Population boomed post Ivan

The Cayman Islands’ population rebounded after Hurricane Ivan in September 2004 at a rate faster than previously.

The report prepared by Philip Pedley for the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs titled ‘Population Scenarios: Past Trends and Future Possibilities’ notes the population dip that occurred after Hurricane Ivan and suggests several reasons for the steep population increase between 2004 and 2005.

‘There was huge exodus of people both before and after Ivan struck on September 11- 12 2004,’ the report states. ‘As a result, the population fell for its year-end figure of 44,144 in 2003 to an artificial low of 36,340 in December 2004.’

The 7,804 fewer people in Cayman between the end of 2003 and 2004 is less than the Immigration Department estimate at the time that 10,000 people left as a result of Hurricane Ivan. However, some of those people returned before the end of the year.

Cayman’s year-end population in 2004 then jumped an amazing 16,125 people – 44.37 per cent – by year-end 2005.

‘…With the return of residents [after Ivan] and the arrival of newcomers to aid recovery, the population rose steeply to reach 52,465 by December 2005,’ Mr. Pedley wrote.

Another factor that might have contributed to the large increase in population from 2004 to 2005 was the Caymanian Status grants made in late 2003 and 2004.

‘Initially, these grants did not so much add to the population as move those already in it from one column to another, namely from the non-Caymanian column to the Caymanian column,’ the report states. ‘However, those receiving Caymanian status could have been encouraged to stay in Cayman, to return to Cayman, or to bring to Cayman dependants who were not living here.’

Those grants of Caymanian Status included 2,850 made by Cabinet and more than 900 made by the Permanent Residency and Caymanian Status Board.

‘Given the number involved – at least 5,000 people including dependents, according to the Immigration Department – the new Status grants probably had some effect on the overall population,’ Mr. Pedley wrote. ‘The effect might have been partially hidden by the big exodus before and after Ivan. If so, the return of the new Status holders and their dependents during 2005 may have helped swell the population to its new peak by year’s end.’

Between 1970 and 2006, Cayman’s population had grown by the average annual increase of 4.73 per cent per year, the report points out. If the population had grown by that rate in 2004 and 2005, it would have reached 48,419 by December 2005.

‘The fact that it rose instead to 52,465 points to an unusual influx of people,’ Mr. Pedley wrote. ‘It seems likely that the combination of newly arrived workers, many of whom may have stayed on after the immediate recovery from Ivan, and new Status grant holders with their dependents could have a added at least 4,000 to the baseline population.’

Although Cayman’s population rose sharply during 2005 for those possible special reasons, it also continued to rise in 2006, but at a much slower rate. The year-end population in 2006 was 707 people – or 1.34 per cent – higher than the previous December.

The Caymanian Status grants aside, Mr. Pedley points out that most of Cayman’s 428 per cent population growth over the past 36 years has been due to immigration much more than to the natural increase by Caymanians.

Mr. Pedley points out as an example that birth rates declined during the 1970s even as the overall population increased sharply.

And when the population increased 16,125 people from 2004 to 2005, the 2005 Statistical Compendium showed only 699 births and 170 deaths during 2005, for a net on-island increase of 529 people, or 3.28 per cent of the total population increase for the year.