After their numbers declined for the better part of the last decade, Jamaican work permit holders in the Cayman Islands have increased markedly in the past year, an examination of Immigration Department statistics shows.
As of early July, the Immigration Department recorded 9,100 Jamaicans here on work permits – about a 12 percent increase from the same time a year ago when the department noted about 8,100 Jamaican work permit holders on island.
Since July 2007, when there were nearly 12,000 Jamaican permit holders in the Cayman Islands, the numbers had steadily decreased, bottoming out in mid-2012, when about 8,000 Jamaicans held work permits here.
During 2013-2014, the numbers fluctuated, rising and falling slightly, but this year marks the first time since 2009 that the number of Jamaican work permit holders in the Cayman Islands has exceeded 9,000.
The numbers may just represent a natural progression due to an overall increase in work permit holders in Cayman within the past year. According to department records, there are now more than 22,000 non-Caymanians on work permits here.
However, honorary Jamaican consul Dr. Joe Marzouca believes there is more to it.
“[Cayman has] been using a lot of people from further lands,” Dr. Marzouca said. “It’s always easier to hire people that are closer.”
Dr. Marzouca said simple fact-of-life issues might make it more sensible for local employers to hire skilled Jamaican workers, who are close by, rather than going halfway around the world to hire other nationalities for the same job.
“Some workers, if they get sick and they have to fly back home, that’s a $2,000 plane ticket,” he said. “To Jamaica, it’s just a couple hundred dollars and they’re home.”
However, Immigration Department statistics showed the number of workers from the Philippines – the second most populous non-Caymanian nationality to hold work permits here – also increased sharply during 2015, from nearly 2,600 permit holders last year to about 2,850 in July of this year.
The numbers released by the Immigration Department for work permit holders serve as a “snapshot” of what exists at that time in the Cayman Islands, but examination of the data over a certain period can reveal trends.
For instance, it seems Cayman has seen an increase in the number of foreign workers hired in skilled and unskilled laborer positions so far in 2015.
For instance, the number of masons hired on work permits as of this month was 450. Last year at the same time, that number was 329.
Similarly, the number of gardeners and janitors has gone up by about 110-120 positions overall from last year.
Based on work permit numbers overall, and a declining unemployment rate during 2014, it would appear that the Cayman Islands economy is on the upswing.
The Cayman Islands now has more than 22,000 foreign workers employed on work permits, government contracts, special economic zone permits or awaiting the outcome of permanent residence applications.
That high a number of non-Caymanian workers has not been seen since mid-2010, when the islands were in the midst of a rapid economic decline following the world economic recession of 2008-2009. Non-Caymanian worker numbers went from around 26,500 in mid-2008 to as low as 18,500 during 2011-2012 before stabilizing in early 2013.
In the past two years, the number of non-Caymanian workers here has grown steadily, according to Immigration Department records, from approximately 20,360 in July 2014, to 21,400 in January 2015 to 22,232 as of this month.
Despite the rise in non-Caymanian labor, which makes up about 51 percent of the total local workforce, overall unemployment declined sharply in 2014, to 4.7 percent.