In 1997 unemployment was estimated at 4.5 percent. Conditions in the antiquated agricultural sector are poor, with long hours and hard labor demanded, especially during the cane-cutting season. Average day rates in the sugar industry can be as low as US$10. A part of the labor force, especially during the annual harvest, has to be imported from poorer nations such as Guyana. The sugar labor force varies according to the season, but in the cutting season from March to July there are approximately 1,500 workers employed. The St. Kitts-Nevis Labor Union, once a powerful voice for the rights of sugar workers, is now severely weakened.
In contrast, wages and conditions in manufacturing, tourism, and the financial services sector are average or above-average for the region, and trade unions are effective in monitoring compliance with labor laws. There is no informal sector and little evidence of child labor, while women are active in most areas of employment except the sugar industry. Basic labor rights such as sick pay are observed.