The Cayman Islands government’s earnings from work permit and permanent residency fees rose more than 30 per cent in 2010, even though the number of work permits declined significantly during that time.
The finding was made in the recently-released Annual Economic Report from the government’s Economics and Statistics Office. “The increase in revenue was due to a 50 per cent average increase in work permit fees [in 2010],” the statistics office report noted.
Large permit fee increases took effect in the beginning of 2010, with fees nearly tripling for some job categories. On average, permit costs increased by $3,000 per employee in most professional categories.
Work permits are required for any foreign employee in the Cayman Islands who does not have Caymanian status or who is not married to a Caymanian. Permanent residents who are not Caymanian also must pay a yearly fee to maintain their right to work here.
Opposition political party members have frequently urged the ruling government to reduce previous work permit fee increases as a cost-saving effort for local businesses, but the government has declined to do so.
The large increase in government revenues from work permit and permanent resident fees – 31.7 per cent between 2009 and 2010 – may be one reason why.
In calendar year 2010, government earned $56.7 million in work permit and residency fees, according to the stats office. That’s compared to $43.1 million earned on those fees in 2009 and $48 million earned in 2008.
The revenue increase from permit fees is surprising when considering that the number of work permits, which include government contracts for foreign employees, held in Cayman has dropped by more than 20 per cent in less than three years. Work permit fees are not charged for foreign workers in government.
According to the statistics office, there were 26,516 work permits held in Cayman at the end of 2008. In 2009, that number dropped to 23,531 and last December it fell to 20,452.
The Caymanian Compass has requested updated work permit numbers through the mid-way point of 2011 through the Freedom of Information Law and will publish those figures as soon as the Immigration Department releases them.
As has been previously reported, overall unemployment in Cayman rose to 6.7 per cent toward the end of last year. Statistics office figures showed that is the highest unemployment rate in the country since 2001, when unemployment reached 7.5 per cent.
However, the statistics office figures only provided enough information to calculate total unemployment. Numbers that would have allowed for the calculation of Caymanian unemployment were not included in the report.
By the end of 2009, Caymanian unemployment had reached about 10 per cent, though total unemployment ended the year at about six per cent. Typically, foreign unemployment numbers in the Cayman Islands are quite low because, in most cases, expatriate workers are not allowed to remain unless they have a job.
Employment figures also revealed that the Cayman Islands’ overall workforce shrank in 2010 for the second straight year. Prior to 2009, the number of people in the local workforce either grew or stayed roughly the same in each year since 1995.