The mainstays of the Jamaican economy are bauxite mining, alumina production, agriculture and the tourist industry, which is the largest foreign exchange earner.
Many Jamaicans work in agriculture. Some work on small plots of land attached to their homes, while others work on large estates owned by companies. Farmers use traditional methods and their livelihood is vulnerable to price fluctuations and damaging storms. Major crops include sugarcane, bananas, coffee, citrus fruits, tobacco, cocoa and livestock such as goats and poultry. Colonizers began Jamaica's sugar industry, and it remains the most important agricultural product. Marijuana (ganja) is also a widely-though illegally-grown crop.
Jamaica's most lucrative industry is bauxite mining. Raw bauxite is the raw material for aluminum. Companies are also beginning to mine the country's reserves of gypsum, marble, clay and limestone.
The manufacturing sector consists mostly of food processing and the production of clothes and textiles. Other products include rum-an important export-cement, paper and chemicals. Near Kingston and other urban centres, "free zones" offering tax-free operations attract foreign companies and employ many workers. However, manufacturing has been affected by the availability of cheap imports and inflation. Job security is poor.
Tourism brings in substantial revenue to Jamaica. Many Jamaicans work in tourism at all levels, from roadside vendors to transport operators and hotel managers. However, tourism tends to be concentrated in all-inclusive resorts on the northern side of the island.
Unemployment remains high in Jamaica. The rate is higher for women and young people, despite the fact that some women hold managerial positions at every level and that women are dominant in offices, markets, schoolrooms, hospitals and factories. The government is the island's single largest employer.