Letter to the Editor: Caymanian population too small

Mr. Binns’ accurate assessment and frustration regarding Caymanian employment is grounded in a harsh reality.

Perhaps I can shine a light on the issue from a different perspective.

During the 70s and 80s work permits were very difficult to obtain and Caymanians as a consequence were well paid and thoroughly trained, not only to attract them and improve their skills, but also to keep them from being hired by other employers.

The negative side of that situation was that with a limited labour force many businesses were unable to expand under a highly restrictive immigration policy. Today, 30 years later, that situation has been completely reversed and I believe that Caymanians are now caught in an employment trap.

After looking at salaries and artfully constructed job descriptions offered in employment advertisements and talking to my ex-employees and friends about this subject it appears to me that real wages in Cayman have fallen to half of their level of 25 years ago and that training and development leading to substantial salary improvements for Caymanians is nearly non-existent.

Obviously the cause of this shift in fortune for the Caymanian employee has been the shrinking Caymanian labour force and the resulting wide-open work permit policy that is increasingly making Caymanian participation in an indentured employment culture irrelevant.

When a labour force is mostly transient, whether seasonal or only here to go in seven years time, everyone involved, companies and employees begin to extract as much juice out of the system as they can. Companies reduce salaries and import labour from the cheapest countries in the world and with a ready pool of hungry, well trained replacements, they don’t invest in education and improvement programmes, and they are minimally concerned about fair employment practices (indentured servants don’t complain).

Salaries and benefits will continue to migrate down to near third world levels and Caymanian don’t get the training or experience to qualify for the ‘fancy’ new jobs that are advertised.

Years ago the foreign employee expecting to stay here bought a house, participated in Cayman life and was trained along with their Caymanian co-workers to higher levels of earning power.

Now the new arrivals are husbanding cash in anticipation of leaving and it is the people who settled here years ago, the new Caymanians that are helping to keep Cayman going during these tough times.

Caymanian concern for employment issues has always focused on keeping the Caymanian population small.

Perhaps we should have been expanding the Caymanian population over the last 30 years instead of reducing it, at the rate that we are going the Caymanian percentage of the labour force will be so small in a few years time that it will not matter any more and Caymanians will need to save all of their cash in order to retire in one of those third-world countries that we are hiring from.

Dennis Smith

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