Nearly 1,600 Caymanians remain unemployed according to the latest government estimates, but as of last month only about one-third of those believed to be jobless had registered with the National Workforce Development Agency.
The workforce agency, which serves partly as a job skills training and advisory unit and partly as a recruitment agency, reported that – as of Feb. 28 – there were 593 people registered with the NWDA.
Those represent only the unemployed who have registered at the agency. There are other “underemployed” workers – those who work fewer than 37.5 hours per week – and employed workers seeking other positions or careers who also register with the NWDA.
Recently, the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce has suggested that all unemployed citizens who are seeking work in the Cayman Islands be required to register with the agency so that local companies will know precisely the “real” jobless numbers.
Current unemployment figures are provided by the government Economics and Statistics Office based on a survey sample size of about 1,400 residents in the Cayman Islands. The statistics office’s 2014 estimate put Caymanian unemployment at 7.9 percent, down from a year earlier when it stood at 9.4 percent. Overall unemployment dropped from 6.3 percent in 2013 to 4.7 percent in 2014.
National Workforce Development Agency Director Brian Holland did not respond to specific Cayman Compass questions regarding whether the agency thought mandatory registration of unemployed people was considered feasible or desirable. However, Mr. Holland said he believed the agency does provide good value for those who do use its services.
“The feedback that has been received [from] those who choose to access the services of the NWDA has, in large part, been positive and the public has noted the enhancements that have been made to the services that are delivered by the NWDA,” Mr. Holland said. “We are confident that those persons who are reluctant to access the services offered by the NWDA will come to see the agency as a very useful resource in their search for employment.”
Mr. Holland said the NWDA website now allows people to apply for jobs online following registration. Employers who apply for a work permit for one of those NWDA-advertised posts will be checked by the Immigration Department via the online system.
“This interface serves to increase transparency in the work permit process and provides an efficient way for employers to communicate efforts to hire a Caymanian,” Mr. Holland said.
While the NWDA site has some 1,000 local companies participating in its jobs listings program, the government does not mandate the registration of all jobs through the NWDA or any other government agency. That may soon change.
Proposals to create and implement a computerized immigration and labor database, available online 24/7, are expected to be received by the government next month. The online system would allow the Immigration Department to do a number of things that it either struggles with now, or that it simply cannot do in the current paper record management system.
For example, the system seeks to allow the relevant immigration officer or immigration-related board considering a work permit application to see – in real time – who has applied for specific jobs, including Caymanian applicants, and their relevant qualifications for the post.
Once the system goes online, any business applying for a work permit will be able to do so at any time. It is envisioned that applicants for various immigration services will also be able to pay fees online around the clock.
In addition to the immigration-related services, the site is expected to function as a jobs database where employers can post positions and certain job-seekers can post resumes which can then be viewed by businesses.
“We believe online services at immigration will mean a reduction of long wait lines and wait time in the immigration hall and a lessening of the burden of cumbersome forms and documents,” Premier Alden McLaughlin said.