Some 37,800 persons make up the workforce. Services accounted for 57% of those employed, with 26% in agriculture and 17% engaged in industry. In 1997 the unemployment rate stood at 22%.
One of the first authentic labor unions in the West Indies was formed in St. Vincent in 1935, during the Great Depression. From this initial Workingman's Association, the labor movement in St. Vincent has developed unions for agricultural workers, dockworkers, civil servants, and teachers. There is some poaching of members among competing trade unions, and the labor movement is gradually losing support. While workers have the right to form unions and strike, employers are not compelled to recognize a union or bargain collectively with them. Many employers do try to maintain good relations with their workers though, and strikes are rare. St. Vincent and the Grenadines joined the International Labor Organization in 1999.
The minimum working age is 16 and this is enforced by the government and respected by employers. Some children under 16 do work on family-owned banana plantations. There is no statutory workweek, but most workweeks are 40 hours long in practice. The minimum wage varies by economic sector and level of employee skill. As of 2002, the minimum wage for agricultural workers was $6.74 per day (not including shelter); and $7.49 per day for industrial workers.