Unemployment in the Cayman Islands stood at 6.2 per cent in late 2010, according to a territory-wide census that counted every person in the more than 22,000 households within the Cayman Islands.
When compared with the majority of first-world western economies, that’s quite good; but when you break down the numbers a bit further it gets more complicated.
Of the 17,129 Caymanians in the British Overseas Territory’s labour, force according to the 2010 census, there were 15,453 employed and 1,676 unemployed – creating an effective Caymanian unemployment rate of 9.8 per cent.
Typically, unemployment rates for non-Caymanian workers are quite low because most foreign workers that don’t have jobs are not allowed to stay in the Islands. The rate for non-Caymanian unemployment in late 2010 was 3.1 per cent.
“There were only 36 unemployed non-Caymanians for every 100 unemployed Caymanians,” the census report indicated.
However, the real problem comes with younger workers, those between ages 15 and 34.
Of the 2,280 people considered unemployed by the census – i.e. they did not work at all during the period surveyed – 1,160 of them, more than half, were between the ages of 15 and 34.
The problem is particularly pronounced among the 15 to 24 age group of Caymanians where the unemployment rate was 25 per cent.
Age 15 is the internationally considered standard for the working age, according to the census report. According to population estimates there were 5,633 people between the ages of 15 and 24 living in the Cayman Islands in late 2010.
Subtracting those in school, the labour force included 2,356 people in that age group who were working and 593 who were not – an overall unemployment rate of some 20 per cent. Among non-Caymanians of the 15 to 24 age group, the unemployment rate was about 7 per cent; for Caymanians it was 25 per cent.
Once the 25 to 34 group is reached, unemployment numbers drop off sharply. However, the Census 2010 data show the Caymanian unemployment rate for that age group is still more than 10 per cent. Once age 35 to 44 is reached, Caymanian unemployment numbers drop to around 6.4 per cent – much closer to the overall average.
Opposition party lawmakers have long made the argument that employment figures were underestimated in government reports.
According to figures contained in the government’s Strategic Policy Statement, Cayman Islands unemployment stood at 6.7 per cent for the first half of 2011. That figure was reported after the 2010 census, but appears to have been recorded during a 2009 labour force survey.
Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin said in December that he thinks the unemployment figure was closer 18 per cent unemployment for Caymanians. The 2010 census has shown, for the age group 15 to 24, he’s right.
The total unemployment figures estimated by the government Economics and Statistics Office and reported each year in a labour survey include unemployment numbers for everyone working in the Cayman Islands.
For 2009, Caymanian unemployment was estimated at 9.9 per cent. The 9.8 per cent figure contained in the 2010 census was actually slightly lower than the 2009 figure.