Last year the population of the Cayman Islands swelled to the largest number in its history, according to figures released in a labor survey by the government’s Economics and Statistics Office.
The population estimate of 58,238 for 2014 as reported by the statistics office eclipsed the previous high of 57,009 recorded in 2008. The population estimates are based on a survey sample size of about 1,400 island residents.
Since late 2008, population estimates in Cayman declined in the wake of the international financial crisis which, in part, led to fewer jobs and a drop in work permits held by non-Caymanian employees. Since 2010, the population had hovered around 55,000 prior to last year’s estimated increase of more than 2,500 people in the islands.
According to the statistics office, the population increase was mainly fueled by non-Caymanians – about an 8 percent increase between 2013 and 2014. There were about 1,800 more non-Caymanians living in the islands last year than in 2013.
The Caymanian population also increased, but by just 2 percent, from 32,798 in 2013 to 33,447 last year.
Four of the five districts on Grand Cayman noted a population increase during 2014. Only East End had a decrease in the number of residents.
The largest increase among the five districts was in North Side, where the population grew by nearly 43 percent between 2013 and 2014.
The number of people living in the rural district, which encompasses most of Grand Cayman’s northern coast and a large portion of the island’s central interior, grew from an estimated 1,292 in 2013 to 1,845 in 2014. North Side also had the largest household size among all the districts, averaging 3.3 people per household.
The North Side district population grew so much, according to the statistics report, that it overtook the Sister Islands of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman as the fourth-largest district in the country. The combined population of Little Cayman and Cayman Brac was estimated at 1,839 last year. Statistically, the populations of the Sister Islands and North Side are now the same.
However, unlike the North Side, the population of the Sister Islands declined by more than 80 residents since 2013, the labor survey report showed. The combined population of the two small islands was estimated at around 2,500 in 2008. The steady population decline in the Sister Islands, which depend heavily on government funding for jobs and daily operations, is a concern for local lawmakers and was noted by Premier Alden McLaughlin and Opposition Leader Mckeeva Bush at a Legislative Assembly meeting last year in Cayman Brac.
“It is painfully obvious that Cayman Brac is at a crossroads,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “Population figures are dwindling, businesses are struggling. Most of the students have little, if any, prospects of getting work on Cayman Brac, so there is a constant brain drain [as they move away].”
“[Cayman Brac] is dying on its feet,” Mr. Bush said. “The last time I came here … you can tell where the economic downturn has occurred.”
There was little percentage change between 2013 and 2014, among Grand Cayman’s three largest districts, although all three grew their populations during 2014.
George Town maintained more than 50 percent of the islands’ overall population and surpassed 30,000 residents as its population increased by about 1,000.
Bodden Town also maintained its relatively new status as Cayman’s second-largest district with just fewer than 12,000 residents. West Bay district reversed a decline in its population, growing by about 500 in 2014 to 11,282 residents.
Statistics office estimates show that West Bay held 19 percent of Cayman’s total population, while Bodden Town housed about 20 percent.