Low pay for many work permit holders

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About 46 per cent of all foreign workers that held jobs within the Cayman Islands as of 30 June, occupied lower paid, lower skilled positions, according to data released by the Immigration Department.  

Immigration records indicate that more than 9,300 work permit holders – of the 20,240 who were in the Cayman Islands as of 30 June – occupied either “elementary occupations” or “service worker” jobs. Those areas, which are typically on the lower end of the pay scale, include jobs such as barbers, bartenders, cashiers, cook, 
hairdressers, waiters, janitors, security guards, domestics and caregivers, beach attendants and general labourers. 

The next largest group of work permit holders – about 4,500 people or 22 per cent of all work permit holders in the Islands as of 30 June – occupied the skilled tradesmen and crafts employee group. These are vehicle mechanics, electricians, carpenters, painters, plumbers, technicians and associate professionals.  

Another 4,100 work permit holders – about 20 per cent – held professional and managerial positions such as fund administrators, doctors, lawyers, teachers, human resources managers, sales and relationship managers, general managers and financial controllers. 

Immigration figures also reveal that it is for the trades professionals and the lower paid groups of work permit holders that the majority of temporary work permits or TLEPs have been issued since last October.  

A total of 1,049 temporary permit applications made between 28 October, 2011, and 30 June, 2012, have so far been approved; that’s about 90 per cent of all the applications that were made. The permits only allow work permit holders who have reached their normal seven-year term limit on residency to stay up to an extra two years in the Islands. It does not allow those permit holders to apply for the right to remain in the Cayman Islands. Skilled craftsmen have accounted for 448 of the temporary permits issued. Elementary occupations and service workers have made up another 367 temporary permits.  

It appears to be mainly the last two categories that government has cited in previous proposals to implement a 5 per cent fee payable by companies on “certain categories of employment”.  

“This will serve to recruit Caymanians in those roles,” Cayman Islands Premier Bush said earlier this month. “[It] is presently far too easy to make a case to hire employees to do painting while excellent Caymanian painters are left without work.”  

Employment Minister Rolston Anglin has previously said that the 5 per cent fee, apparently earmarked to go into a training fund for prospective Caymanian workers, is still in its formative stages as a proposal.  

“Some might see it more as a work permit fee rather than an enhancement fee,” Mr. Anglin said earlier this month. “Basically, for me personally, I see it more on the work permit side. Here’s your normal work permit and here’s the restricted area, one of the concepts is to really provide good quality, training and apprenticeship programmes because we have to do a good job, like we’ve done in Passport2Success, to get people to work and stay in work, because that’s the key for us. 

“These would be areas, for example, we could not put a restriction on something you have to go to college for and get a degree for. These are relatively entry level types of positions … like cashier. It’s more generic type entry level jobs, you could show up to an employer on day one, they put you through their training programme and by the end of the week, with the right attitude, you can get in.” 



There are far fewer non-Caymanian workers remaining in the Islands while working as an operation of the law, according to Immigration Department figures.  

Working as an operation of the law is defined as individuals working after their term limit on residency has expired while awaiting the outcome of a permanent residence application, or individuals awaiting appeals decisions on denials of work permits. The term can also apply to work permit renewals if those renewal periods extend beyond the scheduled end of a permit.  

In 2007, there were nearly 3,600 people in the Cayman Islands working as an operation of law; mainly due to the large number of individuals seeking permanent residence in the wake of the immigration term-limit or “rollover” policy being enacted.  

As of 30 June this year, that number had dropped to 793; the lowest it had been during the last five years.  


Cayman Free Press journalist Norma Connolly contributed to this report. 

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Cayman Islands work permit stamp in Australian passport


  1. The idea that expats have large salaries and sending money back home is ludicrous. Most are working hard, trying to make a living while having to spend most of it just to live on, as we all know, an expensive island.

    According to the story half of the work permit holders hold elementary or service jobs. Why? Because Caymanians will not do those jobs. It is the same with US immigration. Without Mexican labor nothing would get picked, cleaned or built.

    Somehow everyone feels entitled to start at the top. There are lots of jobs for Caymanians. They just don’t want to do them.

  2. If we have many private sector HR and accounting positions filled by permit holders then it should be relatively easy to reduce the number of corresponding unnecessary HR and accounting positions in the civil service without putting Caymanians out of work.

  3. Jose Carpedium

    The problem is. Cayman has many educated, degreed, skilled and unskilled people applying for any job they choose to apply for BUT ARE DENIED when they are identified as a ‘CAYMANIAN

    This is not about our people being unqualified because they are duly QUALIFIED as they have always been. It is all about isolating a people and separating them from the country’s wealth.

    Its called modern day ‘PIRACY

  4. agree with Jose P. completely

    why can’t the government’s computer services set up a database to have unemployed Caymanians place their CVs on the site and mandate that employers, including the CIG place their vacancies, work permit/contracted positions and ensure consideration is given to persons qualified and on island.

    oh dear, some things seem so simple to do but if we have to allow businesses to decide when to do what’s right or if we have to ensure some people are constantly being rewarded financially for every service and not what is simply the fairest, most efficient way to ensure Caymanians have access to opportunities.


  6. carpediem, may I add that many Caymanians don’t those jobs at the low scale, because many Caymanians have a mortgage, and paying bills combined with the high cost of living, has to be considered.

    There are some foreignors who purport for spite that Caymanians are just prideful in refusing such jobs. There is more to pride when youre living on an expensive island, that is costly to its own people.

  7. Thanks Brent Fuller, what a great article. Finally the Compass reports on something a bit more investigative, focused on facts and presenting information that clearly, the Government aren’t going to like you presenting. I think that we all deserve to hear the truth, now will the rest of you believe it?

  8. Dreamer: They do have something called the business staffing plan. But, it is not enforced, either through incompetence or neglect on the part of the administrators. I have tested the system, and believe me it is broken like many other government operations.

    I sent in my resume to two employers along with a clipping of their advertised position, a job I was more than qualified for, I did not get a reply.
    That of course can be expected, employers do not have to answer any query received. They do have to explain to the work permit board if an eligible Caymanian applied, and reason that individual was not offered the job.

    After a period of time I called Government Employment Services, explained the situation and that I was sending them a copy of my resume along with two job adds advertised, and I would like them to check if a work permit was submitted or granted for the advertised positions. Oh yes! I did the right thing the supervisor replied, that was over six months ago, did I get a call or a note back?.. NO.
    If this information was secret they did not say.

    further immigration is required to send each work permit application to government employment services in an attempt a match with their roster of unemployed.

    At least the Compass investigated and put out this information to show us a true picture of expat employment. It sure gives me a better understanding.

  9. For those who thumbs me down, or may I say for the expat who thumbs me down more than once :-), are you purporting that a mother who has a mortgage to pay including bills, resort to serving in a restaurant like you could do when you have probably the advantage of not paying the mortgage (eg. company’s car / house) and sending your money away through quick cash??? I don’t think so. It just doesn’t add up for many Caymanians, and that is a MAJOR REASON why they wouldn’t want to work on a low income job like you guys are so happy to take up.

    Judge all you want about Caymanians being lazy and too prideful to work, there are many hard working Caymanians that know their math and at the end of each month in a very expensive society if they do not come up with amount of monies to pay for their mortgage, they will have no other place to go but Cayman.

  10. Bodden

    For one, I think working at a low income job is better than having no job at all. 5 per hour is better than 0 per hour.

    Two, life is tough. Don’t expect to be given eveything or to start at the top. If you have to take up 2 or 3 low income jobs just to make ends meet then that’s what you have to do. If you have to sell your house and move into a cheaper place to live then that’s what you have to do. If a man does not work, neither shall he eat.

    Expats have bills to pay as well…

  11. The problem is that there is no minimum wage here and the one they suggest is a complete joke. The minimum wage must be set for a Caymanian to survive on this island and not 5 people sharing a house. At the end of the day employers who paid decent wages don’t charge outrageous fees because there is competition here. The employer who pay under CI 10 per hour are pocketing the profit and expecting social services to pay the difference. Hence 9000 people getting help.

    If the minimum wage was ten dollars then social services would not need to help 7000 with jobs saving the 10M from public expense which in turn would lower the cost of living and make the wage worth something.

    It would allow full Caymanian employment for those you really wanted to work and expose those who don’t. It would lower crime and in turn policing and prison costs once again lowering the cost of public service.

    This all happens with cost to public service just passing the law- It would nice if law makers instead of just lip service actually did something for Caymanian for a change.

    And yes there will employers who will complain – I say to them why does an hours gardening service cost 70 when you pay your men 5 because labour burden is 30% and your overhead say another 20% that would mean you are making almost 900% profit per man hour or 450% for two man team. If you paid them 10 per hour you would still make 200% profit for the two man team – really you can’t pay more. The same goes for the supermarkets I sure you could pay 10 per hour and overtime after 45 hours instead of flat time for 60!

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