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
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.