The most recent figures available from the Immigration Department indicate there are close to 30,000 foreign residents from more than 130 nations now living in the Cayman Islands.
According to data kept by the Economics and Statistics Office, there were 24,865 work permits active in Cayman as of 22 December, 2006. However, those figures do not include the number of dependents, non-working family members, of those permit-holders.
Permanent residents, expatriates working here on civil service contracts, and refugees who are allowed to stay are also not included in the figures.
The immigration records are essentially a snapshot; a look into how many work permits are active at any given time in Cayman. They tend to fluctuate depending on labour and market demands.
Government has always kept track of such data, but this year is the first time the records have been posted on the statistics office website for general public review.
Figures concerning the dependents of work permit holders are less exact.
Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson recently asked his staff to review the number of dependents in Cayman at the request of the Caymanian Compass. Mr. Manderson said computer records showed there were at least 2,600 non-working family members of permit-holders on island.
However, Mr. Manderson suspected the number is actually far greater. Former Work Permit Board Chairman David Ritch estimated last year that there were 6,000 dependents living in Cayman (see Compass, 21 August, 2006).
Mr. Ritch’s successor, Sharon Roulstone, said she has asked the Immigration Department for more current figures on dependents of work permit holders, but has not received any to date.
Mr. Manderson said the number of dependents fluctuates even more than the number of work permit holders.
‘If you run the report on Friday afternoon at 5 o’clock, and you said ‘tell me how many people on island are dependents,’ anyone who left the island prior to 5 o’clock is not going to be counted,’ Mr. Manderson said.
‘I just think there’s more (than 2,600 dependents),’ he said.
The number of expatriate civil service employees is also being calculated as part of government’s efforts to institute a seven-year term limit on residency for its foreign workers, similar to what is now being done in the private sector.
One Cabinet minister has estimated that ‘close to a couple thousand’ civil servants would require work permits if two-year government contracts were ended.
What the data shows
According to the 22 December figures, Cayman had more work permits active than ever by the end of 2006. Immigration data shows the number of permits here have increased steadily from the mid-1990’s right through to last year, with only two slight drops being recorded at the turn of the century, and again between 2004 and 2005.
The data ‘snapshot’ taken at the end of last year showed that workers from Caribbean nations made up nearly half the permit holders in Cayman. Jamaicans are the overwhelming majority of those, with some 10,828 holding active work permits at the end of last year. However, that number had actually fallen by about 1,200 since the end of 2005.
Asians are the second most populous group of work permit holders. In 2006, for the first time in a decade, Filipinos became the nationality with the second-largest number of work permit-holders in Cayman, surpassing Canadians.
Canadian work-permit holders were the third largest nationality represented with 1,949 people; followed by permit-holders from the United Kingdom (1,822), the US (1,487), and Honduras (1,358).
Among the fastest-growing nationalities in terms of work permit holders were people from the Philippines, who went from 1,615 permits at the end of 2005 to 2,353 permits at the end of last year, a nearly 46 per cent increase.
Work permits granted to people from India also increased by a healthy 39 per cent from the end of 2005 (547) to the end of 2006 (762).
Jamaicans saw the largest drop in work permits being granted, about a ten percent decrease from December 2005 to December 2006. The number of Hondurans who were issued work permits fell by about five per cent over that same time.
Some nationalities have not seen any significant change. The number of Americans in Cayman on work permits at the end of 2006 was virtually the same as the number that were here at the end of 2002.
There were 232 Irish here on work permits at the end of 1995; by the end of 2006 that number was 234 permit-holders.