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.