Government pushes for companies to hire locals

alden speaks to chamber lead

Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin promised a “two-pronged approach” to resolve the territory’s problems with local unemployment Thursday afternoon during his first address to the Chamber of Commerce’s annual legislative luncheon.

Revisions to the Immigration Law, set to go before the Legislative Assembly next month, are part of that plan. However, the premier cautioned that they were not in themselves employment legislation.

“I urge you as employers to participate in programs … to find Caymanians to fill the vacancies you may have in your businesses,” Mr. McLaughlin told an audience of hundreds at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. “If you can give the government the commitment to each employ at least one new Caymanian over the next six to nine months, this would go a long way to reducing unemployment.”

One opportunity looming to assist in getting an estimated 1,900 unemployed Caymanians into suitable jobs is the pending Dec. 9 deadline, where more than 1,500 Term Limit Exemption Permit holders will either have to apply for new work permits or depart.

Mr. McLaughlin said that deadline would help re-employ some Caymanians, but admitted that local citizens were not likely to apply for a number of the positions available.

“Over 900 are jobs as domestics, gardeners or caregivers … which Caymanians have generally expressed little interest in filling,” the premier said.

Just prior to Mr. McLaughlin’s address to the Chamber on Thursday, the board of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association sent out an “urgent” communication to its members, asking them to place work permit jobs coming up for renewal on a website for Caymanian job placement that CITA had created.

According to the two-page letter: “If we don’t do this, or if we are too slow or ineffective in getting real unemployed people into real jobs, our industry can expect to face further increasing pressure, rising criticism, greater difficulties and more refusals in applications for work permits and work permit renewals – even for those jobs that we feel certain there are absolutely no Caymanians available to fill or develop into that role.”

Premier McLaughlin, while appreciating the sentiment expressed in the letter, said the government was not threatening any local companies with being put out of business. He noted that the new immigration bill makes it a criminal offense for companies that do not disclose the fact that a Caymanian or permanent resident had applied for a work permit holder’s position.

Outgoing Chamber President Chris Duggan struck quite a different tone in addressing the audience at the Ritz-Carlton prior to introducing Premier McLaughlin.

“All businesses should be allowed to obtain the required labor that they need,” Mr. Duggan said. “We must not prevent employers from obtaining foreign workers [for jobs where no qualified Caymanian has applied].

“[Cayman’s] population has to grow and it will grow. Putting up roadblocks to hinder development in growth is not the answer.”

Premier McLaughlin pointed to several new initiatives, largely being driven by the private sector, which he expected to increase economic development in the coming years.

Plans to build a new cruise ship berthing facility in George Town and expand Owen Roberts International Airport would be presented to Cabinet next month, he said. In addition, plans for developing new hotels, including a Kimpton along Seven Mile Beach, a Conrad Hilton in Beach Bay and a hotel near the site of the Health City Cayman Islands development were proceeding at pace.

Mr. McLaughlin said Cayman Enterprise City’s special economic zone was also “beginning to live up to its potential,” with more than 80 companies now registered.

He said talks were continuing with the Dart group of companies to “rebalance” some of the aspects for the ForCayman Investment Alliance that had been agreed by the previous United Democratic Party government. The government had no firm plans for what would occur with the George Town landfill site.

He said the upcoming government budget would only include one new tax, the introduction of company directors fees similar to a proposal made – but not implemented – by the previous United Democratic Party government. Mr. McLaughlin did not provide any more specifics at the luncheon.

The government’s new full-year budget is expected to be presented to the Legislative Assembly by next Friday, Oct. 4.

alden speaks to chamber

Premier Alden McLaughlin lays out his government’s plan for the next year during the annual Chamber of Commerce legislative luncheon. – Photo: Brent Fuller


  1. So even the Premier is saying that Caymanians are not interested in Jobs such as domestics, Caregivers and Gardner’s. If this is true way are people so against Expats filling these jobs? Is it a just a general dislike for expats or do people feel that without Expats employers would be forced into paying Caymanians higher salaries to fill these jobs?

    With CITA getting ready to post job opportunities on their website , I can’t wait to see how many Caymanians apply for these jobs especially since I’ve heard no more about Ezzard’s quest to find local people to fill these jobs.

    It’s also funny how he says that they have no firm plans for the Georgetown Landfill when their campaign promises clearly presented the impression that they had realistic solutions on the table to deal with it in place. This pile of trash is just going to keep growing along with Aldens BS

  2. This is rich advice coming from the same government that employs nearly 900 expats according to data from a recent compass article. Must be a case of do as I say not as I do.

  3. We are in year 4 of a global recession and there are apparently close to 3,000 unemployed, many of them in the 18-24 bracket, which means they have little to no employment records and yet with the opportunity to gain experience of work with 900 posts of gardeners, domestics and care givers, we are told Caymanians will not apply for these jobs. When are we going to grow up in this country and realise that all jobs, no matter how good or bad, are there for local employment. Gone are the days of picking and choosing which jobs you would like or taking a job, only to quit a week later because you don’t like it.

    Also if there were local people taking the domestics and care giving jobs, then these positions would stop being exploited with poor pay, no medical or pension and special treatment for permits. Surely it is better that the children and elderly are brought up by Caymanians so the historical culture is passed on from generation to generation and that young people learn how to run a household so to prepare themselves for the future or learn from the elderly that this land has not always been a bed of roses and that without hard work it can be lost.

    If you ask many of the world’s wealthy self made, they will tell you they started with trivial jobs from early teenage years and this taught them the life lessons that made them who they are today.

    So it seems strange that a nation who is suffering from local unemployment would ring fence certain jobs because they felt it was beneath them to apply for those posts and yet at the same time expect employers to give up good employees that have worked for them for many years, I note that person’s position was advertised either with the labour department or newspaper every time a permit was issued and no one was found each time.

    Are the public going to be forgiving of local business whose services are not quite as good because they are training new employees or what happens when the trainee just does not turn up for work one day and the business is left holding the can. In Cayman, many businesses are small with only a few employees, unlike other countries where there are many large firms who can afford a few employees to fail. It is a big risk in this climate to ask little firms to change their workforce as that may be the difference between staying in business and going bust.

    In the old days, parents would pay employers to train their children with a trade for 3-5 years so that the young person would learn a trade and would not be allowed to quit. This way, employers would not be put at risk by taking on someone with no skills or experience and could train them without putting their reputation on the line. Today, this does not happen but parents should still be responsible for the children to ensure they don’t quit a training job and that they work hard for the employer.

    As an employer, I have taken on Caymanians when I apply for a permit and so I get two employees, both on the same conditions, why because if one or the other quits I am not left stuck and, sadly, the issue I have is retaining local employees in the long term and sponsored a trainee from UCCI and he turned up once to work and never again; it really jades you when you try and you fail and so, as a community, we all need to work together to solve this instead of just blaming employers. We need to accept that there are jobs out there that, whilst they are not great for all, there is no reason other than pride that stops everyone applying for them and when you get that job you earn your wage instead of expecting it.

    Lastly, if you want to buy something you pay for it and don’t leave the service provider with an unpaid bill for months while you enjoy the use of their service as the provider still has to pay pension and wage for providing that service to you.

  4. It seems like every time this issue is discussed, the government (of whichever colour) falls back on the traditional worn out rhetoric of blaming companies for not hiring caymanians. There is the same old tired solutions offered and talk of bigger and bigger sticks to beat those wicked, wicked companies with…

    For most companies (The SME’s – Small and Medium sized Enterprises) there are ONLY penalties and costs, not just the obvious ones like the actual cost of the work permit, but also the more subtle ones like the loss of staff to policies like rollover and TLE, not to mention the administrative burden of meeting the paperwork requirements for immigration and the time delay associated with the recruitment process irrespective of whether the successful applicant is Caymanian or an Expat. The whole recruitment process is on average is 4 or 5 times longer compared to Europe and the States – and THAT COSTS THE ECONOMY and robs companies of a competitive edge!

    Why is it that only the more massive companies are able to get concessions, exemptions incentives and benefits from the government yet as a sector of the economy they make a smaller contribution to the GDP than the combined weight of all the aforementioned SME’s?

    What the government is failing to address is the skills gap – there are certainly many Caymanians out there who, though they could not do a given job tomorrow, would be able to after a period of training. If that is just a gap of a couple of weeks then there is little issue, but many modern industries require specialists and that is not an overnight process taking many months and even years.

    The dilema for the small business is that training is an investment which is at best long term and more often shows little or no return on the time and money invested. Depending on the industry it is common that at the very point your expensive trainee becomes a cost effective profit generating member of staff, a competitor can poach them gaining all the benefit for little outlay. While a good result for the individual it is a disadvantage and a disincentive for companies to train.

    So here’s the carrot.
    The government could offer a coupons or vouchers redeemable against a work permit over a 2 to 5 year period (depending on the industry and the current skill level of the prospective trainee) to companies who offer training/apprenticeships to Caymanians.
    Companies who train will gain an advantage.

    If this works, the government will lose a work permit income for several years BUT how is that different from their stated objective of getting a Caymanian into the workforce? If the individual is out there with the skills then the financial cost to the government is the same, the difference here is that the net can now be cast much wider to include not only those who can do the job NOW, but also those who COULD be trained to.

    A further incentive to companies is that if done right, the vouchers could be a hedge against rising work permit costs – i.e. the voucher is worth 1 work permit rather than xyz dollars so even if work permit fees increase in 2 years time they’re still covered.

  5. As it has been mentioned before, there is almost no need for 1,900 unemployed. The jobs are there, but so apparently, is the sense of entitlement.

    There was another article not long ago discussing how the tourism industry was actually CALLING unemployed people to apply for their open positions. The rate at which applicants came in was astonishingly low. Everyone wants the 6-figure salary, but not the years of hard work and qualifications (Bachelor/master/phd, certifications, etc.) required to get to that point.

    Quite frankly, it is insulting to those who have worked very hard in their careers for someone to think they can just walk in and do their job just as well with no effort. Make no mistake about it, if businesses cant hire good employees to make the bottom line efficient, they will look elsewhere.

    It is easier to demonize business and act as if the blame falls squarely on their shoulders, rather than get to the real source of the problem. I guess holding everyone accountable would not be politically popular, but for anyone who cares about the future of this island, some critical evaluation of all sides is needed.

    Training and development of the local population starting in high school is of critical importance for key industries like finance, tourism, and in the future medical. Once the local population is qualified and well-equipped for these jobs, then then can thumb their nose at the menial jobs.

  6. Sad to see the same excuses dragged up again and again.
    If the government really believes that expats are the problem, how about making the starting price for work permits $10,000 per annum.
    Then we will see how many business survive, thrive or take a dive(no pun intended) with the available, willing and able locals.

  7. Mike, If you did that, there is no doubt a lot of businesses would fold or pack up and move away. If people cannot hire the right folks to run their business that business would fail. With what you’re recommending, a work permit for say a cashier at KFC or Fosters making $5 an hour would double the cost of the employee. A lot of people say that expats are not needed yet the CIG brings in roughly 60 million dollars a year in work permit fees. How do you think Cayman would do without that income when it’s already hard to make ends meet? If all expats were expelled, there wouldn’t be enough people to fill all those jobs, not to mention qualify for them and, in addition to that, income taxes would be required to replace the lost work permit income. And don’t mention all the vacant apartments there would be. Cayman has to grow in order to survive in this world, countries progress, not regress, it’s the nature of human evolution. As a country grows, its people have to grow with it in order to prosper.

  8. Michael,
    I do not doubt or refute what you say. I am not saying I would do this as policy if it was up to me. Just that the way ‘expats are evil’ is strutted out again and again in various forms suggests that expats are basically the devil’s children and need to be removed from the island and all will be well.

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