Even in high season, numbers drop
A continuing decline in work permit
numbers, even through what is typically the busiest part of the tourist season,
may foreshadow a long, slow summer for Cayman Islands
businesses this year.
According to immigration records
obtained through a Freedom of Information request, the total number of work
permits held by foreign nationals living in Cayman dropped by about 250 between
November 2009 and March 2010.
That drop occurred despite an
increase of nearly 300 temporary work permits (those assigned for less than a
year) between November and March. Temporary work permits are usually given to
seasonal workers in Cayman, although they are often used to bring longer term
workers to the Islands on a first contract.
There are also usually more work
permits active in Cayman during what is known as high season than there are in
the later part of the year. That’s not the case so far in 2010.
Overall, there were 23,105 people
employed in Cayman on work permits, temporary work permits, government
contracts, or working as an operation of the law as of 10 March.
As of 13 November, 2009, there were
23,356 work permits active, according to immigration records.
The work permit numbers do not
include permanent residents or spouses of Caymanians who have obtained the
right to work under law.
The decline in work permits within
the Cayman Islands has occurred fairly steadily since November 2008, when approximately
26,660 foreigners held work permits, government contracts, or were working here
as an operation of the law.
However, the drop in permits that
has occurred since then has not been seen in all categories of work permits
recorded by the Immigration Department.
For instance, those foreign workers
here on work permit renewals – meaning they have been in Cayman for at least
the term of one full-year permit – numbered about 10,500 in November 2008; and
approximately 10,750 now.
Grants of full year work permits
have dropped from nearly 7,600 in November ’08 to 6,670 as of 10 March. That
means there are fewer applications for new full-year work permits – typically a
sign that economic growth has slowed.
Government has also seen a huge
drop in the number of people working in Cayman “as an operation of the law” –
awaiting the result of applications for permanent residence or appealing in
instances where their work permits have been denied.
In November 2008, there were nearly
3,300 people working here on that status. Now, those numbers have been reduced
to little more than 1,500.
Some of those who were working as
an operation of the law have remained in Cayman after their residence
applications were approved. Permanent residence grants the right to remain in
Cayman for the rest of one’s life, but it does not equate to citizenship and
does not give an individual the right to vote.
The last large group of foreign
workers here to see a significant drop in numbers was those employed by the
Cayman Islands Government. In November 2008 there were more than 1,460 contract
workers on the government’s payroll. By 10 March, that number had fallen to