Assessments of Caymanian job-seekers who register with the National Workforce Development Agency:
- High school diploma or less – 82 percent
- Skills that are in low-to-moderate demand – 81 percent
- Unable to obtain good letters of reference – 69 percent
- Insufficient skills training – 68 percent
- Lack of skill with numbers – 58 percent
- Poor job interview skills – 51 percent
- Reasons for previous termination – 44 percent
- Mental health issues – 29 percent
- Illiteracy – 21 percent
- Substance abuse – 19 percent
- Alcohol abuse – 18 percent
- Criminal record – 11 percent
- Problems with “perseverance” – 96 percent
- Total defined as “not work ready” – 98 percent.
As you can see, the prospects of employment for the out-of-work Caymanian population are (pick your own description) “not pretty,” “challenging” or “grim.”
According to a government committee report, 72 percent of employers looking at the same picture cite “lack of skills” as a reason for not hiring a Caymanian at some point in the past. Most importantly, 61 percent of employers considered a job seeker’s attitude to be an important factor in making the decision not to hire.
Let’s put this subject into perspective. First, the overwhelming majority of Caymanians are not only employable – they’re employed. According to the most recent data available, the unemployment rate for Caymanian workers stands at 6.2 percent, the lowest since the global financial crisis of 2008-2010.
Put another way, 93.8 percent of Caymanian workers who wish to work are employed. What does that statistic do to the argument that Caymanians are unemployed because of “discrimination?”
As the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Employment phrased it, “[T]here is a lack of competitiveness among a small segment of the Caymanian labour force that is beset with challenges that hamper their long-term employment prospect, which require government attention and investment in terms of training and development.”
While the majority of the report is dedicated to hard numbers, quantifiable survey results and analysis, it also contains sections alleging cultural bias among local employers, based only on speculation and allusions to anonymous “anecdotal evidence.”
Let’s pause here. “Anecdotal evidence” is not evidence at all. Anecdotal evidence is what we hear on morning talk-radio shows and in anonymous blogs to websites. It certainly should not be referenced in a serious report.
Employment Minister Tara Rivers has managed to identify – by way of championing it – perhaps the most damaging recommendation of all, which is to force employers to publish, through NWDA, information on all their positions currently filled by work permit holders. As Ms. Rivers knows, this information is already shared, confidentially, with government.
The idea is that if Caymanians know what work permits are “coming due,” they will be able to prepare themselves in advance to take those positions.
Such a proposal may sound good to government bureaucrats, but applying it to the private sector would be non-productive, ineffective and anti-competitive. Simply put, Butterfield Bank has no business knowing the work permit situation at Cayman National Bank – or vice versa. This anti-business proposal should be a call to arms for the private sector, beginning with the Chamber of Commerce with Cayman Finance not far behind.
As nearly everyone knows, education – not government coercion – is the antidote to unemployment.
In the Cayman government, however, we have an additional issue: Ms. Rivers has ministerial responsibilities for both employment AND education.
It’s bad enough when the proverbial “left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing,” but when both hands belong to the same minister, we have a considerable problem on OUR hands.