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.