The number of votes was not remarkable, but the remarks were overwhelming, both in their number, 95, and in their audacity.
The years-long debate about employment of expatriates in the Cayman Islands is captured in the responses, laced with reason and thought, with wide and multi-sided racism, plenty of anger, not a little misunderstanding, and lashings of frustration and bewilderment. The poll crystallizes a very public struggle.
With work permits on the rise, the poll asked, were foreigners taking jobs from Caymanians. Almost three-quarters of the 425 voters were adamant, splitting “yes” and “no” almost evenly.
The response “No, and here is why …” polled first, drawing 184 votes, 43.3 percent of the total, and 51 comments.
Some remarks could be perceived as offensive: “Caymanians can’t do the job”; “Caymanians are lazy, self-entitled and don’t want to do an honest day’s work”; “Caymanians don’t have the education to take the foreigner’s jobs and do not want the low-end jobs.”
However, some registered more thoughtful opinions. From a Caymanian: “The majority of work permits are in the tourism and domestic-helper sector. Caymanians do not want to work the unfriendly hours or they feel it is beneath them … or both.
“I am Caymanian, I work in the tourism sector and the income and perquisites outstrip my friends, who want to work in a 9-to-5 office job, I am college educated and trained in my industry,” which he described as “a major part of our economy,” meaning work-permit employees were critical … “and they are definitely not taking jobs from Caymanians.”
Another said parents bore responsibility, while others named schools and government policymakers.
“Qualified Caymanians have a better chance of getting the jobs than foreigners. [It is] up to parents to get their kids the necessary skills to move ahead.”
“If the Cayman Islands government will only educate their people,” another said, local manpower would prove sufficient.
One respondent cited simple economics: “Our financial services and tourism sectors operate in a brutally competitive marketplace and simply must hire the best people they can.”
Second place in the poll, with 128 votes, 30.1 percent of the total, with 23 comments, went to those who believe that “yes, foreigners are taking jobs from Caymanians,” explaining “employers – both foreign and local – have negatively stereotyped Caymanians, clumping them all together … if qualified Caymanians are employed, they suffer from pay inequalities getting less than their foreign co-worker for the same work.”
Contrarian reasoning came from one voter who said expatriates took the jobs that Caymanians quit: “The Caymanians I’ve seen hired do not show the enthusiasm for the job, and don’t stay if they perceive the job to be hard work or not paying enough money.”
Others variously blamed local unemployment on status grants, lazy employers, expatriate employers, government inaction and lack of law enforcement.
Third place in the survey, “Sometimes, and the problem is …”, inspired less passion, drawing only 20 comments among its 71 votes, 16.7 percent of the total.
“Unrealistic minimum requirements,” said one, pointing to classified sections in the newspaper. “See the recent advertisements for five-years experience for a dishwasher and a kitchen helper. The kitchen helper is paid $5 per hour (and doesn’t get tips).”
One business owner simply said “cost,” naming $10 per hour as the minimum rate for Caymanians, and the pressure of living expenses.
Fourth in the rankings went to “there is no honest way to know” if foreigners really are taking jobs from Caymanians. The category drew 39 votes, only 9.2 percent of the total, and only a single comment.
Finally, “other” drew only three votes, 0.7 percent of the total, and no comments.
Next week’s poll question
- The Liquor Licensing Board has hit some heavy going recently. How should it be handled?
- End the board entirely (explain)
- Appoint fresh volunteers
- Let the civil service run it (explain)
- Cayman should be dry, with no liquor
- Other (explain)
To participate, visit www.cayCompass.com