For only the second time within the past 25 years, the
Cayman Islands’ overall population fell in 2009, according to final estimates
released in the government’s Compendium of Statistics.
That drop is partly reflective of the declining
international economy. However, Premier McKeeva Bush also told the Legislative
Assembly on Wednesday that the population slide is partly to blame for Cayman’s
own recent economic woes.
“In a country that’s dependent on services of all
kinds…this also means that when people in great numbers leave here, there is
the loss of their economic contribution,” Mr. Bush said.
According to figures at the end of 2009, there were
52,830 people living in the Cayman Islands, 59 per cent of them Caymanians.
Although the Caymanian population dipped slightly, a
nearly 14 per cent drop in the non-Caymanian population accounted for most of
the drop-off. By the end of 2009, statisticians estimated that non-Caymanians
made up 41 per cent of the Islands’ population.
The only other time since 1985 that Cayman’s overall
population has fallen during any one year was 2004. That drop was largely
temporary due to the devastation from Hurricane Ivan.
The last time the non-Caymanian population dropped from
year-to-year (excepting the anomaly caused by Hurricane Ivan) was 2003.
The country’s estimated non-Caymanian population during
2008 was 25,152; last year that number fell to 21,665.
“To some people…this would be fantastic,” Mr. Bush said.
“But, to me, one of the reasons we don’t have a good economy today is we don’t
have as many people.”
The premier admitted that – as late as the 1990s – he was
among those “convinced” that fewer people in Cayman would have been better for
That’s not so now.
“We know that is not the case,” he told lawmakers. “It
would be ideal if we had all the money in the world. But 31,000 Caymanians
cannot sustain this economy and cannot sustain the way of life that we have.”
“We are all so interdependent on each other.”
Mr. Bush said he believed Cayman was able to benefit from
the failures of other Caribbean countries in the 1950s and 1960s to maintain
and attract foreign investment. However, he said the country has not learned
from its past successes and today is starting to make the same mistakes the
other jurisdictions made, driving business to jurisdictions like Canada and
“It happened because people brought their money, we
allowed them to invest, and we benefited,” Mr. Bush said.
“When we move people out, spending goes down. Call me a
fool, call me short-sighted; the facts are the facts.”
The 2009 statistical report also reported these facts
about the makeup of Cayman’s population:
The largest single population group of any in the
statistical report was Caymanians from birth to age 14. That group made up an
estimated 24.5 per cent of the total Caymanian population.
As far as working-age people, the age 25-34 group and age
35-44 group were still made up of a majority of non-Caymanians. According to
the report, there were a total of 8,480 Caymanians between the ages of 25-44
living here in 2009, while there were 13,220 non-Caymanians of that age group
At 45 and older, those numbers were reversed, with Caymanians
making up the majority of those 45 and over on the Islands.