Civil Service sheds foreigners

The Cayman Islands government
service has shed 500 foreign workers from public sector jobs since June 2009,
according to a recent report from the Economics and Statistics Office.

A drop of more than 5,000 foreign
workers residing in the Cayman Islands over the past two years has been
well-reported by the local press, but those figures include the private sector
as well as the civil service.

What has gone largely unnoticed is
a 35 per cent drop in foreign nationals working on contracts between June 2009
and June 2010. The numbers were noted in the statistics office half-year report
on the local economy.

“The government…significantly reduced
its compliment of foreign workers,” the July 2010 report stated. “During the
review period, the number of non-Caymanian civil servants decreased by 35 per
cent.”

According to the statistics office,
some 1,411 foreigners were employed in the civil service in June 2009. A year
later, that number had fallen to 911.

The total number of contract
workers in the civil service, according to the Immigration Department, is
higher – about 1,161 as of the middle part of this year. However, about 200 or
so of those workers are Caymanians over age 60 who, by law, must have a special
contract to continue working in the government service beyond that age.

The corresponding figures for all
work permits for the same period fell just 11 per cent, from 24,270 in mid-2009
to 21,529 in June 2010.

“(This) also marked the fifth
consecutive quarterly decline in work permits,” the mid-year report read. “This
can be attributed to the sharp slowdown in construction, the largest employer
of foreign labour.”

The decline in foreign workers in
the civil service led to a nearly 6 per cent drop in personnel costs between
mid-2009 and mid-2010, with the government’s budget going from CI$123 million
to CI$116 million for personnel.

Personnel costs made up about 45
per cent of the Cayman Islands government’s total expenditure as of the middle
part of this year.

It was unclear from the data
provided in the mid-year economic report whether Caymanians were moving into
the government jobs that had been vacated by foreign nationals. Government has
been operating under a “soft” hiring freeze since late 2008.

In the private sector, labour force
statistics have shown that not to be the case.

The statistics office noted in 2006
that Caymanian unemployment was 6.6 per cent. Toward the end of 2009, that
local unemployment figure had increased to 9.8 per cent. There have been no updated
figures released since then.

A trend that has not been observed
this year in the private sector has also appeared to cement itself – that of
permanent positions being lost.

According to Immigration records
obtained under a Freedom of Information request, the number of new work permit grants
in Cayman has fallen by 1,036 between mid-March 2010 and mid-September 2010.
New permit grants represent the total number of new full-year work permits
given to foreign nationals that are active at the time the count is taken.

Similarly, the number of work
permit renewals active in Cayman as of 17 September had fallen by 825 when
compared to mid-March. Renewals are given to foreign nationals who have already
worked at least one full year in Cayman.

The drop in these two types of
permit categories, generally considered to be for permanent jobs as opposed to
temporary permits or contracts, has only been noticed since the beginning of
this year.

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