Unemployment up to 3.8%

| 11/12/2008

CNS: One of the many statistics regarding Cayman’s economy revealed by Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson yesterday has already caused controversy. The news that the labour force in the third quarter of 2007 was was up to 36,476, but in contrast the unemployment rate also went up to 3.8% in 2007 from 2.6% in 2006, raised questions from the Opposition.

One of numerous statistics in his presentation in support of the Government’s Strategic Policy Statement, Jefferson said that the total labour force as of fall 2007 was estimated at 36,476, reflecting a marginal growth of 1.4% over 2006. “The unemployment rate went up to 3.8% in 2007 from 2.6% in 2006 as total employment increased modestly by 0.2% to reach 35,081,” he said.

The obvious conclusion, which was not missed by the United Democratic Party (UDP), is that whilework permits are being issued to foreign workers to fill the still growing number of jobs, more Caymanians are out of work. Cline Glidden the UDP’s third elected member for West Bay, speaking on Radio Cayman’s Talk Today programme after the SPS was delivered, noted that this indicated there was a serious disconnect.

“With so many Caymanians unemployed there is a disconnect with labour requirements somewhere and the Caymanian  human capital,” he said, pointing out that if the labour force is growing but so were unemployment figures work permits were obviously being issued when there are Caymanians available.

“With the work permit requirements we are supposed to be satisfied that no Caymanians are able to do the work before any permit is issued. When we have significant numbers of Caymanians coming forward saying they can’t get work then we have a problem that needs to be addressed. We can’t have increasing work permits and increasing numbers of unemployed Caymanians. People are reporting to us that work permit holders are taking their jobs,” Glidden added.

While he acknowledged that Cayman was always going to need to import labour, the current problem of Caymanians being sacrificed for low paid workers from overseas had to stop. Captain Eugene Ebanks agreed with his party colleague and said while there was no easy fix the biggest problem was the wage scale.

“Employers pay foreign worker so much less than what Caymanians need they can’t survive with mortgages and school fees, for example, on the rates that some foreign workers are prepared to work for. I’ve heard stories where people are taking turn to sleep in the same apartment when they have day and night shift work so they can reduce overheads and send back everything they make to their home,” he said.

Glidden also raised the concern that the changes in the work permit system and the Immigration law would make it even easier for employers to hire foreign workers instead of Caymanians.

“There is a lot of chest beating about the changes to the immigration law and about making work permits easier to get, allowing business access to competitive labour which is not going to help Caymanians get the jobs,” he said. “We need more administrative scrutiny so that before any permit is granted to any overseas worker we are sure that it there was not a Caymanian available to take the position.”

In his speech the Leader of Government Business had emphasised the need to ensure employers were able to get the best talent they needed in order to stay competitive. “The charge that Government is not standing up for Caymanians is without foundation. Government always acts whenever hard evidence is presented to support charges of job discrimination against Caymanians. We cannot act unless hard evidence is presented. If I must be very clear, Government supports a Caymanians first policy when it comes to employment, as long as the applicants satisfy the requirements for the job.”

 He said however, if suitably qualified or skilled Caymanians are not available or are not interested then employers can turn to foreign labour.

“Admittedly, this policy has not always worked as government would like. Regardless of our best efforts, some employers will occasionally seek to get around this ‘Caymanians First’ policy to recruit who they wish. This is not unique to the Cayman Islands. It happens in just about every country.”

He said with the new immigration regulations, government was aiming to strike a balance between the needs of employers and the aspirations of Caymanians who want to use their skills to participate in the economic development of our country.

“To support the continued growth of our economy and to ensure that our key industries remain globally competitive and on the cutting edge technologically, especially in these challenging times, it is also necessary to bring in workers with specialist skills which are not available here,” he stated.

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  1. Robert S says:

    In response to one of the above writers please note that I personally understand that there are some Caymanians that do not want to work or simply have a very poor work attitude.  That is not news to me, but that catagory of persons are so few for anyone to class them alongside the hard working Caymanians who are under paid in their banking/law/accounting roles.  When a Caymanian has worked towards excelling in the Company they work for by vying for a promotion and then when they walk in on a Monday morning there is a Temp in position who was retained through a recruitment agency temporarily for the company to ‘try them out’ and then take over the work permit and take the individual on full time.  This is what builds animosity, prejudice and in your words ‘racism’.  For once imagine yourself in that position and then see how you feel?

    Caymanians are being passed over everyday for jobs.  Immigration is allowing local companies to import persons from overseas and pay them half what they would pay a Caymanian with the same qualifications.  Is it fair for a Caymanian to go to the US, UK or Canada to gain their degree in say Accounting and become certified as a PA or CPA or whatever they are using these days and then come back home and take a job for US$25,000 a year.  There is only two nationalities in the world that would come here and work for that little pay, and they are Filipinos and Indians etc.  Sadly these individuals are converting their residences to ‘shift living’.  Most of these individuals are so happy to get the job they don’t care where they live or how they live.  We are causing the fabric of our society to be degraded in these areas as well.  It is alright for companies to try and save, but to whose disadvantage?  Certainly not there’s.  Greed is what is causing our society to crumble and fall.

    Caymanians have the hardest times in their own country.  There are foreigners who come here to work as bartendars and waitresses and hang their personal paintings on the walls of their employers place of business and put price tags on them.  Is this illegal?  Yes it is!  They are trading illegally and the establishment should be fined for such acts.  Anyone who trades in the Cayman Islands owes the Government an annual Fee either in the form of a Company Registration or through a Trade & Business License or both.  Who is being prejudicial now?  The foreigner who breaks the laws of this country? or the Caymanian who reports them? 

    These are the same foreigners who are prejudical to us when we go into a store, restaurant, etc.  We do not get the same service as the others do, and we certainly see this treatment everyday.  But I would hope that when the May 2009 Election comes around that there will be on the manifesto of many if not all a taxation fee for every person gainfully employed in the Cayman Islands on a work permit.  The employer should be made to provide proof of payment each month to the Govt. and include a 1% tax on their monthly salary payable to the CI Government for the previlge of living and working here.  This ‘Free Enterprise" has to be regulated and protected for Caymanians only.

    On another note, what about the companies who hire Caymanians just to make up numbers for a work permit application and then find some reason to fire them during the probationary period after filing the work permit.  Does Immigration confirm that information is correct?  What about the South African Lawyer who was practising law here on a work permit for a local law firm and was only certified as a paralegal?  Some how this person got through the system undetected.  But what puzzles me more is how did he slip through two completely different systems: 1. The HR Dept at the law firm and 2. The Immigration Dept.  Or the best one yet, a woman was hired to work as a Manager for a local company who claimed she had Caymanian Status in the mass grant giveaway sweepstakes by the UDP Govt. back in 2003.  She was hired by a person from her own country.  But the quering Caymanian whose promotion she took did a background check on her and found she was here on time, the time was expired and what was worse the Immigration Dept. didn’t have a clue about her as she had never been granted Caymanian Status.

    Finally, when people accuse Caymanians of being racist it is certainly unfair and not a true statement.  Caymanians are friendly, kind andcompassionate, and these attributes are what is hurting us today.  Caymanians should all be first class citizens in their country, this second and third class is no longer going to be tolerated. Caymanians must be given the job preference first when they have the same qualifications and experience as the non Caymanian.



  2. Alan Partridge says:

    I don’t know of the legislation in the US or South Africa, but in the UK, Ireland and any other European Union country, it is illegal to discriminate any person on the basis of nationality.

    If there is a room of candidates for a London job, lets say, one from the UK, one from France and one from Brazil, and they all have exactly the same skills, then the one who interviews best will get the job.

    In fact, Caymanians as British Commonwealth status holders have the right to work (without a permit I might add) anywhere in the UK or anyother part of the European Union.  In the UK, a Caymanian is entitled to free healthcare benefits as a commonwealth citizen.

    So please, do not attempt to tar the UK, or any country in Europe as having the same discrimatory legislation as you have in Cayman.

    As a nation you’re already on thin ice with your laws.  Given that you have made claim to EU funds, you should also be enacting EU laws, that would include the freedom of any EU citizen to work in any other part of the EU and it’s dependencies.  This already applies in the French OTs of Martinique and Guadeloupe.  And I believe that Aruba are having to enact Dutch law there.


    • Anonymous says:

      Alan Partridge,

      On a point of information, Caymanians "as British Commonwealth status holders" did not have the right to work in the UK or the rest of the EU. It was only when British Citizenship (which mean that we were also EU citizens) was conferred by the Overseas Territories Act 2002 that such a right arose. 

      The British system is and has always been disriminatory. It disriminated between Citizens of the Uk and Colonies in the British Isles (Jersey, Guernsey etc.) and those  in the Caribbean; it conferred rights of abode on Falkland Islanders when the they were simply BDTCs like the rest of us. 

      As a student there I was taken out of immigration queue which said British passport holders and put into a queue with foreigners from every other country . 

      Caymanians are not entitled to "free healthcare benefits" in the UK. First it is not "free" but paid for by National Insurance contributions over the years. 

      Finally, while it may be theoretically possible for me to work in the UK there is no way that I would be given a job over an Englishman no matter the qualifications or experience. 

      You may wish to imagine that the UK is free from disrimination but that is as far removed from the truth as the east is from the west. The British wrote the book on discrimination.  

      And by the way, we enquired if there were any strings attached to the EU funds and were assured there were none. 




  3. Anonymous says:

    As an educated, hard working Caymanian who does not feel entitled to anything but the opportunity to use my considerable skills to support my family, I must say that I am SICK and TIRED of people saying Caymanians are lazy and and unskilled.

    To all the expats saying that protecting the rights of Caymanian CITIZENS is racist – I ask them about the polices in their countries. In any country I can think of, the citizens of that country get first preference for jobs. It is only right. I do not expect to go to the USA, UK orCanada and get preferential treatment over a citizen of those countries – even if I was more qualified!

    Discrimination against Caymanians is RAMPANT in the private sector. I have personally seen – in both a local telecoms company and a local bank – that companies will identify an expat for the job, and although they interview QUALIFIED Caymanians for the job – the job ultimately goes to the expat they wanted from the start. And Immigration does NOTHING.

    One clueless expat actually came to me and said he had a problem because he’d set up a job for a friend of his from his home (European) country and had just interviewed a Caymanian "who could actually do the job."  He was upset because he needed to find a way to get his buddy over here despite having a suitable local candidate. And guess what? His friend eventualy got the job and is here on a work permit enjoying a salary of over CI$80,000 per year, tax free, with benefits for relocating to the Cayman Islands that a local would never get – including a company car, his rent and utilities subsidized. I can almost guarantee he was not getting such a great package on the rainy isle from whence he came. And that means a CAYMANIAN family does not get these benefits.

    The inequities are glaringly obvious. Perhaps government is more interested in collecting work permit fees than it is in protecting the livelihood and rights of Caymanians. To all expats who call us lazy and stupid and then turn around and call us racist for trying to protect our rights – YOU are the  ones engaging in racist streotypes in order to  maintain the cushy status quo you have been handed on a platter by our government.

    But what can we expect from a government that has so many foreign workers on contract in the Civil Service – yet institutes a hiring  freeze to save money? The whole situation is LUDICROUS. The Civil Service is HUGE for such a small country. And how many of those roles are a) unneccessary and b) filled by expats who get government health benefits and pensions PLUS a good salary? Why not do an audit of public jobs and send home all non-essential foreign workers? And then hire Caymanians to fill the positions that are really needed. The government needs to set an example for the private sector first, and then ENFORCE the laws we do have to protect the employment of this country’s citizens who want only to provide for their families.

    I am not anti-expat. I am not a racist. I understand that we have a small population and need skills that are not present in the local labour force. However, the time has come to recognise that our system has been exploited and corrupted. The current siutation will breed only discontent and ethnic separatism and antagonism. And will ultimately lead to disaster. As can be seen by the global recession, we are not immune to the pitfalls of other countries.

    This government (which I initially supported) had the chance to make positive change, but instead we are going headlong into social and economic disaster.

    Who is going to stand up for the people of this country? WHO?


  4. Anonymous says:

    I am an expat and from what I have seen Caymanians are similar to most nationalities that a small percentage are work shy, but the vast majority are hard working. I sometimes end up working 14 hours a day and the Caymanians around me will do the same and pull their weight.

    At the end of the day it doesn’t matter, the only Caymanians out of work should be the ones that don’t want to work, every other Caymanian should be employed somewhere, after all what are there 30,000 caymanians and 60,000 jobs. Caymanians should be employed first and for most it’s the law and it obviously needs to be better enforced.

    When Caymanian school children see their peers unemployed, it must make the wonder why bother doing well in school

  5. Anonymous says:

    I totally agree with you that the Immigration Department and the Employment Relations Department are not working together because there are alot of Caymanian out here that are unemployed who are educated that can hold jobs but are not considered for them. All you can hear the companies say we do not have anything for you at the time but two days later there is a work permit being submitted for a non-caymanian for a work permit.  Do not tell me that Caymanians are not hard working because they are.  There may be a few that take advantage because they know that they are Caymanians but majority of Caymanians are hard working people even though some of them may have made mistakes this is being held against them and because Cayman is a small place these people cannot find jobs.  Everyone in life makes mistakes so if you live in a glass house do not throw stones because remember that person that you turned down for a job maybe the person that would have been the harder and most dedicated worker but because of a mistake that the person made in the past this is held against them.  It is some of own fellow Caymanians that are holding us down and that is so sad.  Cayman is losing is way because of commercialism.  What is happening Cayman.

    I am a Caymanian who has been unemployed for almost three months and has hit a dead end with every application submitted. I have applied to the Temp Agencies and Employment Services and has yet to find a job.  I have even sent my information to the Immigration Department advising them of the jobs that I applied for and nothing has happened. I am a qualified Caymanian with nearly 30 years in the working world.  It would be interesting to know how many of the positions that I have applied for have actually been filled with fellow Caymanians.  I met a gentlemen the other day who told me that he had lost his job and he did not know what he was going to do because he only had a $100 to his name to support his family with and he was crying. When I sat down and listened to this man’s story I realised that he was alot worse off than me even though I do not have a job and have financial obligations, he was alot worse off than me because I have a few good friends that are there with moral support for me and he had no one. He did not know about the employment services so I told him about them and helped him get a appointment to see them.  He said so grateful for this and thanked me. There are Caymanians out there that are unemployed but do not have the means of registering with the Employment Relations or even sending there information to the Immigration Department. Thru this median I ask the Employment Services and Immigration Department to work together to hep solve this unemployment problem in Cayman. 

  6. Twyla Vargas says:



  7. Anonymous says:

    The unemployment percentages should have broken into categories so as to identify the problem areas. It’d be a lot different if qualified Caymanians were being turned away from professional positions – doctors/lawyer/accountants. Those types of positions require a high level of education, experience, and certifications. If a Caymanian has pushed themselves to achieve that high standard than they certainly deserve the right to hold the position.

    On the other hand, if this unemployed group is composed of individuals that have have no college degree or, even worse, high school drop outs than for what positions are they even qualified. Construction, Tourism, Service industry? With the economic crisis, those areas maybe the hardest hit on this island, along with receptionists and administrative staff in the other sectors.

    Additionally, it is very expensive to hire and train an new employee. It is a frustrating experience to then have that person leave the company after a short term employment simply because they are not on a work permit and won’t get kicked off the island.

    Hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t work hard. This adage is doubly true when your only talent is one’s nationality! You can’t expect to make $100K /yr if you haven’t put the effort forth to achieve the required skills.

    Not only are Caymanians that espouse the belief “they are owed a high paying job” hurting themselves, they are also disenfranchising those people that came here to make a living and contribute to the community they now call home. According to the United Nations conventions, there is no distinction between the term racial discrimination and ethnic discrimination. This is racism pure and simple and its UGLY!!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I would be interested to see stats of which jobs Caymanians actually apply for?!….. as I don’t really see any in the service industry, which I would imagine would be an area where most people could find a job regardless of their educational level.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Robert S…I cannot agree MORE!  I actually worked for both big Telcoms as a person married to a Caymanian and even had a one-on-one personal meeting with the Big Man Franz himself to tell him that it was WRONG for these companies to keep hiring ex-pats when I had produced very qualified Caymanians for the jobs.  I tell you first hand that my complaint was ignored even after the facts went to the Head of Immigration.  It is time to reorganize the entire department and the Boards.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I totally agree with you.  Here is one Caymanian who has been unemployed for almost 1 year and has hit a dead end with every application submitted. Not even the recruitment agencies have been of any help. It would be interesting to know how many of the positions that I have applied for have actually been filled with fellow Caymanians. It’s sad how our little island has become a place where every year more and more foreigners are employed yet Caymanians can’t get a decent job.  With one local company laying off more than half of their staff, where are all of those people going to find jobs? Something needs to be done urgently.

  11. Anonymous says:

    As someone who has been around and been on the shores of the Cayman Islands for a bit i feel it necessary to add another dimension to this article. I know of a situation where a local was given the chance to obtain gainful employment. With in the space of two days the company had to release this employee. This person was let go because of poor work ethic. Are we saying that companies have to put up with this because they are locals?

  12. Robert S says:

    After reading this article I am forced to ask the question why it is that the Leader of Government Business Min. Kurt Tibbetts feels that it is necessary for potential employees have to supply ‘hard evidence’?  This only proves more so that Caymanians are being disenfranchised.  The Caymanian individual who qualifies should always get the job, there should be no need for ‘hard evidenc’ to the contrary.  Do you think that employer is going to entertain that Caymanians application a second time around after they have reported them to either the Dept of Employment Relations or Immigration?  Once that work permit is granted, that’s the end of the situation until a renewal comes around and a Caymanian is yet again on the employment line, (so close, but yet so far). 

    Immigration may attempt to divert the reasoning behind their actions, but remember this , Immigration DO NOT REVOKE WORK PERMITS after they have been ratified by the board or granted, and this rule stays regardless if ‘hard evidence’ has been given to support the claim that a Caymanian was passed over in favour of the foreigner.   That work permit will continue on until it expires and then something is done about it, or you would hope that’s the case.  The actions of the  Immigration Dept. in some of these cases offer more protection to the foreigner on a work permit than their own Caymanian.  Bringing me to the point I want to make and that is it is time that Immigration have absolutely nothing more to do with the granting of work permits.  This should be placed solely in the hands of the Dept. of Employment Relations.  Lets stop playing the fool and re-organize these Boards.

    Immigration’s role in this country should be simple – guard our gateways from illegal immigrants; deal with overstayers; enforce illegal workers!

    Do you know that a local telecom provider has a foreign receptionist working through a temping agency on a work permit?  Can’t a Caymanian be found to fill this job?  That’s just one example of jilting Caymanians out of work.  Call the DER and ask them how many receptionist they have listed?  Surprise!  I found this out by just making a phone call.  And they have Office Assistants/Secretaries/Filing Clerks/Cashiers and much more Caymanians with experience out of work.

    I am publicly calling for an apology from the Leader of Government Business for his comment.  We the constituents will want ‘hard evidence’ from you and your PPM Party elected officials that you are capable of retaining your seats come May 2009.  Also, UDP don’t think you will get off lightly as well, you better provide yours too. 
    No more foolishness from either side.  We want elected officials running our Government who will protect Caymanian rights and the rights to be Caymanian.