Editorial for August 7: The changing face[s] of the Cayman Islands

Change is coming to these Cayman Islands. 

Business is changing, culture is changing and certainly our demographics are changing. Perhaps the most noticeable difference in recent years is illustrated in today’s front page story regarding money remittances and the expansion of JN Money Services in the Philippines.

The number of Filipino work permit holders in Cayman grew from 671 in 1995 to 1,375 in 2003 to some 2,700 as of the end of last year. That’s a 96 per cent increase in a decade and a four-fold increase in what could essentially be described as a generation.

As one might expect, Filipinos account for a significant portion of work permits in the Cayman Islands and, now, a significant percentage of the cash remittances from the islands each year. It’s estimated the average Filipino work permit holder remits nearly $8,000 per year.

To be sure, the biggest number of work permit holders – Jamaicans at some 40 per cent – also make up the largest number and amount of cash remittances each year. However, looking at the number of work permits held by Jamaican nationals in Cayman over the same period, Jamaicans held 11,653 in 2003 with that number dropping to around 8,400 at the end of last year. While it seems unlikely that Jamaican influence on Caymanian society will be diminished, it is surely fair to state that Filipinos have become a major player in this small island chain. Over the last two decades, a number of Filipino families have made Cayman their home, brought their extended families here and have contributed significantly to our society.

However, there is something of a disconnect between what appears to be a rather insular community of Filipinos and the larger expatriate society. Another disconnect has existed for years between the local Caymanian society and the Filipino contingent in Cayman.

Although some Filipino families have come here and done well, others work and live in unacceptable conditions. We hear the stories: Groups of men living eight to 10 people in a small house or apartment, subsisting off a rice and beans diet and sending every available cent back home.

At the same time, those individuals seeking to integrate in a society should attempt to, well, integrate. We often hear from Caymanians that Filipinos simply do not want to be a part of local society and prefer to “keep to themselves”. This cannot be a positive step for the development of a country.

Change is inevitable in any society. The Cayman Islands of today looks far different than 20 years ago and we’d bet the Cayman Islands of 2033 will look far different than the islands today. The best thing we can do as a country is to welcome all newcomers and help them become a part of our diverse community.

If Caymanian employers are to keep hiring non-Caymanian workers when there is a need, we must take care that those individuals are not treated as some sort of second-class citizens. By the same token, questions must be raised concerning why Caymanians seem to simply avoid certain jobs in the first place, bringing about the need for foreign workers.

1 COMMENT

  1. I just hope the government of today taxed these people who are sending money from our country daily and criticizing the locals. What bothers me are the educated local don’t give a [expletive] what happens to the lower class Caymanians, only when they are in problems, and need the support of lower class then they remember us.
    I just hope they are being charged 50% of what they’re sending back home. And to make it worst the best we can do is to welcome all newcomers. Mr. Editor, you wasn’t around in the 70s or 80s to know how the Cayman Islands was then.

  2. I am a non-Caymanian, who recently came to the island to offer my services for a salary, services that are 100% outsourced. Prior to arriving, what I was told about the culture and the people were mostly negative. My experience has corroborated these notions in some cases and refuted in others. The Caymanians I am friends and acquaintances with are generally warm and friendly people, most of whom I can honestly say I have come to love and care about; but, there is a stark contrast in the reception I get from a Caymanian with whom I have no association, such as at a information desk or on a business phone, especially at (but not limited to) government institutions. I support cultural integration, and have being mingling quite a bit, but I find that it is the natives who are most likely to be inimical to cultural integration. This could be the argument to the Filipinos defense.

  3. It is something I feel that I have failed as a local employer to retain the Caymanian I have employed over the years and I also notice younger Caymanians don’t want to get into main stream contracting as mason’s helper working up to masons or carpenter’s helps working up to Carpenters. When we have a work permit renewal we advertise the job with the labour department instead of the newspaper as we feel that way we should get a better pick of locals. I always take on a Caymanian as well as my work permit renewal because the chance to get a good employee should not be missed.

    Sadly the man seems to want to quit after 6 to 8 weeks giving me excuses such as it is too hot in the sun or you work me too hard or I found another job or I’m a tradesman and I’m not working in the foundations.

    I had one Caymanian for 3 years and he was over sixty, he was hard working, skillful and never missed a day.

    I volunteered to teach at the construction technology course which has run every year at UCCI for over 30 years I’m told and it was very upsetting to find there were only 8 students in 2010/11. There should have been 30 or 40 students and these 8 students did not like working in the Sun in Feb (we were actual even in the shade).

    So god forbid the younger generation ever tried to go to sea they never survive – I am sorry to say the seafarer of generations past are no more. You only have to see who are the farmers in the Country to find these old seafarer’s still working in the heat of the day keeping this country running and several are in their 80s. These are the men who made this country and until the younger generations can match up to them then employers will continue to import labour sadly.