Pay, education disparities found

Women still lag behind in pay, and native Caymanians still have less formal education than their expatriate counterparts, according to a study released last week by the Cayman Islands Department of Employment Relations.

The 2005 Occupational Wage Survey is the second such review compiled by DER. Department Director Walling Whittaker presented the findings to the Cayman Islands Society of Human Resources Professionals at the Marriott Grand Cayman Resort on 18 January.

The news for Cayman was mixed.

Overall salaries were not keeping up with cost-of-living expenses at the time the study was completed in September 2005. Mr. Whittaker said women’s salaries, on average, were not on par with men who held the same or similar jobs, though in specific fields salaries showed women being paid more.

‘There’s a disparity in gender. Women are still being paid as much as 10 per cent less in some cases,’ said Mr. Whittaker.

Caymanians are doing a bit better in the workplace these days, when compared to the previous study in 2003. Mr. Whittaker said there were some signs of breaking through the glass ceiling.

‘More Caymanians are penetrating the higher earning occupations, and that is a testament to the island’s immigration plan,’ said Mr. Whittaker. ‘That comes with a caution. There’s not a direct correlation between those numbers and an increasing educational element.’

This issue raises at least the potential that some employees in the private sector could be promoted to jobs that they are not properly trained or even qualified for. The study did not review salaries for government jobs.

‘I have no evidence…to indicate how people got promoted; what was the rationale for them to get up there,’ said Mr. Whittaker.

‘Don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just telling you,’ Mr. Whittaker joked with the crowd at the Marriott Resort.

The report showed just over 9.5 per cent of Caymanian workers surveyed held a bachelor’s degree in 2005. Those Caymanians who held post-graduate degrees in 2005 made up just 2.2 per cent of those surveyed.

12.7 per cent of the people surveyed who were here on work permits in 2005 had earned a bachelor’s degree. Post-graduate degrees were also more common among work-permit holders; 3.9 per cent of those surveyed had them.

The overall workforce in Cayman was better paid and better educated in 2005 than it was in 2003, the survey showed.

The number of high school graduates on the island increased by about 2.5 per cent in the more recent study, and the number of people surveyed who had bachelors or post-grad degrees went up by more than four percent.

Despite working roughly the same number of hours, people were making about $440 more per month in the 2005 survey than they were in the 2003 survey.

Mr. Whittaker said government’s aggressive education system reform plans should go a long way toward improving disparities in learning and training in the future. He also noted simply having a college education didn’t mean someone was necessarily better qualified for a job.

‘There are many Caymanians who are excellent workers, and highly capable not withstanding having a degree,’ he said.

Some human resources professionals in the audience didn’t necessarily agree with the DER’s statistical findings on the educational or job promotion issues.

‘I am very leery and weary of what you’ve given us today,’ said Beverly Banks or Softtech Computers LTD. ‘Caymanians are not the highest earning employees.’

Ms Banks also noted that many larger corporations still aren’t providing workers; particularly single parents, with proper day care options, which she said was trapping some Caymanians in a cycle of low-paying, dead-end jobs.

The survey also broke down categories of jobs and found there are several industries in which Caymanians are either not finding employment, or aren’t seeking it.

According to those surveyed, expatriates dominated the fields of agriculture, construction, retail shops, hotels, and surprisingly education.

Meanwhile, Caymanians tended to work more in the fields of gas and electric supply, telecommunication, finance, insurance and real estate.

The 2005 survey covered 280 business establishments in Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, and Cayman Brac who responded to the questionnaire issued by the DER. Nearly 3,600 workers were queried; about 52 per cent were men, 48 per cent were women. 96 percent were full time employees.

52.9 per cent of sampled employees in the 2005 studies were work permit holders, and 47.1 per cent were Caymanians.

The average work week in September 2005, according to surveyed workers, was 41.23 hours. The average monthly salary was $3,666.10 for salaried workers; and about $1,790 per month for weekly wage earners.

The survey has a statistical margin of error of 2.34 per cent.