Work permits continue decline

Temporary grants rise, but numbers still down

Despite a solid increase in temporary work permits ahead of Cayman’s busy tourist season, overall work permit numbers fell again between September and December.

The roughly 400-permit drop in those three months left the Cayman Islands with 20,564 people on permits or government contracts as of 31 December, 2010.

When compared to the first quarter of last year, that’s a drop of nearly 2,800 work permits held in Cayman since mid-March 2010.

The vast majority of the decrease between March and December was seen in work permit renewals and new work permits. Since March, there were 1,349 fewer permit renewals and 1,017 fewer new permit grants; about 85 per cent of the drop off in permits for the year.

Work permits are required in Cayman for foreign employees in the private sector. Government workers who are either Caymanians older than 60 or who are from a foreign jurisdiction must obtain a contract prior to taking up the job.

Between September and December last year, temporary work permits increased by about 270 grants; those are six-month grants of the right to work generally provided to seasonal workers or to new employees before their grant of a full year permit. New full-year permit grants also crept up slightly by 19.

However, those moderate increases could not keep pace with the drop in work permit renewals or the decrease in government contract workers.

As of 31 December, there were 524 fewer permit renewals in effect when compared to mid-September. Also, the government service saw a 164-person drop off in contract employees between September and December. The Cayman Islands government service shed 227 contracts between March and December last year.

Work permit numbers have fallen steadily since the latter half of 2008. As of 31 December, 2008, there were 26,517 work permits and government contracts held in the Cayman Islands. Looking at the 31 December, 2010, figures, that’s about a 23 per cent drop off in two years. However, through most of 2009, the decline in permits and contracts occurred in government or with individuals working here as an operation of law, basically awaiting decisions on permanent residence applications or appeals of work permit denials.

Last year, the country started to see the drop off in work permit grants and renewals, indicating a decline in permanent jobs available in Cayman.

In late 2009, economists put Caymanian unemployment at nearly 10 per cent. Early this year, Employment Minister Rolston Anglin said unofficial unemployment was hovering around 9.9 per cent.

Nationalities decline

With the fall off in work permits across the board, most of the nationalities that have large numbers of workers here declined in number in 2010.

The most noticeable change was in the number of Jamaican workers.

In mid-March, Immigration Department records showed nearly 9,400 Jamaican nationals holding Cayman Islands work permits. By year’s end, that number had dropped below 8,000 – a decline of about 15 per cent.

Permitted workers from the Philippines also fell in 2010 after several years of steady growth in Cayman. The drop equalled about a 9 per cent reduction in workers from the western Pacific country.

Similarly, foreign workers from the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Honduras and India – the other five countries that have more than 500 foreign nationals employed in Cayman – have also seen a decline in the number of work permits held. In 2010, for the first time in at least a decade, the number of Americans here on work permits exceeded the number of Canadians at the end of the year. Also, the number of Indians in Cayman on work permits exceeded the number of Hondurans for the first time.

Just a few nationalities increased the number of their work permit holders in Cayman, and then only by a handful of permits. Those included Germans, Romanians and Sri Lankans.


  1. Its a good job there are plenty of Caymanians available to take on the job vacancies left behind by the departing expats.

    Er, hold on ….

  2. I think the word is getting around that this is not a good place to live/work for expats. It will get worse and that is to be expected with what is going on around here.

  3. I wouldnt go that far Baffled – so far as I am concerned Cayman is still a great place for expats to live and work, if you approach it in the right frame of mind.

    My concern really is that Cayman and expats could do so much more for each other if a little common sense prevailed.

    At the moment the system incentivises a short term outlook for expats so they are not encouraged to invest their time or money in the local community, or integrate with Caymanian society. This is not beneficial for the islands or their people.

  4. if the immigration department would just stop trying to rule and instead govern, we might get more things done. It is ridiculous that they can decide if your future employer is allowed to hire you. Thats the employers job! And if a Caymanian is best for the job, he/she will get it…thats how it works everywhere else in the world. Wake up Cayman!! spend your time on getting the island back on track!

  5. Of course work permits are declining The island is lucky to get anyone to come and work …anyone that is an honest person can just go to the USA and make all the money they want ..Caymans do it all the time well as send there kids to school there…The only people left to work on the island are people that choose to go to the island or are not qualified to go to the USA…THINK ABOUT IT .

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