Labour trends troubling

Caymanian unemployment rose significantly between 2006 and 2008, according to figures just released by the government’s Economics and Statistics Office.

But what is even more troubling, according to the Fall 2008 labour force survey, is the rate of unemployment among Cayman Islands school leavers. A questionnaire distributed to nearly 1,300 households in the Islands found that almost 36 per cent of those aged 15-19 who listed themselves to be ‘in the work force’ – looking for work — were unemployed.

In the spring of 2006, that unemployment rate among 15-19 year olds was 19 per cent.

Overall, Cayman’s unemployment rate hit four per cent in the fall of 2008. That was up just slightly from 2007, which saw total unemployment of 3.8 per cent.

Unemployment in the spring of ’06 was just 2.6 per cent.

An estimated 1,549 people were without jobs in fall 2008. According to the statistics office survey; 75 per cent (1,169 people) were Caymanian, 25 per cent (380 people) were non-Caymanian.

It is normal for unemployment figures among expatriate workers in Cayman to be relatively low. In most cases foreigners who are not employed are not allowed to remain in the Islands unless they are married to a Caymanian, a permanent resident, or a dependant of a work permit holder.

When considered separately, unemployment amongst expatriate workers was around 1.8 per cent for fall ’08, while the unemployment rate among Caymanians was 6.6 per cent.

According to the survey, 791 people aged 15-19 were considered to be ‘in the workforce’ – in other words looking for work, not attending university or employed off Island. Of those 791 people, an estimated 282 were unemployed in the fall of ’08.

‘Hence, more than one-third of the youth (15-19 years) in the labour force were unemployed, most of them Caymanians,’ the statistics office study noted.

Unemployment rates among those aged 20-24 dropped sharply to just below six per cent.

There was also a marked change in the makeup of the Cayman Islands workforce when compared to the spring of ’06, according to the statistics office figures.

In spring 2006, the labour survey stated there were 18,303 Caymanians and 17,656 non-Caymanians in the work force.

As of fall 2008, the statistics office estimated the number of Caymanian workers had actually fallen to 17,686, while the number of non-Caymanian workers had grown to some 21,313.

The labour survey numbers may be in dispute on this point. Immigration Department data obtained by the Caymanian Compass as of 1 November, 2008, showed there were 26,659 individuals here on work permits, government contracts or working as an operation of law.

Only those without permanent residence or Caymanian status would be required to obtain a work permit or government contract before coming to the Islands. Those working as an operation of law are either awaiting board decisions on permanent residence or appeals of work permit refusals.

Where the jobs are

According to the statistics office survey, the top five employers in the Cayman Islands during the fall of 2008 remained construction (employing 15.5 per cent of the work force), real estate (13.4 per cent), wholesale and retail (12.6 per cent), financial services (10.1 per cent), and education, health and social work (7.9 per cent).

In terms of actual occupations, the top five were listed as 1. professionals, technicians, and associate professionals; 2. craft and related workers; 3. legislators senior officials and managers; 4. sales and services occupations; 5. personal service workers.

The labour survey is still showing a significant divide in terms of jobs held most often by Caymanians and those held more often by non-Caymanians.

According to the survey, the most popular jobs for Caymanians were senior officials and managers, office clerks, drivers and mobile plant operators, plant and machine operators, customer service clerks and protective service workers.

Non-Caymanians made up the majority of sales and services workers, personal services workers, labourers, agriculture and fishery workers, and professionals, technicians and associate professionals.

An estimated 1,549 people were without jobs in fall 2008. According to the statistics office survey; 75 per cent (1,169 people) were Caymanian, 25 per cent (380 people) were non-Caymanian.

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