquarters, 1979), p. 49.
Although its relative numbers of young people is decreasing,
Barbados, like its regional neighbors St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and
Dominica, must plan for an absolute increase in the numbers of young
people entering and soon to be entering its school and training pro-
grams, and labor force.
Careful consideration should be given to the fact that a majority
of these young people, especially in the LDCs, will be women. Thus,
programs should be tailored that provide income opportunities for many
more women than are currently employed.
Finally, emigration has been a constant feature of post-emancipa-
tion Caribbean and is an important consideration in the thinking of
everyone from the urban and rural poor in divising their career strate-
gies to national planners estimating population size and resource allo-
cation. The solution lies not in sharply reduced emigration possibilities
but in compensatory planning to productively absorb the mostly young,
mostly male migrants.
Occupational Preferences and Aspirations of Youth
This section discusses the general pattern of occupational prefer-
ences of young people, in the age groups 10 to 15 and 15 to 24, in
Barbados, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, and Dominica. As in other sections of
this report, it must be pointed out that Barbados departs significantly
from the other three in terms of what students are prepared for in
school (both the quality and type of curriculum), what they aspire to,
and what they ultimately engage in as work or occupation. The other
three islands will be addressed as a unit and without distinction.
Over the past 25 years a large body of literature has emerged on
the subject of education and career aspiration. Several of these
studies, concentrating on the larger territories of Trinidad aid
Jamaica, have undertaken comprehensive surveys of school age children
and, using questionnaires have listed and ranked occupational prefer-
ences by age, sex, ethnicity, social class, and place of residence.
No such work is available for the Eastern Caribbean though several
doctoral dissertations present accurate psychosociological evaluations.
These materials were reviewed and coordinated with the consultants' on-
site work. As our visitation was during the students' summer holiday,
we did not have the opportunity to administer a questionnaire. However,
we did gather impressionistic information through lengthy interviews
with teachers.and government personnel responsible for education and in
open-ended discussions with students and school age youth.
The girls and boys, young men and women interviewed came primarily
from the lower and working classes of the islands. Although we cannot
state with precision the exact extent of their schooling, whether or not
they are employed and the amount of their families' income, we can
analyze their expressed desires as they relate to the current job market
situation in the islands, availability of youth skills training pro-
grams, and the general level of unemployment.
Although we expected that the influence of parents on a younger
person's aspirations would be present, we were surprised by the extent
of it. In most cases, it was mentioned that parents wanted their chil-
dren to "move up" and, except in the. highest professions, did not want
their child to work at the same job they did. This was especially
pronounced in children from farming families and whose parents worked as
domestics, manual laborers, and. the lower ranks of the civil service.
In B-arbados children are sometimes discouraged from entering skilled
trades because the parent wants-them to be "something better." Some-
times a young person's efforts to earn pin money through the. vending of
peanuts or clerking at a shop will be discouraged because it is work
considered "too low." This is not the case in the other' islands.
Also, a surprising number of young people gave migration as their
job aspiration. Barbadians preferred Canada and the United States,
while persons from the other islands selected Barbados, Trinidad, the
French islands, or Florida. In the LDCs the wish to "get out" was
Of the occupations preferred by boys up to 15 years of age, mechan-
ical work such as automobile mechanic, electrician, carpenter and plumber
(in that order) stand out as far and away the most desirable occupations.
When asked, most of the young people said they wished to be self-employed.
In Barbados the higher professions such as medical doctor, lawyer,
magistrate, and high government work were regularly mentioned. Prefer-
ences after this included taxi driver (i.e., owner), teacher, entertainer,
office worker, police man, soldier, and own-account farmer. No one in
Barbados mentioned own-account farming while no one in any of the four
islands mentioned estate work, farm laborer, or unskilled laborer. It
is noteworthy that children in St. Vincent found it harder to play this
"what I want to be" game, perhaps a telling revelation that even making
a fantasy choice has little connection with reality. Overwhelmingly,
when a choice was made, migration was stated, as if migration would then
make choices realistic. Especially in St. Vincent it seemed to us that
asking young people to answer questionnaires that required they choose
an occupation would yield fewer results of value than asking what they
think they will be doing when they are out of school for one year, when
they are 20, when they are 30, and so on. Such questions would yield a
clearer picture of how they perceive they will fit into the society, and
what sort of fit the society would allow. Young women especially found
it harder than young men to think in terms of "occupation," much less
"career." For most of the young women with whom we spoke, the delinea-
tion seemed to be that women worked, while men had jobs.
It is extremely unlikely that many of the children we spoke with
will ever enter the very high professions. Thus, insofar as choice of
occupational preferences go, the young boys, although ambitious, show a
remarkable degree of realism in recognizing which jobs paid best and
which their educational levels would permit.
Among older boys and young men, roughly 15 to 24 years old, there
was a noticeable shift in occupational preferences in terms of what they
wanted as their source of livelihood, what they would accept as work,
and what sort of work was available to them. Within the group craft and
semi-skilled work is the most highly favored occupational category and
included carpentry, shoemaking, plumbing, painting, and repair work.
Working in a small business (tire recapping, electrical repair, etc.),
taxi driver, mechanic, and working in an office followed in rough order
of frequency. Own-account farming was mentioned very often in the LDCs,
while only occasional references to it were made in Barbados. There was
no talk of the higher professions. None of the young men mentioned
factory or assembly plant work because it is associated with "women's
work." The major difference between the age group 15-and-under and for
the group 15-and-older is that for the older group unskilled, lower
status, lower paying jobs are becoming more desirable, attractive, and
necessary. The older that men get without work the greater the frequen-
cy of preference for formally devalued occupations.
Thus, the occupational aspirations of poorer school boys and the
prospects they face as adults differ rather sharply. Whereas school
boys exclude some occupations (farming) and emphasize others, the
reverse is true of young men.
Many young men displayed an aggressive interest in youth skills
training programs. The participation in them in Barbados is high,
enthusiastic, and of good quality. The idea that one can be taught a
trade outside of the formal school atmosphere appeals to many young men
(and women). When a pilot project youth skills training program was
announced for Dominica, over 300 young men showed up from all over the
island for the 80 available slots. Government staff was so surprised
they had neither space for the young people to sit nor enough applica-
School girls up to 15 years of age preferred occupations one could
loosely call secretarial, followed by nursing, teaching, seamstressing
and clerking in shops, stores, and government civil service. Very few
mentioned domestic work, unskilled work, marketing, crafts, or farming.
Factory or assembly work was occasionally mentioned in Barbados only,
perhaps reflecting how little experience they had had with industry in
primarily agricultural countries. Higher paying work such as skilled
craftsman or manager position was not mentioned, perhaps in tacit rec-
ognition that these are "men's jobs." The overwhelming vote for nursing,
teaching and secretarial work for young women declares how restricted
the range of occupational choice is for women; even for young girls who
for a short time have the opportunity to fantasize. In Barbados, how-
ever, one does see occasional young women in traditionally male trades.
The youth skills training program there, though it does not go out of
its way to recruit women,, has several involved in carpentry training,
upholstery, plumbing, electrical training, and auto repair.
For young women, aged roughly 15 to 24, occupational preferences
changed considerably with the desire for secretarial work decreasing
markedly. Outside of Barbados interest in nursing and teaching falls
off considerably and is replaced with an increase in desire for domestic
work, sewing, waitressing, clerking in a shop, and assembly plant work.
It must be remembered that in the smaller LDCs nursing and teaching are
high status, middle class, jobs that require advanced education and
financing. In Barbados such opportunities and funding is possible and
thus many young women can pursue this career. In Dominica and St.
Vincent health care delivery is understaffed and underfunded given
needs. Thus, on the; one- ha-nd in the LDCs nurses are overworked, as are
teachers,, but on the other hand. there is very little possibility to
train more. In Dominica this year, over 100 men and women applied for
four slots available for nursing training.
For the LDCS. the gap between girls' occupational aspirations and
the prospects presented by their environment is just as great as that
for- boys. Both boys and girls, at an early age, exclude all forms of
unskilled labor, farming, factory work and marketing trade from their
occupational horizons. But, as these young people leave school they
also leave behind their ambitions to become teachers, nurses, doctors,
mechanics, and whatever else they had aspired to do. It follows that
until economic pressures override distaste, these young people can
hardly be expected to show much interest in work they dislike.
In Barbados the employment, educational, and training system is
such that work and training opportunities may be found by young people
if they know where to look. There are simply more choices available
here. Own-account farming by young people is a dead issue.
There is a considerable body of literature on the inappropriateness
of the West Indian public school curriculum and how the process of
education in the Caribbean encourages inflated aspirations and unrealis-
tic occupational preferences; it will not be summarized here. Nonethe-
less, an educational system that permits or encourages these aspirations
cannot avoid some responsibility for the resultant disillusionment,
frustration, and disappointment. Simultaneously the educational system
rarely presents, much less fosters, the possibilities for,young women to
be trained in the more lucrative jobs held almost exclusively by men.
There is no counciling at schools or job preparation training. It was
not until this year that Barbados received its first and only full-time,
fully trained educational counceler. Employment offices attached to
Ministries of Labour are present in St. Lucia and Barbados. In Barbados
the system functions with minor success but seems to be a last resort
for a young person seeking work. In St. Lucia the office is run very
informally by the officer who contacts his personal friends in hopes of
locating jobs for young people. This is because people normally prefer
to hire persons they know or who are referred to them by people they
Young people in the Eastern Caribbean will work at manual labor in
spite of what the educational system teaches them and the negative way
in which the prestige rank orders of their societies evaluate such work.
The foci are different and vary between Barbados on the one hand and St.
Lucia, St. Vincent, and Dominica on the other. Barbados' future lays
with industrialization, tourism, and its efficient (by Eastern Caribbean
standards) service sector. The LDCs at this point are agricultural and
enjoy very limited industrialization and tourism. Certain activities
can gain a sense of dignity and status from the educational institution
and the media, and thus be made more attractive to the young school
leaver and job seeker. Also, follow-up work in vocational training and
youth skills training programs can sieze upon a great deal of enthusiasm
on the part of young girls and boys for craft, semi-skilled occupation,
and own-account farming. presupposing that more jobs can be created that
pay reasonable wages and can use those who have had the training but are
still unemployed. The most serious indictment of the Caribbean would be
to accuse its young people of uncommon laziness or attempt to lay the
problems of the region at their feet.
The Decline of Agricultural and Rural Living Standards
Once again a distinction must be recognized between Barbados and
the other three states of Dominica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent. As a
more developed country, Barbados enjoyed, for example, a rise in per
capital gross national product between 1970 and 1975 of about 1.4 percent
per annum, while in the other three states it fell about 1.9 percent.
In 1977 Barbados had a per capital gross domestic product of US$1530,
while St. Vincent, for example, had one of only US$320. This fall in
income is naturally reflected in rural living standards and levels.
Other measures differentiate Barbados from the LDCs. The literacy
rate in rural Barbados, for example, approaches 100 percent, while in
the other states it is rarely thought to be over 50 percent. Sugarcane
workers in Barbados enjoy a guaranteed minimal income, while no such
guarantees accrue to small farmers and rural laborers in Dominica, St.
Lucia, or St. Vincent. Rural areas in Barbados are flat, while they
are, for the most part, very mountainous in the other states. The
transportation infrastructure is consequently cheaper and better in
Similarities do exist. In all four states farming is perceived by
residents as a low profitability occupation, and rural living suffers
from low prestige. Part of the low levels of rural living derives from
physical features such as thin soils, erratic rainfall patterns, uncon-
trolled deforestation and consequent soil erosion. On a governmental
level agriculture and improvement in rural living occupies a low prior-
ity among national policy makers. There are contradictory land use and
land tenure policies. And development officials seem to have unrealis-
tic expectations that rural problems can be solved by advanced agri-
Levels of living in rural areas are, of course, directly dependent
on the profitability of agriculture, and although "data pertinent to a
proper agriculture sector study are often nonexistent, unavailable,
inaccurate or superficial,"2 a fairly dependable assessment of extant
data is that rural living levels have declined in the three less de-
veloped states and have not risen appreciably in Barbados. Some dif-
ferences in living-level indices, however, do exist among the less
developed countries. In St. Vincent, for example, between 1970 and 1978
rural areas experienced worsening access to water, while in 1972,
43.4 percent of all rural households reported no water supply at all.
By contrast St. Lucia has fairly good water facilities due to historical
efforts at controlling schistosomiasis. Although all are in the hurri-
cane belt, Dominica seems to suffer the most, having been devastated by
David and Allen in the past two years.
2Weir's Agricultural Consulting Services--Jamaica, Small Farming in The
Less Developed Countries of the Commonwealth Caribbean (Barbados
Caribbean Development Bank, 1980), p. 139.
All four states suffer from having soils of only medium to low
fertility with Dominica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent having soils mainly
of volcanic origin and Barbados' soils being mainly corals, marls, and
volcanic muds. The fertile topsoils are badly eroding in most rural
areas with sheet and gully erosion common in Barbados.
,Both soils and rural living levels are aggravated by monocrop agri-
culture with Barbados having 39,000 of 66,000 agricultural acres devoted
to sugarcane and the other states being heavily dependent on bananas.
Although the agricultural income of Barbados does fluctuate according to
trends in sugar prices, agriculture accounts for a smaller share of the
gross domestic product here than in any of the other three states.
Another measure of the decline in rural living levels is the de-
cline in productivity and export volumes. Banana production in St.
Vincent, for example, dropped from 30,000 tons in 1976 to 28,000 in
1978. Dominica is now leasing stateowned lands, which may lead to
increased output, but St. Lucia and St. Vincent have no clear land
policy. In general, however, the quality and value of the banana crops
from these LDCs have declined in recent years.
If the problems of agriculture seem intractable, we must keep in
mind that these difficulties in raising rural living levels are pre-
cisely what motivated Caribbean governments to turn to industrialization
after World War II.
It is clear that the costs of living are higher in rural areas than
urban, especially in St. Vincent, Dominica, and St. Lucia where people
can least afford them. Transportation costs, including depreciation of
rapidly ruined vehicles on pot-holed mountain roads, are added to the
basic price of goods. Trade Union officials report that food and other
prices are often raised higher than one could account for by merely
adding transportation costs. An increase in imported goods in the last
years added to the cost of many goods now required but not produced
locally. Most repairs and parts' replacement have to be done in capital
cities, requiring loss of time and money. Since hurricanes David and
Allen many towns and rural districts remain without electricity, in-
creasing time and money spent on fuels for lighting and, perhaps more
important, decreasing the diversity of nighttime leisure pursuits avail-
able to rural or small town dwellers. The dissatisfaction with rural
living is perhaps best illustrated by the high rates of migration and
urbanization experienced over the past 20 years. From 1961 to 1972 in
St. Vincent, for example, land in agricultural use declined by
18.9 percent. Given all the problems faced by small farmers and the
lower standards in living they are asked to endure, it should not sur-
prise anyone that young people, given the choice, will face the reali-
ties, and leave for the city.
The Viability of Agriculture as an Occupational Choice
The conventional wisdom indicates that agriculture is so lowly
esteemed as an occupation in the Caribbean that people would prefer to
be unemployed rather than be agriculturalists. The low prestige asso-
ciated with agriculture has been linked to its being a reminder of
slavery as well as its current low profitability.
For the purposes of this investigation it is important to recognize
two distinctions. Most Caribbean training programs for young people are
designed to train horticulturalists rather than agriculturalists. The
implication is important to note; when asked to consider agriculture as
a livelihood very few see agriculture as an occupation that involves a
large capital investment, mechanization, or other aspects that in other
countries would conjure up the idea of agriculture as a business.
Horticulture as it is offered to most young people in the Eastern
Caribbean is subsistence farming and offers only an insecure future of
dirty, backbreaking work, and poor incomes.
The second distinction involves differentiating among three kinds
1. estate work
2. farm labor
3. own-account farming.
Only when asked, "Would you do it if it were the only way in which to
keep from starving," would any young person say they would work as a
tenant farmer on estate lands or as a paid farm laborer for someone
else's concern. However, many young people in St. Vincent, Dominica, and
St. Lucia (not Barbados) indicated a positive interest in pursuing their
futures in agriculture in a situation where they had their own land.
The major positive aspects of such a living were:
1. the independence they would derive from being able to
determine their own use of time and use of land (most thought such an
occupation would require much work but also that it would allow some
flexibility to engage in other occupations);
2. the income they would obtain, especially since they real-
ized that rising costs of imported foods would make the home-grown food
3. the ownership of land that would allow them to build their
own homes on the land;
4. the control of resources that would enable them to get
support from government organizations and agencies, e.g., loans to make
the land more productive by improving it or hiring help;
5. the opportunity,. especially in Dominica and St. Lucia, to
participate in developing their countries and increasing self-
sufficiency through import substitution potentials in the area of local
There was not universal enthusiasm for agriculture among young
people, but we were very impressed by how positive and reasoned were
many of the responses. Never once, for example, was the argument made
that agricultural work was slave labor. The agricultural system with
its archaic demands was, however, often seen as reducing the farmer to
virtual slavery. In these cases the.examples they cited, often of
relatives they saw working under appalling conditions and tenuous
promise of profit, clearly differentiated agriculture as an occupation
from the actual conditions under which many are forced to endure it.
It is clear that young people in Barbados are much less likely to
respond as enthusiastically as those in the LDCs. Many have been raised
with little or no intimate knowledge of life in rural, farming com-
munities. Although Barbados is designated an agricultural country in
some reports, most of the acreage is under sugar and is more likely to
be reminiscent of slavery and plantation economies rather than modern
farming. More importantly perhaps is that tourism and growing industry
offer positions that pay steady wages, are cleaner, much less physically
debilitating, and come automatically with a higher status attached.
There is also less interest among young people in Barbados to be self-
employed, compared to their peers in the LDCs.
We think that many young people in St. Vincent, Dominica, and St.
Lucia would seriously consider permanent employment in agriculture.
There are also many reasons why they cannot or will not make that choice.
In Part II a long list of reasons is given in the section on St. Vin-
cent. Where the reasons vary in other territories, they are noted. The
different attitudes and circumstances pertaining in Barbados are summa-
rized in the section for that island.
Women in Agriculture
The widespread concern for improving the productivity and advancing
the viability of agriculture often overlooks the large contribution that
women make to farming enterprises. Any discussion of increasing the
household income of poorer families or of promoting the interests of
women in the work force in the Eastern Caribbean cannot afford to ignore
Barbara Yates has pointed out that while the proportion of the
labor force involved in agriculture has declined in the past years, the
proportion of women has in this force declined to a lesser extent and in
some cases increased as is shown in Table 1:8.
Participation of Women in Agricultural Labor Force
Country 1960 1979
Barbados 41% 40%
Dominica 36% n.a.
St. Lucia 29% 49%
St. Vincent 36% 30%
Source: Barbara A. Yates, "Women in Agriculture in the Eastern
Caribbean," (paper presented to the Agricultural Extension in
the Eastern Caribbean and Belize, n.d.), p. 2.
Apart from the physical work of preparing plots, planting and harvest-
ing, women almost completely dominate the distribution and retailing of
The production of consumable agricultural goods and produce for
sale provides an important source of food and income for poorer house-
holds. For female-headed households the importance of women in agri-
culture increases. It is estimated that in the Caribbean the incidence
of female-headed households is on the increase, suggesting that women
must turn to their own efforts to supply food and cash to their depen-
dent households. Even.in households where there is a male present, the
failure to recognize the contribution of females involved in agriculture
skews our understanding of how household economic systems run and on
whom they are dependent for various services and sources of income.
Many of the women involved in agriculture are extremely poor, and
although they make up a large proportion of farmers, they do not receive
technical assistance and support commensurate with their importance.
Yates asserts that women may become even further disadvantaged by cer-
tain policies of economic assistance that direct the delivery of tech-
nical support to the wrong audience all together, thus creating more
inefficiences than formally existed.3 Stereotypes of female roles make
specialists apt to consider only home economics type programs for women
in agriculture rather than information geared to soil conservation,
choice of crops, planting techniques and so forth. The limitations of
the female-headed household must be considered and a sensitivity culti-
vated for women who must gather their own fuel, plant and harvest crops
Barbara A. Yates, "Women in Agriculture in The Eastern Caribbean"
(paper presented to the Agricultural Extension in the Eastern Caribbean
and Belize, n.d.), p. 5.
for consumption and sale, and expend the time required for routine
householding chores. Male policy makers generally fail to understand,
and consequently underutilize, the productive capacity of women in
agriculture. In agricultural extension services, women are underrepre-
sented as recipients of assistance as well as underrepresented as agri-
cultural agents. Although having more female agents in itself will not
alleviate the problem in a communication and information dissemination
service that thinks only in terms of one gender. On a field visit to
St. Lucia with both male and female agricultural agents, we noted that
the female agent acted as a lobby for and information source on women
farmers while the male agent thought consistently in terms of young men,
adult men and older men.
Women make up a substantial part of the agricultural work force.
The fact that they are not assisted as much as men in their endeavors is
not only unfair to women but, perhaps more importantly for developing
countries, amounts to serious economic waste and loss of income in the
A recent study by Maura Buvinic and Nadia Youssef of women who head
households accurately noted that they form a "special group among the
poor worthy of the full attention of policy makers concerned with im-
proving the quality of life of the poorest of the poor."4 Although the
definitions of "head of household" is open to debate, and as a conse-
quence varies, the definition used by Buvinic and Youssef is suitable
here because of its emphasis on economic responsibility; these household
heads are "women who function as de facto heads of households; those
women who, because of marital dissolution, desertion, abandonment,
absence of spouse or male marginality in the home, are structurally
placed in a situation in which they become economically responsible for
providing for their own survival and that of their children."5
Information derived from the 1970 Commonwealth Census gives some
idea of the extent or incidence of female-headed households in the four
territories under study.
In all four territories 40 percent or more of the households sur-
veyed were headed by women. St. Vincent's 46 percent was equalled by
Grenada and surpassed by only one other Commonwealth Caribbean country
Mayra Buvinic and Nadia H. Youssef, WomenHeaded Households: The
Ignored Factor in Development Planning (Report prepared for the Office
of Women in Development, Agency for International Development, Wash-
ington, 1980) i.
Buvinic, Women-Headed Households, p. 10.
in the 1970 census, St. Kitts (50 percent). Of 15 countries that com-
pleted the census, the overall average percent of household heads who
were female was 35. Barbados, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, and Dominica were
over the reported regional average.
In the LDCs the majority of women who headed households had had
only primary school education: St. Vincent (87 percent), Dominica
(83 percent), St. Lucia (64 percent). Barbados, again the exception,
report 56 percent of its female heads of households had had at least
some secondary education. The percent of female-headed households was
higher in the lower education levels than for male-headed households.
More male heads of households reported having received a secondary
education than did female heads. The only exception to this was St.
Lucia in the category of "no education/infants" where three percent more
households were headed by men than by women who had only had infants'
schooling or none at all, reflecting, perhaps, the rural constituency.
The employment level correlated to the sex of head of household was
more divergent than might have been indicated by the level of education
percentages. In all four states, 84 percent or more male heads of
household were working, while less than half of the female heads of
household were. More male heads of household reported they were looking
for work than did female heads. From 34 to 47 percent of the female
heads of household reported they were primarily involved in "home
duties," compared to a response of 0 to 1 percent of the male heads. In
all four nations more female than male heads of household were reported
as retired or disabled.
In terms of income level, 55 to 62 percent of the female heads of
household declared "no income" or did not state an income, as opposed to
a range of 14 to 26 percent of male heads. The imbalance is inversely
reflected at the top end of the income scale as well, where only 5 to
21 percent of the women reported a substantial income, comparing un-
favorably with 33 to 69 percent male-headed households in the-same
Based on 1970 census data, these figures do not take into account
those who reported households as headed by males because of status or
cultural issues but which were de facto headed by females. Nor do they
take into account those households which had the potential for becoming
female-headed. Neither do they consider those many male-headed house-
holds wherein a female's income was a necessary contribution to sur-
According to Buvinic and Youssef, the world-wide literature
indicates that the rise of female-headed households is not "tracable to
specific ethnic/cu.ltural heritages. Rather, most studies suggest that
explanatory factors for female family headship should be sought in both
internal and internation migration; mechanization of agriculture; the
development of agribusiness; urbanization; overpopulation; lower-class
marginality, and the emergence of a class system of wage labor."6
If the incidence of female-headed households is directly affected by
these developments, then consider what the past decade may have wrought
because of continuing migration (mostly of males in the LDCs), price
rises, population increases, increased urbanization, increased depen-
dence on imported goods necessitating cash, and the added economic
hardships of two hurricanes. Even if the percentages of households
headed by women does not increase, it seems evident from observation,
interviews, and the available printed data that the poor are finding it
harder and harder to make ends meet. With increasing competition for
jobs those least equipped by education, training, and flexibility of
movement (i.e., those unencumbered by small children) are least able to
compete--despite the fact that their responsibilities may not have
Tables 1:8 through 1:13 graphically summarize the information on
households for the four states under study. Tables I;8 and 1:9 refer
to marital status of women who head households and is divided into
various types of union and marital arrangements. Tables I:10 through
1:13 compare male- and female-headed households in terms of level of
education, major activities, occupation, and age.
A number of government officials reported to us in interviews that
they were aware that "many" women were responsible for the economic
welfare of their families. Simultaneously, three points were generally
raised in defense of not planning specifically for the aid of these
household heads. The first reason, briefly summarized, was that they
thought it the responsibility of men to care for the women and children
and that creating jobs for the men automatically would take care of the
women and the children. The problems with this reasoning are major. It
puts responsibilities on men who may not be willing or able to meet
them. There may not be any men present who would take on this responsi-
bility even if they had adequate incomes, as in some areas women greatly
outnumber the men. In some societies polgamy is a solution, but it is
highly unlikely to be applied in the Caribbean. More importantly it
overlooks the productive capacities of about half or more of the popula-
tion, and perhaps unintentionally relegates them to perpetual dependency
as their proper station. Waiting for men with adequate incomes to
appear and solve their problems assumes the problems can wait, a mani-
festly false proposition for many of the women who head households.
Even when jobs were created and filled only by men, such as contract
labor for overseas agricultural concerns, it was not clear--nor even
investigated in many cases--whether those men actually remitted salaries
home and if the monies were sufficient to keep the household going when
they did. In any case, a majority of women who are heads of households
are not and have not been married with no legal basis for forcing an
economic contribution from any man with whom they may be involved.-
Buvinic, Women-Headed Households, p. ii.
Percent Distribution of Female Heads of Household (FHH) in the Commonwealth Caribbean,
by Marital Status*
Total Heads of Household
Female Heads of Household
% Heads who are Female
% FHH Never Married
% FHH Married
% FHH Widowed
% FHH Divorced
% FHH Separated
Average Score of
all 15 countries
Source:. Buvinic, Women-Headed Households, pp. 99-100 (Table 6), citing
*Single member households not included.
1970 Population Census of the
Percent Distribution of Female Heads of Household (FHH), By Union Status
Adjusted Figuresl (Unadjusted Figures in Parenthesis2)
Total Female Heads of
% Common Law Union
% Not living with
% Not living with
Common Law Partner
% Never had Husband or
Common Law Partner
all 15 counties
Source: Buvinic, Women-Headed Households, pp. 101-2 (Tables 7 and 8), citing 1970 Population Census of
the Commonwealth Caribbean, Vol. 9.
Single member households not included; excludes 'not stated' category.
2Single member households not included.
Single member households not included.
Percent Distribution* of Heads of Household in the Commonwealth Caribbean,
by Sex and Level of Education
Sex Total None/Infant
Prim. Sec. Higher
Source: Buvinic, Women-Headed Households, p. 103 (Table 9), citing 1970 Population Census of the
Commonwealth Caribbean, Vol. 9.
*Does not include single-person households.
of Household in the Commonwealth Caribbean
and Main Activity
Ave. of 15
*Includes single-member households.
Source: Buvinic, Women-Headed Households, p. 104-5 (Table 10), citing 1970 Population Census of the
Commonwealth Caribbean, Vol. 9.
Percent Distribution of Heads of Household in the Commonwealth Caribbean
by Sex and by Occupation
100% Heads of
Ave. of 15
Source: Buvinic, Women-Headed Households, p. 106-7 (Table 11),
Commonwealth Caribbean, Vol. 9.
citing 1970 Population Census of the
Percent Distribution* of Heads of Household
by Sex and Age
in the Commonwealth Caribbean
Ave. of 15
Source: Buvinic, Women-Headed Households, p. 109 (Table 13), citing 1970 Population Census of the
Commonwealth Caribbean, Vol. 9.
*Does include single-member households.
A second reason given for not planning specifically for these
households is that the government was planning for the economic well-
being of all households, and as the economy improved so would their
situation. A rising economic tide, which not all of the four nations
under study enjoy, does not necessarily lift all creaky boats. Some go
under, as the literature on development planning has increasingly indi-
The third reason was that there are "women's programs," or "women's
groups," or "women's desks" (government bureaus) under which these
women's concerns fall. In response to this, it is necessary to point
out that not all the territories have a "women's desk," e.g., St. Vin-
cent. Secondly, even in those areas where some awareness exists that
"women" as a constituency or social category with special needs should
be given special attention, it is not clear that segregating all women
out without distinction is a real service. Women's desks are under-
funded, understaffed, and under utilized by governments in most areas of
planning. The responsibility for making the case needed for women in
development planning generally falls on the woman who heads the desk,
which means that she has to do double duty as information-gatherer and
information dispenser. Trying to locate and maintain contact with all
women's groups, wherever she can in the country, she also has to insert
herself everywhere, trying to find out what is going on in government so
that she can then exert whatever lobbying power she can muster. She
generally has little solid data to present to government, as it hasn't
been collected in the cases of the LDCs and in fact costs too much to
collect. Without some hard evidence that special attention to women
will be of national (or political) benefit, it is difficult to change
the mind of men in high position who may see a "woman's issue" as
frivolous. Evidence proving the real and potential economic contri-
butions of women, in addition to their roles as homemaker and child-
bearer, could benefit not only these women but also their dependent kin
and the nation as a whole, "increasing the productive capacity of this
group of women workers will help the country's economy in the short run.
Enlarging/expanding the income potential of these women will have a
marked effect upon the economy in the long run, by paving the way for
the emergence of a future capable work force represented by the children
of women who head households."7
In order to illustrate the proposition that increasing women's
productivity and income (as opposed to just increasing their work and
responsibilities) may have some surprising and positive ramifications,
one may look at a small project begun in 1978 in a rural area of
Jamaica. The income-generating project involved the production of
bammy, a local cassava-based bread, by 32 women within the age group of
26 to 50. A minority of the women were heads of households, but all
were members of households dependent upon their earnings. It was not a
cooperative venture insofar as each woman was paid according to her
Buvinic, Women-Headed Households, p. 7.
productivity; i.e., how many bammy of a certain quality she produced.
Of interest here are some of the observations made for the UN. report
about the wider effects of this new economic activity by the women.
The women have learned how to budget their time in
order to accommodate an income-earning occupation with
the home [where bammy is made]. They have also learned
to be punctual with their production... Another disci-
pline is evident in the regular attendance at Management
Committee meetings... The general development of self-
confidence... Attitudes towards work have improved and
this can be seen through increased production... Since
the unemployment rate is high within the Parish and some
of the men within the families are themselves unemployed,
this project can also be seen as providing employment for
men who assist the women in the production of the bammy.
Of great importance is the fact that the women have been
able to earn an income while remaining at home to tend the
smaller children. Children also begin to learn work con-
cepts and that there is a 'time for work and a time for
play.' Gradually, leadership qualities are emerging and
a generosity among older women to pass on their skills
to younger women who wish to become a part of the group.
This is most important since continuation of the project
is dependent on the inclusion of younger women within the
Although the project was directly designed to employ women, the
economic benefits accured to the household. Some of the non-economic
benefits (increased self-confidence, increased appreciation for work,
quality standards, punctuality, willingness to teach other workers,
regular attendance at meetings, and the initial training of children to
respect and emulate these traits) can only be considered positive, and
not only for the women involved. Lastly it is important to note that
children could be accomodated under this project's organization of
production. In the Eastern Caribbean the lack of child-care facilities
for those women who have small children remains a large barrier to
regular and punctual attendance at a job, and the major reason for high
absenteeism at work.
Although the phenomenon is not well documented at present, the
Eastern Caribbean is witnessing a percipitous rise in the pregnancy rate
among teenagers. Not only was this observation made in all four terri-
tories but also note was taken that the average age of this group is
"National Report Submitted by Jamaica" (World Conference of the
United Nations Decade for Women, 1980. A/CONF.94/NR/7).
decreasing. Despite the increase in family-planning facilities, ob-
servers unanimously voiced a concern that among teenagers 12 to 14 years
old the incidence of pregnancy is increasing. Trying to deduce the
reasons for this trend, however, is tricky. Most agree that the trend
is tied to the economic situation of teenagers, though exactly how the
economic factors influence the incidence of pregnancy among this partic-
ular age group of women is unclear.
One social worker in Dominica, when asked about this phenomenon,
commented that the causes are "in the air one breathes." Here we
attempt to evaluate what constitutes this "air," and how it ties into
the employment picture perceived by very young women.
First is the lack of self-worth felt by many young women that come
from poor families. They have had little in the way of material luxury,
and often little in the way of intellectual or spiritual excitement that
would enhance their own self-images and confidences. Those in the LDCs
know that their countries are "poor" and that many people are without
work that pays decently. For young women as well as young men school
has often been a scene of frustration and failure. They know by merely
looking around that women just a bit older than them are not employed
and that it was difficult for many that are employed to have found that
work. It appears to most that there is only so much employment (i.e.,
luck, skill) to go around; the shops seem to have their fill of clerks,
and government, as everyone knows, is trying to hire fewer people in
order to save money. In this sense, everyone who has gotten a job has
taken away one more opportunity for the next who comes along. Many
young women from poor homes have had the experience of seeing women work
but not be employed, especially not employed in jobs that carry some
prestige. Those options never experienced vicariously through watching
others are not real options for most; asking a young woman what she
would like to "be" when she is an adult is often asking an unfathomable
question. To ask her what she anticipates she will be doing when she is
an adult, will be more understandable, and the answer will be more
grounded in the realities that inform her. She will be a mother, she
will be in charge of her own house. Many young women see being married
to a young man they love as the capstone. Home, husband and children.
Part of the romance of the picture is the independence that is assumed
will go with keeping house on one's own. To decorate as one would like,
to do as one would like, and most importantly to decide for one's self
when and how something is to be done. Young women are so frequently and
for so long under the tutelage of older women that having one's own home
carries a status and a reality of independence.
Having a child is markedly the rite de passage from childhood to
full womanhood., not only i'n the eyes of the society in general but also
for many young women. Consciously or unconsciously when a woman has a
child, she becomes a real woman in the culture.
Add the status of woman to limited options in perception and
reality and it becomes easier to appreciate why pregnancies at a very
early age are not unlikely. Then to add to this the effect, say, of a
hurricane that knocks out electricity in an area for a year or more,
removing many of the forms of more socially acceptable entertainment,
and the likelihood of pregnancy increases.
It is widely said that when a woman and a man "friend" "visit" two
things occur: after a time of courting in which gifts are bought and
money expended on the woman, a man will ask that she have his child as a
sign of her affection. Fearing a loss of the relationship, she acqui-
esces. Or she may take the initiative to have a child to tie the father
closer to her. The evidence at present indicates that most fathers will
not continue the relationship. There is no proof that most fathers will
continue to financially share or carry the economic burden a child
presents to the mother. This is probably most accurate an assessment
among teenagers, for whom sexual experience, and building personal rela-
tionships with members of the opposite sex, is still experimental and
new. Without legal marriage, and without a legal recognition of pater-
nity, the mother has no legal recourse to regular payments for the
children. In neither case does paternity require the man to pay for her
support. There is, to our knowledge, no research available that would
document that fathers share financially in equal or greater amounts in
the care of the child than does the mother. That the woman will most
likely carry the financial burden alone, or with the help of her own
kin, is the most likely scenario. If she is a teenager, the strain goes
most directly to her kin, further taxing what are most likely limited
resources. She will most likely be in a poor situation from which to
negotiate decent employment; probably with little education past primary
school, with little or no training in marketable skills, with little or
no job experience, and with a totally dependent child to tie her down,
she can expect little relief from the state, while continuing dependence
on the adult kin on which she had been dependent since birth. As there
are few opportunities available for a teenage mother, she can anticipate
no institutionalized avenue of redressing her economic dependence.
There are a number of factors that help to make pregnancy out of
marriage less reprehensible than it might be in other societies. First,
there is a historical experience of lower class West Indians reproducing
outside of legal matrimony. However one explains this (economic margin-
ality, the inheritance of slavery, adaptation to marginality) the
reality is that although pregnancy outside of marriage is not condoned,
the child is not spurned. The cultural concept of illegitimacy is not
the same as in the United States. Culturally, no child is a bastard and
unwanted as a result. Secondly, because women's status is so closely
associated with child-bearing, and because children are seen as a joy
(despite the economic burden) and as the hope of the future, it is an
area in which a woman, no matter how low her status or material condition,
can achieve status.
The third reason that is offered here is more closely linked to the
political economy of the Caribbean, especially of the LDCs. Some
people, especially men, seem to think that pregnancy among young women
is a naive way to attract the permanent attention and stipendary support
of young men in hopes of reducing their own financial dependence on
already over-burdened households. This may be more of a consideration
among older women. For the young teenager to make a child is to be able
to say THIS is mine, I created this. In this one area she can herself,
no matter how limited her knowledge of her own body or of the ultimate
cost to her and kin, chose to create and thus contribute, to her own
satisfaction and to the cultures. The economic costs will be tallied
later, as she matures.
Migration and Remittances
Many households in the Eastern Caribbean either have absolutely no
visible means of financial support or live so far beyond their expected
means that one would have to assume hugh stipends from outside sources.
Indeed, large foreign remittances are being sent back by West Indians
who left their homelands in the vast emigration that took place between
1945 and the late 1960s. It has been estimated that in no society of
the English-speaking Carribean was the net emigration less than 5 percent
of the total population. Segal writes, "Between 1947 and 1962...approxi-
mately 10 percent of the total population of the Caribbean migrated
outside the area."9 The British Commonwealth Immigration Act of 1962
brought to a close the period of massive unrestricted migration.
Migrants have nonetheless continued to migrate and to migrate to new
destinations, as Table 1:14 shows.
Caribbean Net Emigration
Country Number Destination
Barbados 28,000 United Kingdom
Leeward and Windward Is. 59,000 United Kingdom
(St. Kitts, Nevis, Anguilla, 45,000 U.S.A.
Montserrat, Antigua, St. Lucia 10,000 Canada
Dominica, St. Vincent, Grenada)
Total (1950 1972) 192.,000
Source: Malcolm Cross, Urbanization and Urban Growth in the Caribbean
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), p. 70.
A. Segal, Population Policies in the Caribbean (Lexington, Mass: Heath
and Co., 1975), p. 10.
What is also certain is that the migration has had profound demo-
graphic and economic effects on the Caribbean. Generally, the migrants
have come from the 20- to 35-year-old age group and tended to be dis-
proportionately more skilled than their non-migrating cohorts. The
consequence has been a brain drain siphoning off the Caribbean's best,
brightest, and most ambitious.
One of the indirect benefits for the sending society has been the
regular flow of migrant's remittances back to their dependents. The
role of remittances in both contributing to household level prosperity
and providing foreign exchange for government is striking. Without the
inflow of cash represented by remittances, the present conditions of
many families, and most of the islands, would be seriously altered.
Some would move from a level of relative prosperity to marginality;
others would plunge from marginality to extreme poverty and crisis.
Currently no systematic measure exists of the absolute dollar
amount of cash remitted annually to the countries of the Eastern Carib-
bean. However, intuitively "one knows" by seeing the line up at the
post office to fetch their mail from overseas, or cash postal money
orders from Canada, the United Kingdom and the U.S.A. According to data
collected in 1962 (the last year of open emigration), Barbados collected
US$7,900,000 in postal and cash orders amounting to 6.7 percent of the
total personal income generated in Barbados itself. In the same year,
the country of St. Vincent acquired US$1,521,000 in remittances.10
Government widely recognizes the importance of its citizens overseas;
and according to some critics, has actually encouraged migration to
relieve population pressure as well as to invest in future monetary
This line of inquiry has consequences for a discussion of unemploy-
ment and work, for it directly addresses how certain households maintain
themselves without the necessity of everyone working or perhaps working
at positions they consider degrading, unrenumerative, tiresome, and the
like. Thus, while the popular conception of unemployment is one of
deprivation and hardship, this is not the case for the many households
who garner support from kinship networks stretching to North America and
the U.K. In turn this presence of funding has reduced the motivation to
work among some people because there is no urgent necessity to acquire
money for food, rent and clothing (the latter also sent by relatives
overseas). Consequently planners should recognize that just the simple
provision of unskilled labor opportunities will not necessarily effect
unemployment. The fact that an individual is unemployed tells us
nothing about the organization, budget, access to money, level of in-
come, and so forth enjoyed by the larger household in which he or she
1Robert A. Manners, "Remittances and the Unit of Analysis in Anthropo-
logical Research," Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, 21 (Autumn,
Thus, planners must consider the role of remittances in examining
everything from household income and budgets to national annual per
capital wages. One caveat, however, is that the 20- to 35-year-olds who
migrated from 1950 through 1965 are now anywhere from 15 to 30 years
older. Many of the migrants then could be as old as 65--near retire-
ment--others as young as 35 with families to support. Certainly when
migrants die the remittance will stop. In addition, there are more
subtle life cycle changes. Just because a migrant sent remittances to
his mother is no reason to expect that he will, after her death, con-
tinue to send remittances to his sister who assumes head of the house-
hold. As older kinship connections die away and are replaced by new
persons and as people grow apart and develop new responsibilities, the
role of remittances may diminish.
Education, its critics say, is counterproductive to the best inter-
ests of the developing countries of the region. At best, it is claimed,
the system does little more than foster unrealistic aspirations and
ambitions among school children and teenagers. Its curriculum is geared
to producing shop clerks, civil servants, and office workers, with a
corresponding neglect of semi-skilled, skilled, and agricultural trades.
The social value of manual labor is thus unstated and de-valued. The
system remains elitist, with the 11-plus examinations following primary
school rendering a mighty academic influence that determines or ends the
course of a child's future education.
Island by island figures demonstrate precipitous declines in
secondary school enrollment as compared to the numbers of students at
the primary levels. In Dominica in 1979 over 24,000 students were en-
rolled in primary school while fewer than 4,000 were attending secon-
dary. St. Lucia's 30,610 primary school students were matched by
4,879 secondary school pupils, prompting a government official to say
that young people are out of school, out of work, and unemployed at the
most critical period of their lives (14-18 years). Only recently have
attitudes begun to change so that appropriate programs can be developed
to help students who have left primary school to obtain vocational
skills training in a non-academic institution. Whereas advancement to
secondary school and training colleges requires solid academic achieve-
ment and money, the new training programs look first to ambition as the
necessary entry requirement.
The education system serves both boys and girls. Indeed it appears
that females are well represented in the school populations at all
levels. However, the educational institutions reflect the sexual stereo-
typing of the societies, and young women continue to leave school, at
all levels, preoccupied more with an aim to get married than to find
jobs and build careers. The educational system must assume much of the
responsibility for anti-career orientation since it continues to support
the prevailing attitudes of what constitutes proper work for women. The
textbooks used in schools have been criticized as sexist. Girls continue
to be directed into home economics and secretarial sciences rather than
into subjects that would prepare them for non-traditional jobs that pay
more and are more stable. Guidance counsellors, when available in
schools, often unconsciously fail to direct girls to vocational training
programs, which helps to explain the small incidence of females in
these programs. Directing girls into jobs that have been traditionally
female helps ultimately to push them into areas that are underpaid
(compared to jobs held by men) and already glutted. Since relatively
few young women are as yet inclined to pursue jobs in areas tradition-
ally monopolized by men, the school guidance programs that continue to
direct young women into "women's" jobs are inadvertently contributing to
the excessively high unemployment rates and low incomes that women
suffer, and to the continuing under-utilization of human resources.
Limited financial resources help to maintain teacher training pro-
grams that are inadequate for preparing West Indian elementary and
secondary school teachers to deal with the great responsibilities and
demands of their societies. On the other hand, coupling this training
with very low pay, difficult work loads, poor facilities, and the neces-
sity of maintaining status as the teacher in a community, it is not sur-
prising that the pressures often drive many away from the profession.
Schools are urban institutions insofar as they teach a curriculum,
largely by rote memorization, geared to city life and its needs. Rural
people, the bulk of the population in the LDCs, are at a disadvantage in
that they are generally not receiving training that will equip them to
stay in those areas as productive and innovative citizens. Secondary'
schools are uniformly located in the capital and occasionally one or two
other major towns. Thus, to attend advanced education new living ar-
rangements must be divised, a great economic stress felt most in the
These educational issues fuel an ongoing debate in the Caribbean
that is well-documented and need not be reviewed here. It remains clear
that the educational systems are not adequately preparing many West
Indian children for useful, productive, and satisfying participation in
a rapidly changing society. This is most striking for the 14- to
18-year old youths that leave primary school and find themselves with
nothing to do: no jobs, no skills, and an education of little direct
relevance to the job market. Jack Harewood has argued that it is not
the uneducated who suffer the higher incidence of unemployment, but the
"middle range" educated person. He claims that students who graduated
from primary school but could not or did not go to secondary school, had
an unemployment rate of 20 percent. Persons with no formal education
had a much lower unemployment rate of 4 percent, those who went to but
did not complete primary school had an unemployment rate of 10 percent,
while university graduates had a rate of 5 percent."
Jack Harewood, "Education and Manpower" (paper presented at Seminar
on "Manpower Planning" sponsored by Caribbean Development Bank,
Barbados, 1974), pp. 37-38.
The problems are significant whether we talk about sexual stereo-
typing, poor instruction techniques and materials, antiquated facili-
ties, inappropriate curriculum, lack of student preparation for the job
market and the world of work, the encouraging of false and unrealistic
amibitions and aspirations, or the persistent undervaluing of the con-
tribution of skilled laborers to the society as a whole.
It is noteworthy that in the 1980 Caricom population census taken
in Barbados, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent, Rastafarianism was not avail-
able in the list of 19 religious affiliations for the respondents'
choice. It may have been that inclusion of Rastafarianism on the census
would have constituted a legitimization of a movement that few regional
governments favor. Inclusion in the census, however, would have offered
some hard data on age, gender, employment, education, and household
arrangements of what appears to be a particularly depressed group in the
Caribbean. As it is, no studies are available that do more than guess
at the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the followers of
A classic example of a millenial movement for the oppressed, Rasta-
farianism emerged from the ghettos of West Kingston, Jamaica. Offering
redemption for the chronic psychological and economic stresses of appar-
ently hopeless poverty, colonialism, and persistent racism, the Rasta-
farians of Jamaica created, over the past four decades, the most dynamic
socio-religious movement in the Caribbean. Their imposing "dreadlocks,"
use of marijuana as a sacrament, condemnation of Jamaica as "Babylon,"
belief in repatriation to the African motherland, and the worship of
Haile Selassie as God Almighty, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, has
attracted worldwide attention advertised in no small measure by the
pulsing beat and protest lyrics of reggae music.
The Rastafarians in general came from the lowest segment of
Jamaican society, although a sprinkling of new recruits has emerged from
the middle class. The membership of the movement is over-whelmingly un-
employed and underemployed--as well as very dark-skinned. The acute
level of deprivation within this group allowed a fertile environment for
the nurturing of an ideology of escape and of protest. The movement
reached such proportions. by 1960 that the Government of Jamaica com-
missioned a report on the Rastafarian movement to be undertaken by the
University of the West Indies at Mona.12
12M.G. Smith, Roy Augier, and Rex Nettleford, The Rastafari Movement in
Kingston, Jamaica (Mona, Jamaica: ISER, University of the West Indies,
The final report remains the classic source on the movement at the
time. The recommendations made by that investigating team remind us
that some of the problems between Rastas and non-Rastas still persist;
the public still is suspicious of Rastas, still believes that Rastas
engage in violence, theft and illegal behavior, and still thinks that
Rastas live in communities severely deprived of material necessities.
Friction between the police and Rastas continues, with some degree of
discrimination and brutality on the part of law enforcement officials
voiced in all territories and occasionally in the press. What is newer
is the uncomfortable feeling on the part of many officials and citizens
that somehow Rastafarianism correlates highly with unemployment and
depressed chances for the future among the young.
Like all social movements, however, Rastafariansim has changed over
time. The young Rastas of today, either in Jamaica or in the Eastern
Caribbean, are not the same as the brethern of Rastafari who initiated
the movement in the 1930s, not in religious zeal, theological and sym-
bolic sophistication, social make-up, education, life goals, nor
ideology. In some quarters, Rasta has shifted from a passive, millenial
focus to a more activist and aggressive political posture directly
involved in contemporary social processes.13 Coupled with fragments of
the Black Power idology of North America in the 1960s, and fueled by
Caribbean nationalism, anti-colonialism, and independence movements in
the 1960s and 1970s, Rastafarianism has provided a source of inspiration
to many young people, and some intellectuals, in search of a post-
Rastas in the Eastern Caribbean
As the movement changed, especially since 1960, and as it spread
out of Jamaica to the smaller, more provencial territories of the East-
ern Caribbean, it acquired a secular quality. The Rasta posture has
become part of the growing-up experience of many adolescents, and in-
volves both rebellion against authority and protest of the rigidities
and limitations of life in small neo-colonial societies. For some Rasta
is also a convenient cover for criminal activity and a rationalization
for indulging in the pleasure of the "holy weed" (marijuana).
Although there are variations from territory to territory, several
characteristics are widely shared among Rastas in the Eastern Caribbean.
The vast majority of participants appear to be poor, either unskilled
school drop-outs or primary school graduates, and dark compexioned. The
movement is overwhelmingly urban based. Two major features distinguish
the Rasta movement in the Eastern Caribbean from the Jamaican prototype.
The first is the lack of a senior echelon of cult elders who could lend
continuity to the movement, serve as spiritual advisors, and organize
Rastas into a coherent, political or economic force. The second is that
1Klaus de Albuquerque, "Youth and Politics in Jamaica: On the Role of
'Political' and 'Functional' Rastifarians" (paper presented at the
Caribbean Studies Association, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1975).
Eastern Caribbean Rastas are overwhelmingly young men; female Rastas are
rare. Neither characteristic bodes well for the long range survival of
Rastafarianism in the Eastern Caribbean as anything more than a style of
living, with the dimension of a youthful, rebellious fad.
A Spectrum of Rastas
As Rastafariansim is an import into the Eastern Caribbean, and
relatively new in these societies, and because of its youthful and male
membership and the lack of elders to "purify" the movement, knowledge of
the belief in and commitment to the tenets of Rastafari vary greatly.
It is important to recognize the diversity inherent in Rastafari in the
Eastern Caribbean, a diversity conveniently illustrated as a spectrum.
At one end we find the youngster who has been attracted by the
excitement of the style of the movement and who participates largely by
adopting Rasta adornment and posturing in public places with small
cliches of comrades. Young people in the Caribbean are searching for
definition of themselves and a niche in the society. This search is not
only part of the adolescent and teenage experimentation with new roles
and ideas commonly found in most Western societies but is also exacer-
bated by the strains and contradictions inherent in changing from a
colonial identity to that of an independent "man." To be a somebody,
and respected, in a society that provides little economic opportunity,
one can drop out of the wider society to participate in a "sub-culture"
where dignity is obtained through dreadlocks,14 large woolen caps, an
argot of street and Rasta language and vocabulary, consumption of "Ital"
food,15 and dressing in the revered pan-Negritude colors of yellow, red,
black and green. Besides, the costuming can be fun, entertaining, orig-
inal, and asethetically pleasing, as well as serving to set the young
apart from older people and higher placed member of the social order.
Such posturing, however, presents a problem. There is a danger that,
even though the majority may be passing through a "phase" to adulthood
and more conventional behavior, the time spent as "outsiders" in their
own countries and cultures may make it even more difficult for them to
reenter their societies and the world of work after some years as Rastas.
Those without social connections or academic training can only look for-
ward to the same or worse financial insecurities their non-Rasta
1Dreadlocks, long uncut hair, are a sign of distinction. The elabo-
ratenes-s is. appreciated both for its aesthetics and as a sign of per-
sonal style and commitment. The length is a gauge of how long the
wearer has been an active Rasta, as it takes years to grow great locks.
15Ital foods are valued for their symbolism as well as favored for health
reasons. Essentially it is a vegetarian diet that prohibits meat, shell-
and large fish,, salt, any foods with preservatives and chemicals, milk,
coffee, and liquor. It is a "natural" diet that reflects religious
counterparts will confront when they reach their early twenties and
begin to look for some economic security for themselves and perhaps a
family. The years spent participating at this level of Rastafari may
have made him even less employable; full of ideas and slogans about
being exploited, and without the discipline and routine of structured
work. When there are so many unemployed applying for so few jobs, many
employers see no need to take a chance with a practicing or ex-Rasta.
At the other end of the spectrum is perhaps the most unstudied and
most creative by-product of the Rasta movement in the Eastern Caribbean.
As with most Rastas in the Eastern Caribbean, this faction is shorn of
most of the basic beliefs of the Jamaican religious Rastas; one hears
almost nothing of Haile Selassie as the living god, of the complete
hopelessness of the situation in the Eastern Caribbean and the conse-
quent need for repatriation to Africa, or New World blacks and rein-
carnations of Israel in exile at the hand of the Whites.
This segment of the Rastas has molded the Rasta beliefs of brother-
hood, discipline of diet, life style and costume into a potentially very
constructive, ambitious, work-oriented collective vision. Among these
Rastas dignity is found in honest work, and work itself is considered
good and healthy. The emphasis is on self-employment, working for
oneself, one's family, and one's brothers--not wage labor or labor to
enrich others. Craft skills and agriculture are emphasized as honorable
pursuits because they involve working with one's hands and with nature.
The positive assessment of manual labor and agriculture make this kind
of Rasta counter to what is anticipated from the young. There are
Rastas who will refuse paid employment, but the average Rasta appears to
be a hard and conscientious worker when employed. Of those who reject
wage employment, claiming it contaminates them and maintains exploi-
tation, many seek the common and preferred practice of working for and
among themselves. Many Rastas are in fact skilled craftsmen: furniture
makers, wood carvers, leather workers, artists and musicians, some sub-
sistence farmers and fishermen. Commonly, those Rastas who are self-
employed or who have a wage income help support brethern who have no
skills or who cannot find work.
Few women appear to be Rasta, but without a study of the movement
in the Eastern Caribbean the following reasons offered to account for
the rarity of women will be merely educated guesses guided by interviews
in the region and personal observation.
Caribbean girls are, generally, more restricted in their extra-
household contacts than are boys. They are also contributing to the
operation of households from an early age, while the boys have a freer
rein. By their teenage years the women are often important in the
household, responsible for the cleaning, cooking, and child care, taking
over for those adults who need to leave the house to work for wages. By
mid to late teen years they may even have one or more children of their
own who need their care. Tied so closely to the operation of a house-
hold, young women find difficulty in making the changes necessary to
Ideologically Rastafarianism views women as a complement to men,
but also as inferior; their proper female role is to be unseen, quiet
supporters of their men, caring for the home and raising children.
Although in Jamaica there are women Rastas in some areas of public life
who are involved in attempts to raise the status and income of women in
that society, we heard of no women Rastas in public life in the four
states of the Eastern Caribbean.
The ideology of female inferiority, however, may not be the major
reason why women appear not to join in numbers. It may be postulated
that since the vast majority of Rastas are men who are economically
marginal and since part of the Rasta life-style involves sharing what is
available with brother Rastas, most Rasta men do not have the material
goods to sustain a woman and her children. For those young women who
want to be able to go out and dance on occasion, buy some nice clothes,
and socialize with others of their age, the Rasta life may not be suffi-
ciently attractive, materially or socially. What was frequently re-
ported to us was the quandry faced by many young women whose boyfriends
became Rasta and who began to pressure them to become Rasta too or to
break the relationship off--a hard..choice for many young women at that
age, especially if a child is involved.
One last point that should be mentioned is that an Ital diet can be
healthy only if one knows how to properly balance foods to ensure an
adequate supply of protein and other basic nutriments. Nurses in St.
Vincent reported that pregnant women and their children frequently suf-
fered from malnutrition, infants were born weighing less than normal,
etc. There appeared to be more scepticism of an Ital diet among young
women as regards children than among young men, perhaps because of their
initial socialization that placed so much emphasis on child care.
In Part II island accounts will flesh out those generalities with
some illustrations. In all areas the public in general appears to hold
three, occasionally contradictory, impressions of Rastas. First, that
Rastas steal, especially crops raised by other farmers, making a peren-
nial Caribbean problem worse. Second, that Rastas should go to work
like other people, except that many have the suspicion that you can not
blame Rasta kids as there are not many options available for young
people. Third, many people, especially "respectable" church-goers, are
very bothered by the use of marijuana by Rastas, although at the same
time many people are unconvinced that marijuana is dangerous.
Identity Management and World View
The organization of attitudes toward work is fundamentally dif-
ferent in the Caribbean from what a Western-trained observer might
expect. The fact of this fundamental difference must be thoroughly
appreciated before any understanding of unemployment problems can be
achieved and certainly before any viable development schemes to alle-
viate such problems can be formulated.. Such an understanding is not
easy to reach since it deals with entering into a world of culturally
different concepts, a qualitatively different way of cognizing socio-
Perhaps the best way to begin is to make explicit the standard
Western notions of work, business, and bureaucracy, which include the
ideas of upward mobility, career development, promotion on the basis of
merit, fair compensation for work or talent, progression through the
ranks, and a view of work as basically rational and systematic.
Employers and employees alike are expected to be committed to the system
and to view it as credible and rewarding. A battery of social institu-
tions (which indeed exist also in the Caribbean) has as its goal the
socialization of young people into the roles they will play in the
economic-social-political order. Schools, apart from the content of the
curriculum, train students to obey orders, be punctual, respond to
various auditory and visual cues, work in a disciplined fashion, cherish
excellence and the dignity of a job well done. Family, church, mass
media and other institutions pass on the same training through the
sometimes subtile, sometimes explicit processes of preparing young
people for adulthood.
Naturally people's perception of things and of their self varies
with age, gender, social class, degree of education, ethnicity, occupa-
tion, geographical location, and particular historical circumstances,
among other variables, but the generally achieved expectation in modern
Western societies is that the identity management and world view mechan-
isms through which young people pass will produce a population with
fairly uniform values and a homogeneous view of the world around them, a
population that will "work" both in and for the society.
The young populations of the small states of the Caribbean also
have values and a world view and they also have identity management
mechanisms. Large numbers of these poverty-stricken, poorly educated,
urban-oriented youths, however, embrace a constellation of concepts that
are fundamentally opposed to the Western linear, rational, systematic
notions of livelihood and career. This particular Caribbean world view
and self-concept centers on what has been termed "crab antics."16
The standard Caribbean metaphor for social life, crab antics are
illustrated by the following story: There is a big barrel with a mess
of crabs scrambling around the bottom, each trying to get out. They step
on each other and snap at each other struggling to climb up the side of
the barrel but are always pulled back down by other crabs who have the
same goal. It is every crab for himself. The moral of the story is
that to get out of the barrel a crab must be either big and strong or
very clever. Not everyone in the Caribbean can be big and strong, but
anyone can strive to be clever.
What follows here then is a general discussion of a vague but
consistently present value system that figures prominently in the way
16Peter Wilson, Crab Antics: The Social Anthropology of English-
Speaking Negro Societies of the Caribbean (New Haven: Yale Univer-
sity Press, 1973).
some young men think of themselves or, perhaps, like to think of them-
selves. Like all value systems, the symbols are diffuse and invoke
different meanings and different degrees of meanings in different
people. Where the crab antics value is very pronounced (second perhaps
only to politics in some Eastern Caribbean countries) is on the streets
and in public where streetcorner aristocrats from the poorer and disad-
vantaged classes act out their dreams and frustrations and develop a
view of the world and themselves.
Crab antics tends to be a male game and is performance oriented.
As a rule women do not play this game of identity management in the
public and flamboyant way that men do. In the Caribbean women are not
expected to have an identity in the sense of competing with males. Or,
perhaps, a young woman's identity is tied to other, more private activ-
ites and requires a different expression. Also, in traditional Carib-
bean culture a woman's identity, and sense of self, emerges first with
motherhood, and then most prominently with age when she becomes grand-
mother, perhaps household head, and the feared critic of politicians,
blowhards, and the mightly and the meek alike.
Many of the young men found regularly on the street corners of
Eastern Caribbean cities like to think of themselves as "hustlers" or
movers and carefully cultivate the image of the cavalier, devil-may-
care, bon vivant. This hustler posture is important for teenagers of
the lower classes because it influences the way in which the future is
envisioned or planned. One becomes an operator based on the widely
held belief that nothing is as it appears to be and that the success one
enjoys is the result of guile, luck, fate, loquacity, or having the
right connections. Cleverness often becomes the basis of one's self-
esteem and must frequently be reinforced by performing acts of great
skill or daring.
Life may take on the dimensions of a game. One may hold the view
that wealth cannot be achieved by working and thus seek to substitute
schemes and strategies in its place. Thus, planning may not involve a
continuous, linear series of actions that culminates in the acquisition
of a calculated goal (i.e., education, job). Rather, one develops a
personal style used to manipulate, appeal, catch the eye, ingratiate,
find sympathy, personalize and advance one's interests. Since problems
are not rational, solutions must be discontinuous.
One's access to status is to be found in the close and non-
threatening forum of the peer group. One has a place and is recognized
as an individual with certain unique qualities; qualities that would go
unnoticed or negatively appraised at the work place, not mentioned at
school, in church, by the police or in middle class circles. Thus
reputation may be based on the ability to consume vast quantities of
beer, or being a polished racanteur, or having numerous girl friends,
being a daring thief, a boxer, or the group comedian. What this means
is that one derives more reward and sense of self-esteem from the group
than from the occupational hierarchy of the world of work or schooling,
which may be occasions for failure. In these intense gatherings view of
how the world operates may be fed by unexpected sources. As schools,
government agencies, the business community, or other conventional
avenues of social policy are held in suspicion or dismissed as ex-
ploiters, one may turn for sources of wisdon and instruction to the
convoluted lyrics of contemporary music or the violent, crassly fash-
ioned trash movies so popular in the Caribbean. Kung Fu and North
American black gangster movies provide a ready environment into which
boys can project themselves.
In a broad sense, the young men--generally poor, unlettered, un-
skilled, unemployed., and at this stage with little prospect of satisfy-
ing employment--are attempting to resolve with subcultural constructs of
their own making some of the social and economic difficulties'that
confront them. However, this behavior should not be seen in isolation
from larger society. The youth face massive problems and perceive
accurately, but in their own terms, their educational disadvantages,
jobs without futures, and low pay. They also understand that their
societies expect them to have jobs of social value if they are to be
At this point, no way exists to measure the extent of this attitude
among young people in the Eastern Caribbean. Not all of the unemployed
young people from the working or lower classes share or are interested
in the short term hustler view of the world portrayed above. The degree
varies from society to society depending on the local circumstances;
individual initiative and luck; availability of work; vocational train-
ing systems, sensitivity and concern of government, church and private
bodies; the extent to which youth are mobilized or organized and pro-
vided with entertainment, encouragement, and support; and the general
perception of youth as being part of (or not) of a national development
Caribbean history is an oppressive one, and many West Indians are
victimized by institutions and sets of relationships that crystalized
long ago. The acquisition of status and livelihood, and the relation-
ship of that process to a workable identity system, has always been
problematic in colonial societies. The relationship between class,
color and cultural orientation has led to certain tensions in the
Caribbean, and the young men's choices of how best to deal with the
conflict are crucial aspects of the behavior found in many parts of the
Eastern Caribbean today.
The burgeoning increase of crime in the Caribbean, both in variety
and in incidence, has attracted the attention and concern of government
officials, politicians, law enforcement officers, planners and policy
makers, journalists, business people, and the common citizen. Conven-
tional sociological wisdom maintains that increasing impoverishment and
ecnonmic strain, as well as rapid social change, leads to an increase in
criminal offenses, especially by young males between 14 and 21 years of
age. Since this same segment of the population has the greatest diffi-
culties finding jobs, crime may be regarded at least partially as a
response to unemployment.
Although circumstances vary from island to island, one can make
several generalizations on the nature of crime in the Eastern Caribbean.
The following generalizations must be qualified by pointing out that the
collection and analysis of police, court, and prison statistics (or
objective measurements of any sort) are characterized by crude, ineffi-
cient, and unsystematic methods of data collection and analysis through-
out the Eastern Caribbean, with the possible exception of Barbados.
Certain generalizations characterize these countries. They are
small-scale and face-to-face societies. Police and the courts work at a
more informal or "personalized" level sin
by his or, less frequently, her habits, pastimes, hangouts, family, and
reputation. Social control or "punishment" can be more spontaneous,
situational, and discretionary. However, implicit in this approach is a
lack of uniformity in either application or degree. Since they are
small-scale, the countries of the Eastern Caribbean lack a "hard-core"
professional criminal class of offenders who can systematically dis-
appear into a structured criminal "underground." Several of the smaller
territories have a tacit "three strikes and you are out" rule. Suppose
a young person was caught stealing.a fruit from market, or, worse, try-
ing to make off with someone's bicycle and is apprehended by a law
officer. Several considerations emerge. First, the magnitude of the
offense. Is it worth all the paper work? Is there space in lockup?
Are the court dockets already full? The role of the police officer
while on the streets in small scale, highly personalized societies is of
law officer, social worker, lawyer, judge and jury with a tremendous
amount of flexibility and discretion built in. Also in smaller socie-
ties it is as likely as not that the arresting officer knows the family
of the offender or knows somebody who does. Thus there can be inter-
vention, threat, or punishment on a non-institutional, personal level.
Perhaps., for the first offense the person might be threatened with "I
know your mother and will tell her what you have done." Or, perhaps
some intimidation and roughing up might be involved.
The more serious offense, or second offense, usually involves more
serious consequences for the offender. Although it could result in
prosecution, there is the likelihood that the person would be brought to
the station house and "have the matter explained" to him for the better
part of the day and evening.
However, police are also members of the community and anonymity is
virtually impossible in small societies. Thus they must deal with the
same pressures, requests, relationships, and special interest groups as
others. A police officer's response to a person is conditioned by who
that person is,, who that person is related to or connected with, or what
resources that person has at his or her disposal to contest the charge
or, worse, make life miserable for the police officer by, perhaps, con-
tacting superior officers, interfering with promotion procedures, in-
fluencing duty rosters and posting assignments, and so forth. It is
therefore little wonder that in smaller societies police deal very
gingerly with the wealthy, well-placed and well-connected (who are
usually themselves or their close allies in government anyway). The
powerless and the poor, on the other hand, are dealt with more directly
Despite these flexibilities the same group gets into trouble re-
peatedly. The general characterization of criminals is of persons who
are involved in'theft, prostitution, pimping, and "hustling" during
their tumultuous teenage years but who then settle into fairly routine
and non-criminal lives. However, since the bulk of West Indian popula-
tion is under the age of twenty, and the teenage population will con-
tinue to grow, the crime problem may be expected to increase in the
foreseeable future. The profile of criminals in the Eastern Caribbean as
young, male, unemployed, uneducated, and frustrated is reinforced by
efforts of the police, the public, and the press to label certain groups
of the population as "the problem." The poorer young people who have
the streets as a forum, and who lounge along main thoroughfares and
outside rum shops, are easily visible. Those who either present them-
selves as streetwise hipsters or are Rastafari are often singled out as
criminal material because their costumes and lifestyles attract atten-
Crime in the Eastern Caribbean has increased in variety as well as
in frequency. Along with the growth of offenses against property,
crimes involving the cultivation and sale of marijuana are uniquely
characteristic of these four states. As a full- or part-time occupa-
tion, the sale (and usage) of marijuana is attractive to many young West
Indians. The financial returns, as well as the reputation one might
earn from being a "cool" dealer often outweigh the social and financial
returns young people might expect from legitimate work. Crimes against
property often consist of stealing easily resalable items such as cloth-
ing, radios, cameras, tape cassettes, and other small items obtainable
with fairly low risks from busy downtown shops and residences. Break-
ins take place in poorer neighborhoods as well as more prosperous,
adding to the economic strain of those least able to cover the losses.
Theft from the prosperous gets more attention, however, because of the
size and worth of the stolen items and because the victims are more
vocal. Finally, robbery of the person, either hold-ups or picking
pockets and snatching purses, is widely felt to be on the increase. In
Barbados with its highly developed tourist trade (and facilities avail-
able for the easy and independent travel of foreigners), personal crime
has caused increasing alarm.
In addition to the increase of crime, the types of crimes, and the
characteristic of the criminals, the treatment of these criminals after
they have been convicted is an ingredient of prime importance in gaining
a complete picture of crime in the Eastern Caribbean. Conditions for
the detention of offenders vary greatly from island to island. In some
cases, locking up young people is recognized as strictly social revenge,
punishment and the removal of undesirable elements from the public
domain. Rehabilitation and follow-up services are either not considered
or considered beyond the means of available resources. Barbados demon-
strates leadership in this area by at least attempting, through its
"Industrial School," to provide emotional care, informal social therapy
and skill training for its detainees.
Clubs, Voluntary Organizations, and Informal Groups
Participation in clubs and informal social groups is a widespread
feature of Caribbean life. In the Eastern Caribbean individuals partic-
ipate in such community level groups as entertainment clubs, "swap" or
exchange labor groups, prayer societies, social leagues, rotating credit
organizations, burial societies, sports teams, charitable organizations,
local arms of national and international lodges, church affiliated
sodalities, village council forums, and local level networks. These
groups may not be formalized or registered as standing bodies but they
nevertheless provide a basis for interaction for their members. What
this means is that for rural and urban people alike, there are forums
which bring people together outside of the household and the workplace.
The earmark that concerns us here is that these groups are not imposed
or orchestrated from the outside but are organized in terms of what
people themselves see as meaningful issues, perceived in their own
terms, organized along avenues of communication and chains of command
they are committed to, and grounded in the fabric of their community or
neighborhood. The assumption here is that many (but not all) of these
groupings provide a basis upon which training programs, income generat-
ing projects, social action and development efforts can be built or
assisted. Astute West Indian politicians have known this for some time
and have cultivated community level groups for constituency support and
foot soldiers in their electoral efforts. Special issue groups such as
a Save the Children Association or the Rotary club have built many of
their social aid programs around "in place" organizations of young
people, adult women, work groups of men or all three.
Local clubs, whether they are located in urban neighborhoods or
rural villages, vary in their membership composition, professed goals
and functions, and degree of social cohesion and longevity. Many are
purely instrumental; for example, a group of young men who gather to
play soccer or a group of young people who organize and hold weekend
dances. Others might be for groups of adult women who have longstanding
responsibilities to one another such as exchanging domestic services, and
informal credit and loan arrangements. Nevertheless, such groupings
provide the basis for a larger, more widespread social effort than would
be possible with just the household or kinship group as one's social and
economic support network.
Among poorer people such clubs tend to be characterized by 1. young
people of both sexes, most of the time cooperating together, and 2. adult
women, usually over the age of 35 or 40 years old. Adult men seem
more inclined to organize their activities around relationships formed
at the work place or in small, loose peer group gatherings such as a rum
shop crew or several friends who gather regularly to play dominoes. Al-
though adult male groups require the collective presence of several
individuals,. the members are not as interdependent in providing crucial
services to one another. Put bluntly, another male domino player can be
recruited with less scrutiny and evaluation than a club member on which
the outcome of some planned event or service might rest. Finally, money
is in short supply in the Eastern Caribbean and people must rely on
others with whom they have. reciprocal relationships, for entertainment
and necessary services and assistance in hard times. Such commodities
and services cannot regularly be purchased. This is especially so in
small, rural villages where kinship ties may underlay much of the
village social organization, people are in face-to-face daily contact
and have grown to rely on others for support and assistance in the
absense of outside national services and organizations. Clubs also
provide a means of achieving status and recognition in the eyes of one's
cohorts. What often appear to be uniformly homogeneous villages in the
Caribbean (i.e.., "everybody is poor") are often, in fact, highly differ-
entiated and complexly organized along the lines of these clubs and
Clubs and informal groupings operate differently in each of the
societies and enjoy different levels of national governmental support
and recognition. Barbados is once again the extreme case, especially
for youth groups. Briefly, Barbados is a highly individualized society
where youths can and do have interests and obligations to many other
persons, activities and institutions outside their immediate environs.
Life is highly differentiated and youth gather usually for one function
or activity; for, example the "Green Hills" sports club will gather for
soccer on Saturday afternoons and nothing more. It would thus be unwise
to attempt to build or graft other functions onto such a loosely orga-
nized collectivity. Other personal interests pull members away to other
tasks and more important (in Barbados) interests.
Youth groups in the rural LDCs are, however, more complex. A
village group could at once be involved in planning a dance, playing
sports, organizing a special interest workshop (such as inviting a
government field officer to give a lecture on health and nutrition)
working on an income generating project (such as small scale livestock
rearing), participating in a development project that might include road
building, or requesting that a mobile library visit their village.
Thus, program planners would be astute to consider the differences
between the Barbados-like groups on the one hand and the LDC-like on the
other. The former would be useful as a node in a communication network
through which information would be distributed, with no demanding liens
placed on anyone's time or responsibilities. The latter type would be
better suited as a foundation on which to build collaborative develop-
ment efforts and programs such as a training workshop, agriclutural
project, or, as in the case of Dominica especially, a self-help develop-
ment project such as building a feeder road or water catchment.
Adult clubs tend to draw the participation of women, most usually
those over 35 years old who have the interest, respectability earned
through age, freedom from dependent children, independence from male
demands, and economic security earned through the possession of house,
yard, plot of ground or material acquisitions. Older women often act as
village decision makers, something the appointed government official,
usually male, installed from the outside readily finds out. Charitable
organizations caring for the destitute, clubs organized around the
church, and income generating projects such as craftwork and sewing have
often arisen sui generis out of networks of adults who have agreed on
priorities and the means to accomplish them.
None of this means that these groups function smoothly in their
isolation. They attempt to maximize social energy and produce what they
can under circumstances of extreme marginality lacking financing, organi-
zational support, backstopping by specialists, access to markets and
outlets, and the expertise of experts. Thus, we are not arguing that
they be left alone but that planners recognize the strengths of decen-
tralized groups. It is very facile for planners to think of development
schemes as great national flow charts emanating from the capital city
and run by distant (physically and socially) bureaucrats who have little
in common with poorer folk. The failure of this approach is amply
demonstrated in the number of abandoned community centers and disinte-
grating projects that litter the Third World. It need not be so. As
Robert Maguire has pointed out in his work in the Caribbean:
Such scenes are common in developing countries. Abandoned
schools, disintegrating roads, half finished or decaying
monuments to good intentions, to frustration, exhaustion of
funds, lack of planning. But in most cases there is an
underlying reason for these scenes--the failure to involve
local people in the effort. The school in Haiti stands
empty because the people of the area did not feel a part
of the physical mutation that simply appeared in their midst.
Perhaps they would not have identified this building as a
priority. They were probably never consulted.l7
Skills Training and Income Generating Programs
Skills training and income generating projects designed to retool
those who are under- and unemployed are gaining widespread governmental
and private voluntary organization support in the Eastern Caribbean.
By working with the limitations and possibilities of the system as it is
now, program goals aim to help a number of individuals become either
self-employed or to gain access to jobs that previously had been closed
to them because of lack of skills. The focus is on retooling those who
are under- or unemployed rather than making structural changes in the
Youth skills training programs are intended to respond to defici-
encies in the educational system and needs of the 14 to 19 year olds who
have dropped out of school and others who are unemployed by providing
them with informal vocational training. "Informal" means that the
training is outside of the educational system and curriculum and does
not require a- graduate certificate-or transcript of academic performance
for program admission. Tra.ining- programs, atre designed: to be less theo-
retical and advanced than the lengthier and more expensive courses
offered by the technical colleges: of the region.
1Robert Maguire, Bottom-up Development in Haiti. IAF Paper No. 1
(Rosslyn, Virginia: Inter-American Foundation, 1979), p. 5..
The underlining assumption is that jobs are available or will open
up for those who have the practical skills required of the auto mech-
anic, electrician, carpenter, plumber, mason, or upholsterer. It is
also assumed that, given the level of skills taught, one could choose
Because these programs are relatively new, few young people have
thus far taken advantage of the opportunities. Not all applicants can
be accommodated because of program size and the number of openings;
young people are regularly turned away. Also, the double screening,
first by the applicants themselves who Will decide, on hearing of the
program, to apply or not, and secondly by instructors who interview and
access the maturity and motivation of the applicants, select out the
most ambitious of the young school leavers who are unemployed and wish
to learn a manual skill. In principle the program is open to both males
and females in all areas of training; in practice very few women enroll
in courses that teach job skills associated with male roles.
Income generating projects, on the other hand, involve mostly women
over the age of 25 or so. They are projects designed to help women
increase the amount of money entering their households by upgrading and
"rationalizing" skills that the women already possess. Thus, there is a
concentration on endeavors associated with householding, sewing and food
preparation. The fundamental approach is generally to build on old
skills, to make more productive use of women's "free time," and to show
how they can market their skills and produce for income. Theoretically,
the results for women involved can be lucrative, though it must be noted
that women are still trained in areas that are stereotyped as "women's,"
and that the training is not geared to allow them to tap the better-
paying, stable jobs. The risk remains that raising expectations and
hopes, and increasing the work women do more substantially than their
incomes, will force them to compete with each other on the marginal
edges of the economy. Also, unlike youth skills training programs which
tend to be government supported and coordinated, the women's income
generating projects tend to receive substantially less government atten-
tion and support, leaving the organization and funding to come from
decentralized and financially pressed private voluntary organizations.
The teaching of skills, and the upgrading of old skills, is a
priority on everyone's agenda, although less so in St. Vincent and more
so in Barbados than elsewhere. St. Vincent has no capital to speak of,
and less chance of absorbing and productively using the new skills
learned than does Barbados, which not only has the money to spend but is
also willing to spend it on programs that are initially experimental and
do not guarantee immediate success.
Everywhere there is more concern with youth than women, and youth
programs themselves tend to be strongly oriented towards males. In
addition, young women are not absorbed into the income generating pro-
jects aimed at women and therefore remain the group for which the least
amount of money, energy, concern, and special attention is directed.
The overrepresentation of women in their mid-thirties and older in
clubs, organizations and income generating projects suggests that
younger women may not have the material and time resources that would
allow them to participate. Older women generally have more resources
to work with, are free from small, dependent children, are usually more
independent of their men than are younger women, and they probably own
a house, plot of land, or some other source of permanance, status, and
economic stability. Younger women have far less of these things. That
the youth skills training programs and income generating programs tend
to select out specific types of people is not in itself bad; it is only
important to note that there are still segments of the young and female
population who are not being reached.
0 1 2 3
Principal Roads ***
PART II: COUNTRY BY COUNTRY SUMMARY OF FINDINGS
Detailed statistical information is not available on the structure
and level of employment and unemployment in St. Vincent. From such
information as is available it has been estimated that of the total
available work force of about 40,000 people (i.e., the total population
less those aged 15 years and under, 65 years and over, and females un-
available for work because of "domestic circumstances") approximately
25 percent is unemployed.1 Thus, the unemployment level is unacceptably
high, especially among young people, as illustrated in Table II:1.
General information gleaned from the Commonwealth Caribbean Census
of 1970 proceeds the energy crisis and general world recession of the
1970s. Although several tables from the 1970 census will be included
here for purposes of illustrating what types of data are collected, it
should be born in mind that the data itself is obsolete, inaccurate and
seriously underestimates the unemployment as it now is.
Percentage of Unemployment by Age Groups and Sex
14 Yrs. of Age & Over
Male & 14-19 Yrs. 20-24 Yrs. 25-59 Yrs. 60 & Over
Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female
10.7 9.6 12.8 34.2 43.5 12.2 12.5 1.3 2.9 1.2 1.3
The Development Corporation, Investment Opportunities in St. Vincent
and the Grenadines (The Development Corporation: St. Vincent, 1979),
The situation in St. Vincent is the worst in the Eastern Caribbean.
However, there is no way of exactly determining the extent and type of
the problem until data are gleaned from the 1980 Commonwealth Caribbean
Census, and more specific, carefully devised studies are undertaken on
unemployment in that country.
The rural poor constitute 90 percent of the population of St.
Vincent. The simple supply of necessities (food, clothing, and cash)
presents a central problem for this group. The difficulty in making a
living is aggravated by unemployment, underemployment, low returns from
own-account and wage labor activities, and the high prices of imported
goods. Rural and urban Vincentians operate almost entirely within a
cash economy and even those farmers who consume all that they produce
must still purchase seeds, striplings, tools, and agricultural neces-
sities. Thus, they must sell some of what they produce (and occasion-
ally eat less) or engage in part-time wage labor. The general mix of
occupational multiplicity for male and female rural poor Vincentians
thus includes own-account production and efforts at securing periodic or
permanent wage labor. Efforts to obtain wages often force people,
especially males, to leave villages and seek work in different parts of
the island, in the Grenadines, or elsewhere. Absence from home can last
hours, days, weeks, months, seasons, or longer. The basic principle of
occupational multiplicity for Vincentians is that no one job is ade-
quately lucrative or reliable for full time specialization.
The restrictions imposed by the economic underdevelopment of St.
Vincent, specifically, the rural poor's lack of job skills and the
opportunities for gainful employment, have led to a situation where
occupational multiplicity is a strategy that reduces economic risk. The
complexity of this strategy is expressed in the absolute number of
different occupations engaged in by people, the great variety of work
experience they participate in through their lives, the combination of
domestic services, own-account production and wage labor, and the
unwillingness to participate in one job to the exclusion of others.
In St. Vincent teenagers, especially those in school, acquire un-
realistic job expectations from the school system, mass media, and the
dominant values of the upper and middle classes. These values emphasize
a "respectability" derived from the colonial experience and based on the
European conception of social organization in the former colonies.
Prestige is obtained through education, wealth, being a patron of the
arts, and a member of the professional classes. The realities of the
circumstances in which lower class Vincentians live make the achievement
of such goals almost impossible.
When asked, "What kind of work would you like to do after school?"
most young people (13 to 16 or 17 year olds) generally named such high
status occupations as teaching, nursing, office and secretarial work.
Following in frequency, especially among boys, was carpentry, auto
mechanics and skilled trade crafts. Least preferred work included
street cleaning, road work, farming, fishing, washing clothes, and
Parents generally support the aspirations of their children and
denigrate occupations that they themselves may hold. Highly ambivalent
parental attitudes toward the immediate environment result in young
people looking with shame on their surroundings, expressed in the ready
willingness of young people to migrate. Often heard motivations for
migration include "You can't earn any money here," "St. Vincent is a
poor island with no opportunities," "There are plenty of good jobs in
Canada," "I can make a better living in the United States," and "You
can't get ahead in St. Vincent." However, by the time young people
reach their late teens it is the very jobs that they denigrate that they
are most likely to pursue. One's ambitions and aspirations fall off
markedly by the late teenage years,
In his ambitious study
queried school age children
dislikes and arrived at the
people in their early teens.
of a rural community, Hymie Rubenstein
about their occupational preferences and
tabulation in Tables II:2 and 11:3 for young
Occupational Aspirations (in rank order)
Source: Hymie Rubenstein, "Black Adaptive Strategies: Coping-with
Poverty in an Eastern Caribbean Village" (Unpublished PH.D.
Dissertation, University of Toronto, 1976), pp. 212-213.
Occupations Least Liked
Street Cleaner Street Cleaner
Road Laborer Road Laborer
Watchman Fish Vendor
Source: Rubenstein, "Black Adaptive Strategies."
The occupational aspirations of young people in St. Vincent are
generally unattainable. Schooling is expensive and, given the division
of household responsibilities, inordinately time consuming. Most dwell-
ings do not have the facilities--proper lighting or any lighting at all,
room space, desk, money for pencils and notebooks, quiet time, or the
necessary atmosphere--to provide an environment in which their children
effectively can pursue their education. School resources and the avail-
ability of trained teachers are inadequate, especially in the rural
areas. The occupations to which children aspire--nurse, teacher, pro-
fessional, skilled craftsman--require additional training and education.
In St. Vincent such facilities are very expensive, time consuming,
located uniformly in the city of Kingstown, and based on earlier educa-
tional achievement. As a result the enrollment is low and the facili-
ties severely underutilized. Skill training programs are absent except
for the advanced courses taught at the technical college--which in turn
presents all the problems associated with formal, institutional educa-
Also, the occupations to which young people aspire are either not
located in the rural communities or available in such limited numbers
that they absorb only a few persons who then hold the jobs for the rest
of their lives. The lack of skills and. job opportunities for 90 percent
of St. Vincent's population is the most serious problem that that small,
underdeveloped society faces.
Constraints to Small-Scale Agricultural Development: With Implications
for the LDCs.
It is an issue of widespread concern that agricultural production
is on the decline in the Eastern Caribbean and that young people possess
a manifest adversion to entering this occupation. Planners and govern-
ment officials, as well as the national middle and upper classes,
usually resort to the explanation that both young and old shun agricul-
ture because they are lazy, shiftless, unable to plan their future, and
consequently are poor because of their own shortcomings. It is our
contention here that these pronouncements are incorrect and serve only
to advance negative stereotypes of West Indian peoples.
It will be suggested here that there are a number of concrete
factors involved in the Vincentians rational decision not to pursue
agriculture as a full-time occupation. This section will draw heavily
on the work of Rubenstein who undertook lengthy and systematic anthro-
pological work on that island.2
Virtually all rural Vincentians (and many urban as well) are
members of the island's lower class. They dominate such unremunerative
and low status occupations as the bottom of the civil service, petit
retailing, peasant and subsistence farming, fishing, domestic service,
manual labor, and semi-skilled trades. Remittances from overseas pro-
vide a large share of many household budgets. Large numbers of poten-
tially productive persons are regularly unemployed or underemployed.
A wide variety of fruits and vegetables are grown in St. Vincent.
Ground provisions such as yams, tannias, eddos, and sweet potatoes make
up the bulk of subsistence crops while banana and arrowroot, both of
which are grown for export, serve as cash crops. It is more accurate to
call farming in St. Vincent "horticulture" as much of it is done without
benefit of mechanization and relies on the hoe, shovel, and machete.
The farming itself is based on a division of labor by sex. Men clear
the land of heavy growth while women weed the growing plants. Both
sexes plant and harvest. Land tenure includes three basic types of
ownership and utilization. Bought land is property purchased and
legally owned by one individual. Inherited land is property transmitted
to an heir from a former owner. By far, the most common form of prop-
erty holding is family land whereby property is held jointly by two or
more (usually more) persons. Thus, family land results in a multiplicity
of claims on land and its products. Bought land and inherited land
often become family land when there is no deed drawn up and kin claim
rights to a forebearer's property.
Rubenstein enumerates four interrelated sets of factors that account
for the decline of agriculture and lack of interest in its rejuvenation.
These include: 1. demography, 2. ecology, 3. economics, and 4. the belief
and value system.
2Hymie Rubenstein, "The Utilization of Arable Land in an Eastern.
Caribbean Valley," Canadian Journal of Sociology, 1 (1975), 157-167.
Demographic Factors. Emigration from St. Vincent during the 1950s,
1960s and into the 1970s has been significant. In the decade of the
1960s 20,000 people left, resulting in a labor shortage, especially on
holdings of over ten 10 acres that require a periodic labor force to
clean, plant, and cultivate the gardens. Vincentian emigration has
attracted a larger number of men than women and has consequently upset
the sexual division of labor. Rubenstein states, "A complaint often
voiced by potential female cultivators is that they cannot plant since
they are unable to secure enough male assistance to dig banks for
Migrants left their land in the care of relatives or friends. Not
having a permanent claim to the land the caretakers were unwilling to
invest labor or money in the plots and thus production declined far
below what it was under the previous planter.
Since land is not inherited until late in life (until the death of
one's parents), much property is in the hands of older people. Also,
because men tend to marry women younger than themselves, they are regu-
larly survived by their spouses. Much land is held by widows. There is
a decline in the amount of labor an older person can put into the land
as well as an unwillingness of young people to work on a plot that is
not theirs with perhaps only the vague promise that they will inherit in
the future. Also, there is the chance that the land will become family
land, and the one young person who invested time and labor in it might
be forced to share the plot with others when the owner dies. Adam Kuper
discovered this in rural Jamaica and regularly found the unwillingness
of young people to work on "someone else's" land, even if the other
person was kin.4
Ecological Factors. St. Vincent has a difficult if beautiful
natural landscape dominated by a central mountain range and heavily
forested interior. Choice lands are on the coast, and until recently
large estate or property owners would only permit settlement on marginal
lands sufficiently small and unproductive to insure that there was
always a ready pool of rural proletarian wage labor available if needed.
Small plots are found on steep mountain sides or in the more inacces-
sible parts of the island. In addition, inheritence patterns have
fragmented land ownership or usage rights so that one may have several
postage stamp sized plots separated far and wide one from the other.
Thus, the distance and travel time required to walk (with tools) to the
plots make work exhausting and inefficient. The road and public trans-
port system of the island makes transport of goods to market difficult.
Many persons claim that they would grow banana but for the fact that the
fruit is bruised (thus. unsalable) on the way to packing plants or that
they cannot find: help to. carry the- bananas on their heads to transship-
ment points. I.n Dominica some young men pointed out that marijuana was
3Rubenstein, "The Utilization of Arable Land," p. 159.
4Adam Kuper, Changing-Jamaica (London: Routledge & K. Paul, 1978).
better business than bananas; it's easier to carry marijuana on your
head than bananas and you can sell it for more money.
Many holdings are on steep inclines where rapid drainage results in
soil erosion. Marginal lands require more time for soil rejuvenation
and thus are out of production for long periods. Artificial fertilizers
are expensive and difficult to obtain in appropriate quantities.
Most of the island plots are small, about five to ten acres. Thus
most forms of mechanization as well as advanced fertilizing and rotation
techniques are impractical. Also, given the size of the plots and the
level of impoverishment, it is essential that families first plant their
subsistence crops. Given the amount of cash return from planting cash
crops on small plots, it is not worth the investment.
Horticulture is demanding and time consuming work. Many marginally
and, sometimes, undernourished farmers simply do not have the energy to
undertake this back-breaking work. Also, since many people are involved
in multiple occupations to secure their livelihood, they do not have
enough time to invest in their plots and produce more. It is likely
that more income and job security is gained by maintaining several
small, simultaneous jobs with farming as a backstop or failsafe than to
consider full time planting.
Economic Factors. Working as an agricultural laborer on someone
else's land (rather than own-account farming) is uniformly dismissed as
undesirable except under the most desperate conditions. Wages are
abysmal (US$0.38 for men and US$0.33 for women per day) and not adequate
to support a household. With workers unwilling to labor for such low
wages and owners unwilling to pay more it happens that larger land
holdings are often planted in a crop such as coconut which requires very
little attention (and hence labor and less work availability).
Market conditions are generally unreliable. Obviously, St. Vin-
cent has little influence on the international consumption, supply and
demand, and prices paid for her products. Markets can also dry up and
disappear with the consequence that there are regular periods of boom
and bust unless guarantees are built into the contract. This occurs at
the local level as well with periodic market gluts of one product and
acute shortages of others. For example, after both hurricanes David and
Allen fresh fruits were blown from trees and were available at market
for pennies before they rotted. Thereafter, until the next growing
season, fresh fruit could only be afforded by the wealthy. Also, rural
Vincentians are short of cash, and when it was discovered that a shrewd
cultivator made a killing in.carrots, virtually everyone planted the
same vegetable in hopes of cashing in. Since no island-wide agency
existed to monitor the market, tons of carrots were left unsold. Also,
no mechanism was available for exporting the carrots.
Vincentians are poor and have no reserve capital to absorb losses
due to climatic problems, accidents, or other risks. No farm insurance
or reliable government agency exists to assist small farmers who have
met hard times. Thus, farmers are unwilling to make investments or,
after having lost once, to try again.
Many small farmers simply do not have the money to start planning.
For reasons that can best be explained by Vincentian commercial banks or
development agencies, money is not available for seeds, implements,
tools, fertilizer or property purchase.
Depending on the crop, farmers must face a waiting period between
when they .plant their crop and when it is ready for sale. They must
therefore rely on credit or mortgage until the crop is sold. Most
peasants are unwilling to commit their house or land to such an agree-
ment, also, they do not want to go into debt.
Thievery of high-return fruits and vegetables is widespread. Since
plots are spread far and wide, thieves can easily harvest someone else's
Belief and Value System. Manual field labor for someone else is
considered "nigger work." However, to own one's own land has been a
centuries old aspiration in the Caribbean and carries with it a com-
pletely different attitude toward the possibilities of farming. Never-
theless, little.incentive, encouragement, or training is provided for
young farmers. Programs exist but are rarely fully implemented.
Technical college training is oriented to business managers and agro-
business production and hence does not meet the needs of small-scale
farming. The educational system, though it does not directly denigrate
farming as an occupation, glorifies and orients students to other
(wished for) pursuits. In a neighboring island with the same circum-
stances as St. Vincent, boys in the reform school were punished by being
made to do farm work on prison grounds.
Returning again to inheritence patterns and the presence of family
land, potential farmers are reluctant to work land on which they have no
clear title or claim. A West Indian horror story, widely told, is that
after a farmer invests and labors in the production of a crop an un-
scrupulous co-holder who did nothing lays claim to a share of the
profits because it was his land too.
The use of "swap" or exchange labor has declined. This form of
labor usually involved groups of men, and often women, who would work on
each others plots when extra help was needed. The work itself was
accompanied by work songs, riddles, raucous gossip, and story telling,
all of which made the monotonous work more pleasurable. A fete would
often follow the completion of work. Labor exchange is reciprocal, so
people were obliged to help others who helped them. Thus, the decision
to plant was not an individual one per se but rested on the assumption
that there would be other persons around to help in the task. Ruben-
stein concludes that the decline in exchange labor is due to "the migra-
tion of many farmers, animosity as a result of political differences
among those who previously exchanged Tabor, and reductions in
cultivation among older farmers."5 He goes on to claim that the most
active farmers are those that are still able to employ this traditional
form of cultivation.
Finally, there is the deeply symbolic meaning that land has to
people descended from landless plantation slaves. Again, Rubenstein
sums this up with great poignancy
...land has utility beyond its cultivability; it can be
used as a house spot; animals can be grazed on it; it can
be purchased for speculation. In addition, land is desired
in its own right beyond its productive or commercial
potential and it is the ambition of almost every landless
villager to own a piece of land. To own land symbolizes
individual well being and confers prestige and respecta-
bility on the owner. Equally important, land is something
permanent and immovable, thereby conferring stability in
a social system in which unpredictability and impermanence
are constant elements. Finally, land represents a legacy
that may be passed on to one's heirs, thus assuming that
one will be remembered by one's descendants.6
All these factors are known to rural Vincentians and influence
their actions and choices of occupations. If there is talk of slavery,
it refers to the circumstances surrounding agriculture and not agri-
According to official sources, females constitute about 53 percent
of the population of St. Vincent. Continuing emigration of large num-
bers of males will probably result in an increase in the proportion of
females that will show up in the 1980 census. The unemployment rate for
women stands at about 18 percent. This 18 percent figures does not
consider such variables as undercounting, hidden unemployment, poor
government records, and so forth, and it is probably an underestimate.
In any case, gender is not always considered an important variable
in the various measures taken of Vincentian life, and gender is some-
times ignored altogether in official studies. Such practices make it
difficult to accurately assess the place of women in the national
economic picture, but there are certain figures that do give an approxi-
mation of the status of women in St. Vincent. For example, the esti-
mated percentage of households headed by women is 46, which does not
include those households missing a male breadwinner who may be working
5Rubenstein, "The Utilization of Arable Land," p. 165.
Rubenstein, "The Utilization of Arable Land," p. 165.
overseas but is married to a woman who is in effect responsible for the
household. These female-headed households do seem to fall at the bottom
of the socioeconomic scale; 85 percent of them reported incomes of less
than US$190 in 1970, and it is doubtful that their situation has im-
proved in the decade since.
Of the four countries visited St. Vincent is unique in that the
secondary status of women is imbedded in law. The most immediately
obvious aspect of this legal discrimination is the dual pay scales.
Table 11:4 presents the current state of wage differentials established
Legal Wage Differentials in St. Vincent for Men and Women
in U.S. Dollars
Agricultural Workers .Men Women
Minimun Wage $3.07 per day $2.30 per day
Skilled $4.01 per 8-hour day $3.70 per 8-hour day
Unskilled $3.07 per 8-hour day $2.30 per 8-hour day
The wages for domestic servants, who are usually women, are very low.
Under law the minimum wage with meals is US$23 per month and without
meals US$38.50 per month. For inexperienced workers or "persons without
adequate references" the wage per month with meals is US$18 and without
meals US$31. According to the law, a week for a domestic servant begins
"on Monday morning, ending on Sunday evening." The law does provide an
upper level of ten hours a day with a two-hour break allowed in a work
day and one and a half days off per week as well as two Sundays off per
Since most women with children are not legally married, the laws of
property, tax, divorce, and inheritance are important. In summary,
these women who are not legally married suffer negatively if a union is
dissolved by death or separation. This also applies to her children.
If a Vincentian woman marries a foreigner, he has no right to claim
citizenship; a Vincentian man, however, can have his foreign wife claim
citizenship. There were some indications that this causes problems
where there are work permits required for which foreigners are excluded.
In any case, even if the laws were changed, it cannot be assumed women
would be aware of the changes, how to use them in their favor, and be
able to afford legal council.
Females are represented in Vincentian schools in higher percentages
then their representation in the population at large would indicate. As
of August 1979, from levels Infants I through Senior II in 61 primary
schools, females were 49 percent of a total of 24,222 enrolled students.
Of five Junior Secondary schools, females were 58 percent of the total of
1,198. Of the total enrollment in 13 secondary schools of 4,054 stu-
dents, females were 61 percent.
Although it appears that females are attending school in greater
frequency than males, it was often noted by Vincentians that girls'
absenteeism is higher, since they are often kept home to care for young-
er siblings or help with housework when a parent has to go to work or
leave the house on business. The result is that literacy is not nearly
as high as official estimates indicate. It also means that the educa-
tion those young women receive will be deficient. There is no com-
pulsory education law to limit this absenteeism,. Repeated absences
from school also leave the impression on the young that education is not
as important for the girls.
Moreover, there is no reason to believe that in St. Vincent the
proportion of women to men in various occupations has radically changed
for the better since 1970. At that time 25 percent of the women em-
ployed were in services (domestics, etc.). From 1960 to 1970 the number
of women employed declined, raising their unemployment rate from 6.3 per-
cent to 13 percent. Since the 1970s have not seen a great improvement
in the economic situation in St. Vincent, everyone who has considered
the question thinks that percentage has risen again.
It was reported, with surprising frequency, that sex (as opposed to
gender) is also used as an economic variable. According to one female
informant, young women from poor households are "aided and abetted to go
live with a man, and this comes as early as 12 years of age. Just what
do you think their prospects are?" Observers claim that not only are
teenage pregnancies increasing in incidence, but so are the number of
illegal abortions. Another aspect of sex as an economic tool was the
reported pressure on women applying for jobs; a favorable consideration
of their.application sometimes requires sexual services. Lastly, it was
reported privately that the incidence of rapes is increasing though the
reporting of rapes is not. The reason given is that the families of the
victim feel ashamed and frequently prefer to take a cash settlement from
the perpetrator instead and call the incident closed.
Other constraints beside: legal ones prevent women from organizing
for their own benefit. Women are themselves divided by a number of
social and cultural conditions. There are religious differences; many
of the clubs and sodalities to which women belong are denominational
alligned. Occupational status remains important; the status of agricul-
ture is low, and therefore so is the status of a woman who practices it.
In St. Vincent it is estimated that about 30 percent of the agricultural
labor force is female. Color and class distinctions also divide women.
The idea of gender as a basis of unity is not widespread. Those who
do venture to make "feminism" a public issue are subject to verbal (and
occasionally other) abuse, incurring shame. For women, shame is a heavy
public price to pay since it attacks one of the precious assets she
works to establish and maintain: respectability. Political divisions
divide women as well since they are the majority of voters and often very
active in contending political parties. The thought of rising "women's
issues" in political forums is sufficient to give most women pause, even
if they do believe it is necessary; many people, male as well as female,
indicated that it is only realistic to expect victimization as a possi-
ble price for bucking the established, male, party decision-making
apparatus. The government ideology is one of a "rising tide will carry
all boats," and women are not to be "favored." So long as the govern-
ment does not set even a minimal example of support for the contributions
of more than half of the population, it will be slow in coming. Most
likely it will remain a situation for some time in which those least
enabled to organize in their own behalf will be called to nonetheless.
Lack of government support is important because so many women lack
the self-confidence to move into new and more public roles, including
better paying jobs. It is not only in St. Vincent that programs and
projects flounder because of the lack of self-confidence the partici-
pants have in their own abilities to control more of their lives. Even
sending an official representative to the United Nations world confer-
ence on the Decade for Women in Copenhagan in 1980 (at UN expense) would
have been a psychological lift and evidence that there is some awareness
on part of government of the special disabilities many women face, and of
their contributions as well.
Migration and Remittances
Migration is one of the most dramatic means people can undertake to
improve what they perceive to be their life chances and socioeconomic
standing. Such physical removal can take place in different time frames
and for different motives. The migration patterns in which Vincentians
participate include seasonal migration, temporary, non-seasonal migra-
tion, and permanent removal. The major motive is to seek work for which
wages will be paid. The effects of migration on the sending population
include demographic changes, alterations in the division of labor
(because of the relatively larger number of males that leave), the
cultivation and perpetuation of a "migration orientation" on the part of
those left behind, and the infusion of new capital into the system
brought by returning migrants or sent as remittances.
Although up to very recently migration has attracted mostly males,
the work possibilities of the destination determine in large part the
sexual ratio of the migrating group. Thus, Barbados attracts mostly men
because of the opportunity for cutting sugarcane. The Grenadines,
Trinidad, Canada., the United States and, formally in great numbers, the
United Kingdom attract members of both sexes. Although recent estimates
place the sexual ratio of migrants at parity, it seems that male
emigration is still higher. Most temporary jobs abroad are seasonal and
attract (or are designed for) males.
The huge migration of Vincentians to the United Kingdom during the
1950s and early 1960s dwindled considerably with the imposition of the
Commonwealth Immigration Act of 1962. Canada has become the favored
target of Vincentians, followed by the United States. For the latter
country permanent migration has aimed at the northern cities of Brooklyn
and Washington, D.C., while seasonal migrants go to southern Florida to
work on sugar and vegetable farms. Migration to Barbados is a relat-
ively recent phenomenon, begun in the late 1960s with the migration of
males as seasonal cane cutters. Trinidad continues to attract migrants
who work in the petroleum industry. The Grenadines attract migrants who
work in agriculture, construction work, and the tourist enterprises.
Migration to the United Kingdom seems to have been a permanent one.
Surrounding Caribbean countries attract seasonal and temporary, non-
seasonal migrants. The United States and Canada attract seasonal,
temporary, non-seasonal, and permanent migrants.
Among poorer people, a widespread desire to leave the island is
expressed in economic terms as a wish to "get ahead," though the move is
often perceived as temporary and the desire to return always remains.
However, migration studies of several world areas indicate that although
migrants might say they wish to return before their departure and per-
haps continue this claim while resident in the host country, many never
return to their homeland.
When we queried young people, they overwhelmingly selected the
United States as the country to which they would like to migrate;
Barbados followed with the United Kingdom third. The reasoning is that
the United States is richer and presents more opportunities. For young
men the desire to migrate included more than employment opportunities.
To leave St. Vincent is to achieve adulthood and upon returning to St.
Vincent a young man assumes the status of one "who has been abroad."
This feeling is widespread in many (ex-)colonial societies. There is
the tacit assumption that nothing can be gained or learned by living in
the colony and one must go overseas (preferably to the "mother country")
to acquire skills, savvy, experience and, in this case, "manhood."
Migration estimates for the period 1960 to 1970 suggest that approx-
imately 20,000 persons left St. Vincent. There are no equivalent esti-
mates for the 1970 decade. However, Rubenstein estimates that for the
period 1960 to 1970 St. Vincent had an average emigration rate of
1.49 percent.7 This figure expresses the average annual migration as a
percentage of the average population for the period. Thus if this
average annual emigration rate is applicable to the decade of the 1970s,
the country was still losing 1.49 percent of its population per year; or
roughly 1,500 person per year.
Demographically this departure is reflected in a population im-
balance between males and females. Of the 86,000 persons tabulated in
the 1970 census, females outnumbered males in all age groups over
14 years of age by a total of 5,000 individuals. This imbalance is felt
most strongly in agricultural communities (the predominant community
Rubenstein, "Black Adaptive Strategies," p. 312.
form in St. Vincent) where the sexual division of labor surrounding
clearing, planting, weeding, harvesting, and marketing is upset. Also,
land utilization patterns can be upset as older people who own property
are more likely to migrate and leave their grounds behind untended.
There is great reluctance for someone else to plant them for fear of
investing time and money in something that is not theirs.
It is difficult to establish if there is a "brain drain" in St.
Vincent. Since there are so few highly skilled people in St. Vincent,
the departure of even a handful of them has serious consequences for the
island. If "talk" is to be believed, however, the ambitious and semi-
skilled people do migrate if the chance presents itself.
The departure of so many people has set up well established remit-
tance networks. Rubenstein points out that in a sample of 100 house-
holds in the community he studied, 26 households depend on remittances
for 25 percent of their budget, 38 households receive 25 percent or less
of their budgets from remittances and 36 households recieve no remit-
tances at all. Four households are totally dependent on remittances.8
He goes on to report that in the period 1969 to 1971 the post office in
his community of 2,200 people, paid out about US$32,890 in remittances
from the United Kingdom, Trinidad, Barbados, Grenada, Antigua, St.
Kitts, Guyana, St. Lucia, and the Virgin Islands.
One of the strategies of migration is to return home with a stake
which can be used to purchase a piece of property, house, or small
business. Much of the countryside in St. Vincent is covered with half
completed, modest stone houses. People point out that so and so re-
turned from overseas with money and built as much of the house as
possible. before the money ran out. Many re-emigrate to build up another
stake. There is no information available of whether money is put into
small businesses, as in St.. Lucia.
Seasonal migration is undertaken by individuals and small groups
and is now also sponsored by the government of St. Vincent through the
Ministry of Labor. The government contracts with agricultural estates
and businesses to supply a certain number of laborers. In the case of
the United States there is a quota established for the number of Vin-
centians who can cut cane in south Florida. Canada participates by
requesting farm laborers, as does Barbados for its sugar estates. Saudi
Arabia has even received Vincentian carpenters on one- and two-year
contracts. Government in turn recruits laborers for these highly desir-
able positions. There was some talk that the recruitment was little
more than political patronage but this was not confirmed. For 1979 to
1980 the fbloowing figures were given:
U.S.A. 385 cane cutters (October April 1979-1980)
(500 positions anticipated)
8Rubenstein, "Black Adaptive Strategies," p. 334-.
Canada 67 farm laborers (October April 1979-1980)
(150 positions anticipated)
Barbados 400 cane cutters (April June 1979)
Saudi Arabia 32 skilled construction workers (2-year period)
The Ministry of Labor estimates that migratory wage labor supplies
90 percent of the income these men earn. Although no detailed age
profile was available it was suggested that the men cutting cane were
"older" (40s and 50s).
Temporary, non-seasonal migration is usually undertaken by young
adults who spend from several months to a few years away from home.
Slightly more men are involved than women and migrants usually seek non-
permanent occupations, such as construction or employment in oil re-
fineries and industry. Destinations are Aruba, Curacao, Trinidad,
Barbados, and the Grenadines. Within this variety of migration one
finds a recurrent migration pattern where, usually, men make periodic
treks, of varying lengths of time in search of wage labor. Their
intention is to acquire a stake.
Permanent migration involves continued residence in another coun-
try, most usually in the United Kingdom, Canada or the United States.
However, since the migration to Canada and the United States is such a
relatively recent phenomenon, it is difficult to determine if this will
constitute permanent migration although some of the migrants have been
living there for ten years. The feature of chain migration is present
here, whereby an initial migrant settles into a host country and begins
sending for spouse, children, and relatives.
No exact figures, other than those for the government sponsored
seasonal laborers, could be uncovered during the research time.
Except for a very few but prominent examples, most Rastas are the
poor and uneducated youth who live in the hovels of "Bottom Town,"
"Paul's Lot," and "Uptown" in the capital city of Kingstown. For many,
commitment to the holy word of Jah-Rastafari appears to focus on per-
sonal adornment and smoking marijuana in intense peer group gatherings.
The wearing of dreadlocks and the sometimes menacing postures of Rasta-
fari seen elsewhere in the Caribbean are largely absent. Most young
Rastas of downtown Kingstown have nothing else to do with their lives.
Most are so poor they must continue to live with their parents. They
are neither spiritually nor politically organized and seem to be waiting
out their teenage years until social and economic responsibilities or
changes of adulthood force them into the substratum of the Vincentian
occupational hierarchy. By and large they spend their days hanging
around the market and docks in the hopes of running an errand or picking
up piece work. They have no skills, no skills are being taught them,
and jobs are unavailable. As with their non-Rasta counterparts, they
face a relatively squalid future as marginal peasant farmers and
small-scale, impoverished banana cultivators (if they have access to a
plot of land), or members of the urban unemployed.
The perception of these Rastas by the business people, press,
police, and non-Rasta community is diffuse, unsystematic, and highly
situational and personal. Although Rastas are commonly thought of as
slovenly, lazy, dirty, with a propensity for petty theft and smoking
marijuana, no special concern is expressed beyond the fear that their
poorly designed rtal diet of fruit and vegetables would do them physical
damage, especially with pregnant women. There is a lack of any effort
or interest in orienting the movement towards any positive social or
productive goals. The attitude seems to be that if one leaves the
"problem" alone it will eventually go away, or the Rastas will "grow out
There are Rastas in St. Vincent that present a different and inter-
esting aspect of the movement. They are slightly older (in their 20s),
ambitious, and take the basic teachings of Rastafari seriously. Al-
though their work efforts may be individual or in small groups, they
display a strong work ethic and sense of discipline and self-confidence.
Anthony. Anthony is a rural born, 21-year-old black Vincentian who
has never left St. Vincent. For two years he has worked as an errand
boy in a small Kingstown shop. He lives by himself in one room above a
rum shop in one of the squalid sections of town. He is bright, articu-
late, healthy and self-confident. For him and others like him, Rasta-
fari is a lifestyle that gives pleasure and meaning. During the past
two years he has set aside one-quarter of every month's salary for the
purchase of a plot of land adjacent to his parents' plot (which he will
one. day inherit). His strategy is to work several more years, by which
time he will have enough money for a down payment on the plot where he
wants to plant ground crops and vegetables with hopes of expanding to
the raising of chickens and pigs. He would have done so already except
that he could not secure a loan from any of the development agencies or
banks in St. Vincent--even though his parents were willing to commit
their house as collateral and his sister was will to have a lien on her
salary as a nurse as additional backup. This does not surprise Anthony
as he expects nothing from government.
Anthony ea.ts Ital food but is very concerned about staying healthy
and well nourished. He does not eat meat or fish, for he considers it
to be the flesh of dead beasts. He drinks juices and eats fruit, eggs,
cheese, vegetables, rice, peanuts, beans, and root crops. He runs and
exercises every morning on the beach. He cooks his own meals and plans
his own menus, something many men would be at a total loss to devise,
plan and execute. He budgets a good deal of his small salary to food.
He does not drink rum because he says it and other strong intoxicants
blur one's wisdom and corrupt one's thought. Rather, he drinks several
bottles of stout each day for "strength and power." He smokes marijuana
on Saturday night (his sabbath) and at parties with his friends, not at
every opportunity. Thus entertainment recreation are routinized and
tied to scheduled activities.
When Anthony and others like him explain their beliefs they say
their practices "purify and cleanse" them of evil and corruption. Their
symbolism strikes again and again at the notion that society is unjust
and corrupt, and in order to find salvation they must cleanse themselves
of society's evils by eating only "natural" foods (i.e., vegetables-
"bush") and avoiding intoxicants (which marijuana is not; as a plant,
"bush," it is a natural substance). Rum has long debilitated the West
Indian working classes, with the financial and physical consequences of
heavy drinking a serious contemporary problem in the Caribbean. The
esteemed physician, Dr. Michael Beaubrun of Trinidad, has gone so far as
to call marijuana the "benevolent alternative" to rum (if not over-
indulged in). He is not dropping out, but looks at his behavior as
removing himself from the evils of corrupt politics and crass material-
ism. Agriculture, again "natural" is his chosen means of support.
At a deeper level Anthony is training and disciplining himself
through a Rasta medium in a fashion that schools and other formal
institutions have been unable to do. He also seeks his future in his
own work and, as someone self-employed, sees his efforts advancing
himself and not enriching someone else. For people like Anthony, Rasta-
fari is neither a millenial dream of Mother Africa, nor a political
cause to advance Black power and oust the corrupted lackeys of Babylon.
It is, rather, a-belief that gives him motivation and meaning in a
society that will not or can not deliver the psychological or material
satisfactions for which he strives.
Killer Sandy and the Kicking Hell Shoe Shop. The following arti-
cle, taken from the West Indian Crusader of St. Vincent, describes the
activities of Calvin "Killer" Sandy and his efforts at mounting a small
business enterprise using Rasta employees.9
The shop, a one room street front house, endoses the activities of
six young men between the ages of 16 and 24 who labor at cutting leather
design, sewing and stiching, gluing and turning out sandals, shoes and
boots. Their efforts are accompanied by the blaring rhythms of reggae,
the walls are covered with photos and prints of North American Black
singers and Trinidadian calypsonians. Friends and fellow Rastas stop by
to chat, tell stories, exchange news, and enjoy themselves. Work at the
Kicking Hell Shoe Shop is not considered servitude or drudgery or
The Kicking Hell Shoe Shop was funded initially by a small seed
money grant from C.A.D.E.C.; there was no further financial backing nor
management, purchasing and marketing training. As a "business-enter-
tainment" enterprise the shoe shop faces the problems of expansion. At
this point the size of the operation and its weekly production makes
the price of its shoes more expensive than those of the commericaT,
imported shoe stores. In one respect this is not a problem because
The West Indian Crusader, St. Vincent, August 17, 1980, p. 9.
Mr. Sandy's leather, hand stitched shoes will far outlast the rubber
soled, glued together footwear. However, like most small scale opera-
tions he produces only enough to pay his salaries and expenses and has
nothing to reinvest. Commercial banks and development corporations do
not regularly fund such small ventures; being a Rastafari and running
what is at this point a specialized shoe shop would not help one's
chances in securing financial backing. There is interest by some poten-
tial investors, who want him to produce more and thereby drop the unit
cost of his shoes.. This may be merely a communications problem, whereby
the producers do not yet see the "advantages" of producing more.
There is widespread talk among Rastas in St. Vincent that they
would like to engage in farming. However, the limitations that confront
other willing agriculturalists face Rastas as well. It would seem that
by working through the ideology of Rastafari and using it as a medium of
communication, many highly motivated young people could be reached. If
some of the professed goals of development include self-employment,
local crafts, small to medium scale manufacture, and the attracting of
younger people into agriculture, a Rasta segment may provide a resource
not to be ignored. What would have to be provided to anyone else would
have to be provided to them.
In St. Vincent many young people who are either unemployed or in
such unremunerative and low status occupations as unskilled laborers,
estate workers, porters, and errand-runners regularly point out that
access to even a minor position requires the intervention and endorse-
ment of a patron who will "arrange" matters. The term "godfather" was
often used to describe such an intermediary. The patron-client rela-
tionship is a personal one and takes into consideration such factors as
the client's family relationships, voting record and political party
support, and record of favors given and promised. It should be empha-
sized that the jobs referred to here are not ones of high position but
routine jobs such as streetcleaner, clerk, or night watchman. Observers
often note, and Caribbean citizens will confirm, that politics is treat-
ed as a life and death issue; when you consider the importance of
patronage jobs to those desperate for income, it is easier to understand
why. Competition for the few positions available is intense and based
on merit, or lack of it, that may have nothing to do with the job de-
The feeling of resigned frustration among young people in St.
Vincent was marked. Even if one could secure a minor position, it was
claimed, the opportunity ceiling was so low that any initiative and
motivation was quelched. The position of women is unique in St. Vincent
as this is the only area visited where discrimination on the basis of
gender is embedded in law with enormous economic ramifications for
An often cited alternative to sullen resentment or unremunerative
toil at a low status job was to leave the island. Proportionally St.
WESTINDIAN CRUSADER, THURSDAY APRIL 17. 1980 9
t II It ~l I MEN
WE probably could find som
for the calypso sung by the
who referred to some of ou
as "counterfeits" and "imita
In the, Vwods of
"A Rasta should be
a real cultured
man and should be
prepared to work."
,andy.was cnco a
Rastanan i- the mid-
dle 70's. But one
morning, he suddenly
got up and decided
to cut his locks be-
cause he figured he
really wasn't cettinc
anywhere that way.
Not that he has any-
thing against the
Rastaman, -:ind you.
"I was a Rasta in
the days when there
were not many of them
aro:ind. But somehow
I got turned off. I
like the scene but
I can't share the
attitude-of the major--
ity of them," he says.
"I b'iieve a Ristaman
should be cultured,
shouldd rorti and ohculd
bel-eve in honesty.
;:ot the way some of
sandy 30, and pro-
prietor of "Kickinc
Hell Shoe Shop", was
a member of a Rasta
group in 1976 that
used to make fashion-
able earrings and
rings, etc, from
such things like co-
ecnut shells and gra-
Tru wood.. But things
*- wf i
went bad, and it was
like he couldn't turn
to th: cult for help.
CAIC came to the
rescue for Candy
however, after he
had switched to
He r.ow boasts of
two loan 'rom
CGj^ since, and
a G6od clientele.
tandy's shop is
situated in St.
opposite the Clives
Hotel and with the
assistance of a t
team of four he
can turn out up
to forty pairs of
leather croeq a week
and in any :iven
style -even built
But ;iller- aSndy
I "-2. -T
Hiswn e irgn
came a lonl: way. in
lone way from the day
when he had to wear
the first pair of
shoes he made to
make sure it fits
like one, to his
raooent standing es
as one-of the best
with footwear he
claims can laet for
"I now feel per-
fect and relaxed,"
Md.in PtA1 o
eA RASTA -
They enay their wnrk
? A RASTA
1 WHN -
he says, I fee.-like
I'm doing something
I feel cultured."
Vincent had the highest emigration rate of the four islands in the
Eastern Caribbean. However, such avenues for migration are now either
shut off or made more difficult by quota and visa requirements. None-
theless, many young men work on ships, either the smaller vessels that
carry cargo to the surrounding islands or freighters engaged in more
distant traffic, with the ultimate hope to secure residence in Barbados,
Trinidad, or the United States.
As in most (ex-)colonial societies, a negative valance attached to
local products; whether these are ideas, material items, or in this
case, human resources. Imported ideas are considered superior, espe-
cially education and training. Thus, even the temporary sojourner who
returns to St. Vincent with a skill or craft is credited with a legiti-
macy and competence that someone locally (with the same or superior
expertise) would not enjoy, solely because it was learned abroad. This
behavior only fuels the idea that merit or progress is irrational and
Life in St. Vincent, especially for young people, takes on the
dimensions of "more of the same"--an uninspiring, unchanging, intro-
verted society that has been caught in the same suffocating matrix for
as long as anybody can remember. The world seems to be changing around
them, but there are no major watersheds or new opportunities to signal
a break with the past and the emergence of a new more optimistic day.
St. Vincent has not undergone the marked economic and social changes
that loosened up the old colonial structure and gave rise to opportuni-
ties previously unknown, as happened in Barbados and Trinidad, for
example. Behavior patterns in St. Vincent are still linked to the
traditional modes of production and distribution of wealth and privi-
lege. Barbados is really a different society for the children born in
the 1960s than it was for their parents and grandparents. In St. Vin-
cent youth grown up in circumstances economically similar to their
parents, except that migration has made many inroads in what were once
more closely knit settlements, and St. Vincent is now a cash economy
with little means of generating its own.
Crime, Punishment, and Rehabilitation
On a dark street in the poorest section of Kingstown one of the
consultants was approached by a group of four young men late at night.
He was asked if he wanted to buy marijuana and was cautioned, "people
here not bad like in Jamaica, we not stick you with knife." This
observation, though in part true, must be qualified and set in the
context of a poor, provincial, very small, conservative society with
severe limitations constraining the aspirations and expectations of its
Police claim that although there is an increase in crime among
persons under 16 years of age and between 16 and 21, the dimensions are
not significant. Although the citizenry are ready to foist negative
stereotypes on youth (lazy, insolent, immoral, and the like), crime is
not a topic of daily conversation and concern. Available figures
indicate that in every category of offense, more crimes are committed by
persons over the age of 21 than under.
For younger people the offense most committed was theft of prop-
erty; usually from shops, stores, of unguarded property, and breaking
into homes. There was little theft from the person; not surprising in a
face-to-face society where the assailant could be easily identified and
located. An interesting trend is the high degree of wounding and
assault, not only among young people but throughout the population. One
could postulate that in such a small-scale society--now under desperate
economic stress and characterized by a sharp maldistribution of prop-
erty, money, and status, and where people are in regular and daily
contact with each other--there is an explosive tendency whereby dis-
agreements and altercations are resolved through violence. One could
turn this around and suggest that citizens without recourse to the
established machinery of justice or who have reason to be distrustful of
it, seek other means to vent their frustrations and "solve" their prob-
Table 11:5 lists the number of persons sentenced for offensess in
1979. Sentences include a prison sentence, remand, corporal punishment,
fines, dismissals, or community service orders. There is no information
available on the number of offenses actually committed, number of arrests
made but not brought to trial, or altercations resolved out of court.
Persons Sentenced, 1979
Offenses Committed by
Total Offenses by Persons Aged 10-21
All Ages Offenses Male Female
36 Rape 3 (8%) 0
14 Murder and Manslaughter 5 (35%) 0
350 Wounding (broken skin) 53 (15%) 5 (1%)
91 Offensive weapons (knives,
clubs, etc.) 15 (16%) 3 (3%)
241 Stealing 28 (11.5%) 0
175 Breakins 62 (35.5%) 0
238 Praedial Larceny 54 (22.5%) 7 (3%)
301 Gambling and Narcotics 58 (19%) 5 (1.5%)
1359 Petty Assault 110 (8%) 41 (3%)
608 Major Assault 58 (9.5%) 11 (2%)
3413 (100%) Totals 446 (13%) 72 (2%)
Most of the offenses, and certainly the most serious, took place in
the city of Kingstown. Outside the city, and concentrated in the rural
farming areas, praedial larceny was most prevalent and involved the
theft of fruits, garden crops, work implements and animals. There is no
concrete information on the degree of marijuana cultivation, importation,
or sale. However, it appears that marijuana is grown locally and readily
available. Officialdom in St. Vincent does not seem inordinantly con-
cerned about this offense. Compared regionally, blue collar or "public"
crime in St. Vincent would rank low on its scale of seriousness.
Also, no particular group seems to be singled out by police as the
"cause" of crime. Although youth are not praised for their perceived
attributes, neither are they condemned. One is left with the impression
that the young are just there--on the corners, unemployed, truant from
school-and neither a factor for encouragement nor concern. This
applies also to St. Vincent's incipient Rasta movement.
However, there are several disturbing matters. Two issues, involv-
ing women as victims and the rehabilitation of youthful (male) offend-
ers, .require further discussion. Women's issues are not considered
important in social planning, and the general concern for the socio-
economic and political advancement of women is at best reactionary. What
is disturbing in the field of crime is not only the high number of
reported rapes but the widespread feeling that a large number of rapes
go unreported or are solved by such out of court means as paying money
to the victim's family, promising to provide for any child that may
result, character defamation, or intimidation. Several well-placed and
informed persons claimed that this was only part of a larger process of
sexual exploitation and intimidation that confronts females. Sexual
favors are often requested when a female requires, for example, assis-
tance or solicits a job, and the fine edge between consenting adults and
abuse of power and perogative is, reportedly, regularly transgressed.
Conditions for the detention of offenders are abysmal. The police
station lock-up, the prison (for men), and the detention center for
juvenile offenders are obsolete. Facilities for rehabilitation and
after care are non-existent or so mismanaged, understaffed, and under-
funded that they are ineffectual or worse. There are no facilities for
females. At the time of our visit, we were told there was one woman in
prison (because of the Union Island uprising in 1979) alone with one
female guard in a wing of an old building far outside of town. It
amounts to solitary confinement for the prisoner and guard alike.
It was also pointed out that because of the crowded conditions of
prison, lack of staff to look after detainees, and the expense of main-
taining prisoners, magistrates were more and more turning to fines as
punishment; especially in cases involving young people whose crimes were
not very serious. However, such a sentence places an additional hard-
ship on families and parents of young people, who are probably unem-
ployed and dependent on their parents already. Several stories emerged
during our stay about families who had to mortgage houses and sell
personal porperty in order to pay a fine levied on their sons who had
been convicted of smoking marijuana. One such fine was for US$385.
The Liberty Lodge detention center for juvenile offenders and
"wayward boys" houses approximately 25 youths between the ages of 8 and
16. Not all the boys are offenders in a criminal sense. Many are
simply school truants or children forced into vagabondage because of
inept or cruel parents and a desperate home life (i.e., beaten, not fed,
nor clothed). Although the professed goal of the center is to "get boys
back into society," there are no training or educational facilities
available of any scope or seriousness to undertake this task. One can.
anticipate that they will return to the same environments they came from
with no additional skills or changed points of view. Also, Vincentians
resist hiring such people; the feeling is widespread that one who has
been to Liberty Lodge is a "bad boy." In a highly personalized society
such a stigma is damning.
Several leading jurists in the Caribbean have suggested that
imprisonment and fines be replaced with "community service orders" where
the offender is not locked up but ordered to do public service (painting
public buildings, cleaning streets, or applying his or her particular
skill) for the community.
Crime in St. Vincent has neither reached a high level nor victim-
ized influencial persons enough to be an issue of concern. For the time
being the situation will remain in a gloomy states. However, frustra-
tions are increasing among young people.
Their reactions at this stage are sullenness and lethargy. Whether
these frustrations will be vented in increased crime, a search for
alternative political systems, or perhaps, an increased participation in
millenial cult groups such as Rastafari is problematic. The one sure
matter is that something in the system must give to provide young people
with opportunities to advance themselves and find a meaningful place in
their communities economic and prestige structure. At this point almost
nothing is available to them.
Clubs Voluntary Organizations, and Informal Groups
Approximately 60 youth clubs operate in St. Vincent. Most of them,
unless specifically designed for a gender-related activity such as
soccer or needlework, have both male and female members from 14 to
25 years old. The number of members often depends on the club's activi-
ties and the size of the community. Average membership varies between
15 and 60. A list of various club activities, compiled by the consul-
tants, through the administration of a questionnaire,. includes sports
(cricket, soccer, netball- and. table tennis), cookery, school study and
homework shops, cultural projects (music, art, poetry and drama), sewing
and garment making for own use and sale, fund raising (dances, bingo,
fairs, tea parties, soliciting donations, games and walks), religious
worship, and community work such as helping the old and sick, cleaning
the village, road repair,, house painting, and sponsoring seminars by
government extension agents.
Each club has a core of officers, usually older members who are the
most enthusiastic. Other young people attend only for events that suit
them or come for entertainment. Club leadership tends to be in the
hands of the better educated young people (primary school graduates and
secondary school pupils and graduates). Clubs are highly decentralized
and lack a national coordinating body for several reasons. There was a
National Youth Council active through the 1960s and early 1970s, but it
is now dormant. A small operating stipend was provided by government.
Lack of imaginative and hardworking personnel at the center was the most
cited reason for the collapse of the coordinating body. However, a
central coordinating agency also had to court irregular government
funding which could be withheld, and face the expensive and time consum-
ing logistics of transportation and communication in St. Vincent. It
also appears that the establishment of a formalized central committee
was putting the cart before the horse. Work had to be done strengthen-
ing local groups and building a grass roots foundation before the
ambitious task of establishing a national body could be broached.
An often cited complaint was that clubs had no place to meet. St.
Vincent does not have a network of community centers which could be
used. Schools were a possibility but club members claimed that they
could only be used at inconvenient times, had to be rearranged and later
cleaned up after meetings, and did not give the feeling that the meeting
place was "theirs" and an enjoyable place to be. Consequently, meetings
must be held in someone's yard or, more regularly, in a rented meeting
hall. Members stated that a meeting place very rarely was donated,
and some felt they were being gouged by local older officials on rent.
They felt this was unfair as money could be better used to purchase
sports equipment, materials for craft work, or for distribution among
members. A number of young people also interpreted the unwillingness of
village elders to relax rental fees as a further sign of the older
generation's hostility, and lack of understanding of the predicament of
the young, especially those already out of school and unemployed.
St. Vincent has no significant youth projects or programs that draw
upon the support of youth as do St. Lucia and Dominica. Although the
situation in St. Vincent suggests that there is a ready resource of
young people in the island willing to participate in activities that
could potentially be molded into a development effort, only inadequate
and unsystematic support from government, private organizations, the
churches, and schools is forthcoming. One young man, the president of a
local club, wrote a report for us and included the following analysis of
the problems clubs confront:
In St. Vincent youth encounters various problems.
To begin with there is no serious governmental organi-
zation that looks into youth affairs. There was a
National Youth Council in St. Vincent, but, this
organization cannot help the youths because it is
financially weak, it does not function sufficiently
within the rural areas, and its programs are only
designed for the educated.
It is difficult to argue strongly for an endorsement of youth
groups in St. Vincent based simply on their concrete accomplishments.
However, considering what youth clubs and informal groups in Dominica
and St. Lucia have done with private voluntary organization and govern-
mental support, one could anticipate a growth in youth productivity and
participation in national society if the encouragement and support were
provided them. Youths do represent an enormous amount of energy and
"loose" time. In 1973 it took an average of three years for school
leavers to find a job; in 1980 it was estimated to take about five
years. One Vincentian noted that the young "hang around for one to
three years learning to live without a job. The under-privileged ones
get so they don't care; the privileged feel immune." As the young
appear capable of organizing themselves with little help from elders and
state organization, it would seem useful to help fill the unemployed
years with productive activities, while others figure out ways to create
employment for when they are adults. As a basis for social action youth
clubs in St. Vincent could at least provide a forum for information
distribution and basic training in agricultural and craft techniques. A
more ambitious task would include the cultivation of local level develop-
ment projects such as community work, agricultural training and skill
training in small groups. Funding for such programs would be crucial,
but not the largest of the expenditures. The most demanding task would
be the development of a national consciousness aimed at salvaging and
training youth through their incorporation into a sensitive and well-
planned program of national development.
Many women participate in organizations outside of the home.
Exactly who they are and how many of them are engaged in club or organ-
izational activities was not possible to discern, What organizations
there are range from national level service clubs and professional
associations, whose membership include the better educated and finan-
cially secure, to grassroots level informal groups of women who col-
laborate regularly. The latter are, generally, unrecognized as formal
Organizations tend to be of five types: affiliates of political
parties, religious or denominational organizations, social clubs, pro-
fessional organizations, and sports clubs. Almost all organizations
are service clubs and do not directly act to sponsor or promote women's
issues. However, since many of their activities deal with nutrition,
child welfare, and health, such clubs do reach a mainly female clientele.
LocaT level clubs or groups appear to be very fragile. Emigration
appears to have siphoned off members in some cases, weakening the body
left behind. The bas.ic. reasons that the clubs and. organizations appear
fragile is that resources necessary for joining an organization are lack-
ing for many people; time and money, both to be budgeted in a regular
and repetitive pattern; a modicum of economic stability and status in
the local community that would allow a free mingling and cooperation
with others- Many organizations are church-affiliated, and those out-
side of that communion are: excluded, while the poor, and those who are
of questionable morals and character often do not participate, having
fallen out of the ring of respectability. In St. Vincent, there are
people who cannot afford a pair of shoes; in a culture where style is
important, you do not join a club when you cannot buy shoes.
The National Council of Women (NCW) has branches in 11 locations
throughout the island and affiliates with such a broad group of pro-
fessional and service organizations as the Mother's Union, Nurses'
Association, Methodist Women's League, Y.W.C.A., Anglican Youth Move-
ment, and the Salvation Army. It has made an attempt to rally women
with the goals of advancing the conditions of women, a new prospective
for St. Vincent. Although the first response was positive from all
levels of society, the actual membership recruited was almost all young,
to the age of 25. Very few middle-aged or older women joined. As one
recruiter pointed out: "They work very hard in their homes and com-
munities but they are not aware what they are accomplishing or can
accomplish." She went on to note that young people, having had more
education and exposure are "bolder" and more apt to participate in the
NCW. The members and officers of NCW are aware of the economic and
legal straits of women in St. Vincent. However, they lack the experi-
ence and expertise required to organize income generating projects that
will succeed in replacing sewing circles.
Skills Training and Income Generating Programs
Training programs analogous to the national youth skills training
program in Barbados and its embryonic counterpart in St. Lucia, or the
extensive networks of grassroots level training and development efforts
found in Dominica and St. Lucia, are totally absent in St. Vincent. Few
plans exist to prepare workers for anything except immediate guaranteed
positions provided by outside sources of hiring and investment.
Apart from the advanced technical education offered at the Tech-
nical College and fortuitous, personally arranged apprenticeships, there
are no facilities available for young people to learn a semi- or skilled
craft. Several government divisions, private groups, and public agencies
have made small efforts in the direction of vocational training and
income generation and are listed here.
Several tie-dying and batik cloth establishments are located in St.
Vincent. Sea Island cotton is imported in bolts and cut, dyed, and sewn
into garments. Four or five young people per establishment are hired
and seem to be permanent staff. Women in the adjacent village sew the
garments, an extension of employment opportunities beyond the business
establishment. No expansion in the operation is anticipated. Owner-
ship is foreign.
The St. Vincent Council of Churches, with funding from C.A.D.E.C.,
is attempting to establish a comprehensive community resettlement scheme
involving the most depressed area of the impoverished village of
Barrouallie on the leeward coast. The plan calls for adjacent church
land to be donated or sold at low cost to the community members.
Government is supposed to contribute trucks and working materials to
assist in land development, the people are to supply labor, the Council
of Churches, through outside sources of funding, is to provide low cost
housing. However, this has been in the planning stages since 1972, and
the residents have lost interest in it. There was another attempt to
establish an agricultural cooperative and a youth group to make toys and
simple implements for sale in town. This project never materialized.
Evidently residents want something concrete, and until they get either
house or land they are unwilling to commit a great deal of energy, time,
and hope. The St. Vincent Council of Churches has two highly motivated
and committed fieldworkers,. but problems they face are staggering.
The extra-mural campus of the University of the West Indies in St.
Vincent initiated a pilot project for the manufacture of low cost foot-
wear. Evidently there was interest by a number of young people to
participate in the project. Funding, although it had reached high
levels with U.S.A.I.D., was never secured because of internal Vincentian
communication problems. It was claimed by several persons that govern-
ment is unwilling to sponsor activities among people that would make
them independent and thus reduce their reliance on government patronage,
approval and bestowal of favors.
The Ministry of Home Affairs through its Community Development
Division has sponsored the establishment of 16 craft centers around the
island that market through the St. Vincent Craftsman Marketing Co-op in
Kingstown. About 200 to 300 people, approximately 80 percent of whom
are young women, fashion straw goods, pottery, woven items, trinkets,
and perserved food items. The goal of this effort was to have people
leave the craft centers after improving skills and establish their own
craft enterprises, but such enterprises failed to develop. An advisor
to this program claimed that although funding was a problem it was not
the major one. He stated flatly that there was utter lack of skills--
technical and managerial--and that the poorer, uneducated were simply
not prepared to undertake any independent venture. He made the shrewd
observation that people associated any government sponsored project with
the dole and thus did not take it seriously or took it for what it was
worth until the money ran dry. Other problems include the emphasis of
personal ties and favoritism in a small scale society, the unavailabil-
ity of raw materials and tools, and the lack of financing for small
business from development organizations.
Young people will not be readily attracted to income generating
programs or be willing participants in a national development effort on
the promise of weaving straw bonnets and bags all their lives. Tech-
nical school is out of reach of most of them and street wisdom has it
that even if you graduate from there were no jobs available anyway for
such an advanced education.-
The largest training program currently active in St. Vincent is the
result of successful government efforts to attract off-shore industry.
Baylis Brothers, an American company specializing in smocked children's
wear, has expanded its operation from Barbodos to St. Vincent to take
advantage of the cheap and large labor pool. This industry, as in
Barbados, will inadvertently employ many more women than men. The basic
reason is cultural, insofar as few men are willing to sew for a living.
The training involved consists of teaching all interested people of any
age how to read the various smocking designs printed on pre-cut fabric,
smock and decorate the pieces, and meet the deadlines established by the
company for the return of finished pieces. For the near future all of
the smocking will be done by women in their homes. Baylis Brothers
arranged for a trainer to come to St. Vincent. She in turn recruited
others she taught personally, selecting the best students as tutors. The
tutors then dispersed, recruiting and training others, who in turn teach
kin, neighbors., club members and school girls. At the time of our
visit, over 800 smokers were already active in St. Vincent. The com-
pany ultimately will get a large trained work force for very little
Smockers are paid per piece completed up to standard, the price per
piece varying with the complexity of the design. The most complicated
piece earned a smocker US$0.35. It was estimated that "some women can
do three of those pieces .in a day," yielding US$1.06. No salaries are
paid during training, which takes a maximum of three weeks. Company
records are not tabulated so that minimum and maximum incomes of smock-
ers are not known. The low.pay has been and continues to be the biggest
complaint of all the women involved in smocking. They are caught in a
dilemma; if they refuse to work for such wages, the company may go else-
where in the Eastern Caribbean. It has the advantage of allowing women
and school girls to make some extra cash while still handling housework
and child care, and in some cases, holding down other jobs. Productivity
is kept down, moreover, by low wages, lack of electricity in a number of
areas and houses, by the transportation problems and expenses for the
women to and from the depots, and for the company which needs to deliver
new fabric and collect finished pieces.
A number of women and young girls interviewed, in Kingstown and
elsewhere in the state, indicated that they looked forward to the com-
pany establishing a factory in St. Vincent where the garments would be
fully assembled. Many indicated that they would be interested more in
factory work than in continuing the less lucrative smocking at home,
even if it entailed a move to the industrial park near the capital.
Beyond income was the consideration by some that factory work would
constitute a "real" job out of the home.
Illustration II:1 indicates that schools will be teaching home
economics students the smocking required by the company. It was noted
by one observer, who was not a native of St. Vincent but came to the
island after years of working in Barbados, that Vincentians are "not
accustomed to production," by which was meant the putting together of
speed, skill, assembly line, and quality control techniques. Teaching
students to smock, it was added, may help to teach "production" at an
early age and give the younger students a chance at being better and
therefore more attractive workers for whatever other businesses the
government may lure into the territory. It should be noted that a
number of the most successful tutors who organized and taught women
outside of the capital city were women who had many years of involvement
in clubs and community groups. They knew, therefore, who to tap and
how. They also had the reputations that allowed many women to trust
them to make delivery of finished products for them, and to handle the
Over 3000 women in St.
Vincent and the Grenadines
are to be trained in the art
of Hand Smocking over the
next two years.
This was stated on Mon-
day June 16th by Mr.
George Fox, President of
Baylis Brothers in a Press
Conference held in the Con-
ference room of the De-
Baylis Brothers which is
an American Company, has
subsidiaries in Barbados
and St. Vincent and is re-
nowned the world over for
its high standard in the'
field of Hand Smocking.
The-main purpose of this
program is to provide
meaningful employment to
women and other interest-
Mr. Fox stated that the
training has already began
and over 500 women have
already been trained. How-
ever due to various prob-
lems in the co-ordination of
the training program, it
was necessary to re-organ.
Sise-the managerial aspect of
the Home Smocking Indus-
try. In keeping with this de-
cision, Mr. Kingsley Layne
has been appointed Gen-
eral Manager and is to be
directly responsible for the
supervision of six area
managers who in turn will
be responsible for the func-
tioning of twenty four train-
At present there are six-
teen centres already estab-
lished. These are situated
in Biabou, Colonarie, South
Calliaqua, Fountain, Rich-
land Park, Troumaca,
Diamond, New Grounds,
Owia and Sion Hill.
The total training pro-
grame will be for a duration
of 18 wks, with a 3 weeks
orientation period and
bonus incentives being
given on the 11th week and
on the completion of the
Some 18 Primary Schools
are also taking part in the
program and it is hope to
expand the training pro-
gram to all schools in the
Sa-: sm Mas a smLan, r .. .p r- a
Source: The West Indian Crusader, St. Vincent, June 20, 1980.
The economy of Dominica is experiencing serious and widespread
economic and financial problems. The physical capital is decaying, out-
put and exports of many products are not only below their potential but
also below the levels attained a decade ago, public finances are in
severe disequilibrium, unemployment is causing severe hardship and
deleterious social conditions; housing, water and sewerage are much
worse than thoZe in the rest of.the region.
The standard warnings about measuring and determining the extent of
unemployment in Dominica must be voiced. First, the only solid, syste-
matic data base for the country that may be compared to other CARICOM
countries remains the Commonwealth Census of 1970. Problems with con-
ceptualization and methodology aside, the census was undertaken before
the world recession of the mid 1970s and does not address the serious
economic consequences and dislocations caused by mismanagement of the
economy in the late 1970s and the disastrous effect of the 1979 and
1980 hurricanes. For purposes of comparison, however, the 1970 figures
are given in Table 11:6 and are followed in Table 11:7 by several later
survey estimates provided by reportage from various sources. The
reader is advised to bear in mind that the early figures are obsolete
while the later figures are not systematic and comprehensive. In all
cases there is significant variation in the figures given.
Percentage of Unemployment by Age Groups and Sex
(Commonwealth Census, 1970)
14 Yrs. of Age & Over
Male & 14-19 Yrs. 20-24 Yrs. 25-59 Yrs. 60 & Over
Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female
7.0 6.2 8.3 28.7 29.6 4.6 9.2 1.1 1.4 0.2 1.0
A Peace Corps "fact sheet" for 1975 claims that unemployment for
the whole society stands at 22 percent while underemployment (not de-
fined) adds an additional 12 percent.
A Dominica National Planning Office report, issued in 1976 and
designed to investigate incomes, employment, and migration in Dominica,
states that the overall unemployment rate stands at 22.7 percent. For
that same period a U.S.A.I.D. report fixes unemployment at 20 to 23 per-
A Dominica National Structure plan, published in 1976 and under-
taken with the assistance of a United Nations Development Program team,
provides the most discriminating categories, though the data are from
the 1970 census.
Its major discovery is that unemployment in the age group 15 to 19
amounts to over 30 percent.
Unemployment Rates in Percentages
Age Group Male Female Total
15-19 29 32 31
20-24 6 12 8
15 and over 8 10 8
The overall unemployment figures appear much too low; especially in
light of other corroborative studies made, and the general impression
that the economy is in a period of abject stagnation. A general unemploy-
ment figure of 20 to 25 percent would seem to be more accurate; while
the figure for school leavers and those between 15 and 19 years of age
would approach 35 to 40 percent.
A school leavers tracer study undertaken in 1978 supports these
estimates, and in a comparison of a rural and an urban junior secondary
school and secondary school, makes the following observations.
Reasons for unemployment
1. Willing to work but no work available.
2. Wanted work and were willing to work but either work not
available or they specifically lacked the training for
3. Were needed. to help with domestic activities. Specifically,
rural boys were needed to work on garden plots and both
rural and urban girls were needed for domestic help.
4. Were pregnant or caring for their children and thus unable
to work.. This applied to both rural and urban young
The problem of youthful unemployment in the rural areas tended to
overwhelmingly effect females as males could be at least marginally and
part-time engaged in helping their parents in agriculture work or tend-
ing their own small gardens. In the urban area unemployment effected
young males and. females equally. It should be pointed out that although
rural boys were "working"' they were totally dependent on their parents
for support and earned only "pocket change." For young rural women the
situation is more complicated. It is suggested that having children is
as much a response to unemployment as it is a cause of it. Young women
with children felt that this was a way of attracting financial support
from the father and thus reducing the burden that they were on their
Occupational multiplicity in Dominica is quite similar in organiza-
tion to St. Vincent. Both societies are impoverished with little capi-
tal available. Dominica, however, has had its situation exacerbated by
two hurricanes that literally brought all activities on the island to a
halt. Shops remain unopened, assembly plants have shut down, crops were
destroyed (both cash crops and subsistence) for two years running, and
business is slack. It is widely known that people are hoarding money--
probably waiting for the next disaster--rather than reinvesting it in
agriculture or business. Several prosperous people we met kept old
mayonnaise jars stuffed full of EC$100 notes. A well informed source
also told how he simply does not understand how poor people can survive.
He knows of households where there is not one single identifiable source
of cash or food.
Thus, the limitations on occupational multiplicity are severe in
Dominica, as there are not many extra job alternatives for any indi-
vidual or household. Two adaptations to this economic marginality are
made. Cash flow out of the household is reduced to an absolute minimum;
that is, nothing unnecessary is purchased. Water is substituted for
soft drinks, purchases at the market are items replaced by the house-
hold's own garden, people stay home and listen to the radio or tell
stories rather than go to the movies, they stop drinking alcohol or
substitute local raw rum for the preferred scotch. Although the figures
are not available, it would not be surprising if a fair amount of people
left Roseau for the countryside, to plant on family plots and possibly
live more cheaply.
For young Dominicans education means upward mobility, prestige,
access to wealth and the professions, a secure income, and a chance to be
the someone they aspire to be. For the rural poor of Dominica, the vast
majority of the island's small population, these goals are regularly
unattainable. In a society still stratified by color and class, over-
whelmingly rural and agricultural, possessing precious few job opportun-
ities, and recently devastated by two hurricanes, problems are great.
Dominica's salvation may lay in its ruralness; its young people have not
been attracted away from agriculture on the same scale as their counter-
parts in other Eastern Caribbean islands. Deep feelings exist for
"roots" among young people, and there is a willingness to consider own-
account agriculture as an occupational possibility. Nonetheless, a young
person's occupational preferences, while still in school, are for work
and careers unavailable to them.
An anthropological study undertaken in Dominica in the late 1960s
by Joyce Justus revealed that primary and secondary pupils had uniformly
high aspirations about their future education as well as occupations.
In a sample of rural students from three villages, Justus analyzed dis-
tributions of aspirations:10 Of primary school boys 2.4 percent wanted
to quit school, 20 percent wanted to graduate from secondary school,
24.2 percent wanted to go on to trade or technical school, 6.4 percent
desired teacher training college, while 47 percent wanted to go to
university. Among primary school girls none wanted to quit school,
16.9 percent wanted to graduate from secondary school, 5.2 percent
wanted technical training, 5.9 percent desired teacher training,
23.7 percent wanted nursing school and 48.3 percent looked forward to
university. For male secondary school students 5 percent wanted to quit
school, 10 percent wanted to graduate and 85 percent wished to go to
university.. Secondary school females demonstrated more varied eduat-
ional goals. None wished to quit school, 21.4 percent wished to graduate
from.secondary school, 4.8 percent wished to go to trade or technical
training, 7.1 percent desired teacher training, 4.8 percent continued
interest in nursing, and 61.9 percent wanted to go on to university.
One immediate observation is that boys in secondary school lose all
interest in attending a trade or technical training program. Secondary
school females drop sharply their interest in nursing and replace it
with university. Also, as a total, fewer primary school students aspire
to secondary school than secondary school students aspire to university.
It seems that the longer one is in school the higher one's aspirations.
To provide a sense of scale, Dominica's population in 1980 was
estimated at about 80,000 people (with roughly 49 percent under
15 years of age). At that time there were 20,681 young people enrolled
in primary and junior secondary school and 2,525 enrolled in secondary
school. The drop in enrollment is stark, and does not include how many
of that number will yet quit school or drop out during the academic
year. The number of primary school students who will achieve their goal
of advanced education is minimal, as is the number of secondary school
students who will attend university. Educational aspirations are
Justus next queried her sample as to their occupation preferences.
It should be recognized that the young people's responses may bear
little relation to the occupations they expect to obtain or will obtain.
They do tell us what occupational models students have been exposed to-
by parents, mass media or school--and what social factors may be
J10oyce Justus, "The Utmost for the Highest: Adolescent Aspirations in
Dominica, W.I." (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of
California at Los Angeles, 1971), p. 58.
instrumental in blocking these goals. Primary school males overwhelm-
ingly chose mechanical and technical trades, followed by teaching and
office work. Primary school females selected nursing, teaching, and
clerical work. Secondary school males preferred the professions, fol-
lowed by teaching and "administrative" work. Females at that level
opted for teaching, the professions, and nursing. Little mention was
made of farming. However, the students were not directly asked about
farming, so it is possible they exercised the liberty of giving vent to
their fantasies and aspirations while ignoring certain realities. It is
also conceivable, given the regional proclivity towards occupational
multiplicity, that agriculture may be part of their intended future
work, but not the focal point. As we discovered in face-to-face dis-
cussions with young people (i.e., not questionnaires), there was not an
outright dismissal of farming and the trades, especially the latter.
It is possible that the discrepancy in our findings with those of
the Justus study may be due to three general factors. First, the metho-
dology of our study relied on talking to people on their own territory.
Rather than asking someone to abstractly rank "preferences," we queried
them.as to the possibilities their immediate circumstances offered.
Although certain occupations were aspired to most young people realized
that other occupations were to be expected. It is in the expected
category that they exercised their preferences and spoke of technical
work, skilled labor, the trades and agriculture, provided the latter
could provide a living without undue hardship. Second, there have been
certain advances made in job opportunities for Dominicans since the late
1960s. Perhaps the presence of middle range job possibilities has
attracted young people to think of them, rather than more abstract, al-
most whimsical choices. Finally, Dominica has, in many ways, suffered
through a trying decade. Many grand thoughts, promises, and visionary
claims have fallen flat in the eyes of watchful youth. Their expecta-
tions may be tempered by the demanding experience of the decade in which
they have grown up. Two hurricanes have done little to encourage fantasy.
In fact, it was discovered that young Dominicans have a strong sinse of
commitment to their nation and to working at advancing its interests
as well as their own through hard and diligent labor. Dominican young
people were the most energetic, hard working, and enthusiastic that we
observed during the field trip to the Eastern Caribbean. Devastation
(followed by a renewed political order) seem to motivate young people.
Two instances stand out. First, the government-announced that it
was establishing a pilot project for a youth skills training program to
teach skills such as carpentry, electrical work, auto mechanics and
masonry, (outside of the regime of the technical college). So many
young men showed up from all over the island (no mean feat) that there
was not enough space for them nor staff to process them, nor applica-
tion forms for them to fill out. Officials were flabbergasted. Second,
self-help projects supported by government have been grafted onto local
level community groups to undertake local level, small-scale develop-
ment efforts. Young and old, male and female, were toiling in the noon
day sun rebuilding seawalls, cleaning out brush, fashioning water catch-
ments, and digging road beds with picks and shovels. On top of all of
this, young people--rural and poor--expressed an interest in agricul-
ture--if only they could make a living at it.