Taking inventory of Cayman's unemployment problem

The Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce has sounded a clarion call for all unemployed people in the country to be required to register with the government’s National Workforce Development Agency.

Government could probably force all of them to sign up, particularly by linking enlistment with NWDA to enrollment in public social service benefits programs. But even if 100 percent of unemployed people did sign up with the NWDA, the best-case result would be the creation of a large database — not additional job opportunities.

Forcing people to register with the NWDA belongs in the same category of ideas as the mandatory cancer registry and the national minimum wage. They are compulsive without being effective. Even if the measures are implemented completely and enforced fully, they will fail to address the problems which sparked their conception.

Mandatory NWDA registration doesn’t get us any closer to solving Cayman’s unemployment troubles than a mandatory cancer registry does to finding a cure for cancer. What initiatives such as these do, more or less, is to mimic the motions of effective action, leaving the performers and their supporting audience with the feeling that something actually has been accomplished.

Let us be straightforward: The only meaningful measure of the effectiveness of the NWDA is not how many clients are enrolled in its database but how many clients must be removed from that database because they have gained long-term employment.

If Cayman’s unemployment problem were as dire as some individuals vocally contend, and if unemployed people thought that signing up with the NWDA would help them to secure jobs, the question of mandatory registration would never arise. The line at the agency’s office at Midtown Plaza would be snaking out the door and down the sidewalk … as can often be seen just a few hundred yards down Elgin Avenue at the Department of Immigration.

The following, we contend, is a more accurate portrayal of the situation in Cayman: The unemployed population can be divided into three groups — those who are qualified and really want jobs (and so do not need to be prompted to approach the NWDA); those who are not qualified (and may be unemployable) and who may really want jobs; and those who quite frankly don’t want any sort of job at all (and who consequently are beyond the help of NWDA or any other earthly agency).

An effective strategy toward combatting unemployment is far more difficult and ambitious and includes increasing overall job opportunities by attracting new employers, reducing business costs and eliminating governmental red tape; and by improving the overall quality of the local workforce by educating the next generations of Caymanians to prepare them for the careers to which they aspire.

Our officials would be well-advised not to confuse “process” with “progress” — because they are not the same, and one should never be allowed to masquerade as the other.


  1. One thing that can be considered, is that most people do not want to hear the truth; or even hear anything at all once it pertains to the truth. Some have cringe at my comments, while others cannot wait to read and get a good laugh out loud in the mornings, just because I am a straight talker, and even when I have to do it I will brush the editorial.
    We may think that sometimes the editorial may keep digging at the patched up hole in the wall that is trying to be covered up, but that is what they are there for to remind us that the hole is still in the wall. To comment on the above I have to agree that if getting all of these people to sign up, it will only be to create a large data base with no additional job opportunities, not a light beyond the tunnel. In few words, most people will tell you right now that it is a waste of time. I always wonder, because every day I hear people singing the same tune. Cannot get a job. One has to really ride that buggy to town themselves to know how rough the road is.
    I have reasons for not trusting the system because I have seen and heard the same old tune being sang year after year. You will find appeals for this registry to be filled right up until the eve of next election. Then come the promise campaign, then come the disappearance of everyone until next time round. Its the truth that many do not want to hear. So, do we really ever learn?

  2. There is a very old adage in business: You can’t manage what you don’t measure.

    For now, we only have conjecture regarding how many unemployed and underemployed Caymanians there actually are. As the Editorial Board of the Compass rightly observes, it really wouldn’t be a difficult matter to nail down the number of unemployed if the requirement to be counted was tied to the receipt of public service benefits.

    Once we have certain knowledge about who needs help, then we determine what particular help should be administered. (Which organizations are best equipped to provide the necessary assistance is a separate matter…and I do believe that it is not exclusively a public sector issue.)

    Chamber President Barry Bodden did not state that merely creating the database would solve the employment woes of Cayman. Instead, the database is merely a starting point to determine exactly how big the problem is so that we can in turn determine how big the solution must be and whether any proposed solutions will ultimately have a sizeable impact on the initial database roster.

    It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. And to efficiently dispel the darkness of Cayman’s employment woes we must first figure out how many candles exist to be lit.

    You simply cannot effectively manage what you fail to measure.

  3. There is truth in this, of course. But don’t you think that if all these people registered, including their education/training/skills, then it will show the government where they can improve? Or what type of re-training they can set up?

  4. It appears many people in the Cayman Islands still maintain a touching faith in the ability of Government to fix their problems for them.

    If you want a job, go out and find one. If you can’t find a job you like, then either get qualified for it, or else accept that you have to start somewhere.

    The Government is not going to find a job for you. Nor should they. Government’s role is to have the schooling and training facilities available so you can prepare yourself.

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