Editorial for February 22: Time for national service?

The escalating crime situation on Grand Cayman has led many residents to theorise its cause.

Most people seem to agree that high unemployment of young males is the root cause of the crime epidemic.

Having large numbers of idle young men is never a very good state of affairs in any society. However, the question becomes: Why can’t the idle hands of Cayman find work?

The reason, most certainly, is not because there is no work. Cayman imports more than 20,000 foreign workers because of its chronic labour shortage.  Any employer would gladly hire a qualified Caymanian over an expatriate worker to save on work permit fees and bureaucracy.

Part of the problem lies in the lack of fundamental skills like reading and writing, eliminating the possibility of most good-paying jobs.  No one really wants to do menial labour for low wages, the kinds of jobs usually filled here by expatriates from impoverished countries.  But even if those jobs were earmarked for Caymanians only, many young people would probably prefer a life of crime to a life of menial labour earning barely enough to survive.

Then there’s the issue of willingness to work. The concept of working for a living, of having enough self-discipline and responsibility to attend a job, day in and day out isn’t necessarily natural for a young person, especially one that hasn’t had the right reinforcing messages while growing up. Those that have had things handed to them as children, who haven’t been pushed in school – by their parents and the system – and who have no interests or passions to pursue with work, probably see giving someone else at least a third of their day, five days a week, as something akin to torture.

Perhaps it’s time to institute a system of a year or two of mandatory national service, which could be deferred to those who go to college and eventually waived to those who graduate from college. Others could serve their country in some meaningful way and along the way hopefully acquire the skills, interests, discipline and sense of responsibilty to become productive members of society.


  1. Im waiting for someone (Dubai? Bodden?) to suggest that a period of National Service become a pre-condition for the grant of a work permit to expats. It would at least be in keeping with the general principle of expats being roundly abused while they go about the business of paying to keep Cayman afloat.

  2. National Service sounds like a good idea. But I do not believe people should be forced to do it. Having a work your way through college with national service would be an excellent idea, especially when so many cannot afford it. It would also be nice to see people being sentenced to some national service along with fines for certain non violent crimes. These people could be utilized in such areas as keeping roads, public beaches and parks clean, neighborhood watch assistance even as guides for Cruise ship tourists coming on shore acting as sort of a Cayman Islands Ambassador. There are all sorts of tasks that could be assigned at all different levels. Some could even intern with the public and private sector and pick up workplace ethics while working towards a degree. Programs like this would also separate the losers from the ones that are willing to work hard to get ahead while giving them the opportunity.

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