EDITORIAL – Keeping government out of Cayman’s employment business

The projected unemployment rates for the Cayman Islands recently shared by Finance Minister Roy McTaggart sound less like estimates than calibrations of a finely tuned scientific instrument. The economy – as even economists know – is anything but a finely tuned instrument.

Nevertheless, Mr. McTaggart told Chamber of Commerce members last week that the overall unemployment rate in Cayman currently is 4.4 percent and is expected to decline to 4.2 percent in 2019 and 4.0 percent in 2020.

How could Mr. McTaggart, or anyone else, possibly know this? Did government factor into its calculations, for example, the uncertainty in the financial services sector (given the myriad of global threats to the industry?) We hope they did, because Cayman’s financial sector currently employs more than 7,500 workers or, put another way, approximately 18.3 percent of our total labor force.

Regardless of what the government says, or thinks it knows, about present and future employment numbers, we do know this: Unemployment in Cayman, including among Caymanians, is enviably low.

As of fall 2017, the government estimated Caymanian unemployment at 7.3 percent, which translates into 1,515 jobless Caymanians.

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Let’s dissect that number further:

Some are qualified workers who are simply “between jobs” temporarily.

Others are workers who do not possess the qualifications needed to secure the jobs they desire. These will remain unemployed until their expectations align with reality.

And still others can be considered truly “unemployable,” because of issues with health, education, attitude, substance abuse, or a whole host of other disqualifiers.

All of the above need to be subtracted from the frequently quoted, but still minuscule, 1,515 number. The “real number” is likely well under 1,000.

When politicians make promises of “a job for every Caymanian,” what they are really doing is attempting to score political points by portraying Caymanians as victims of discrimination in their own country. That’s when the political myth becomes both divisive and dangerous.

Enter the government’s newest department, where the myth is the mission.

Taking on responsibilities that formerly were the remit of the Department of Immigration and the National Workforce Development Agency, the new “Workforce Opportunities & Residency Cayman” (or “WORC”) promises to be one of the most potentially intrusive government entities impinging on the private sector. The new department is charged with processing work permits and immigration applications, while securing “durable employment and opportunities for the advancement of Caymanians through development, training, internship, apprenticeships and partnerships with private sector businesses.”

The brainchild of Premier Alden McLaughlin (why he would claim paternity of this amalgamation is beyond us) is scheduled to gestate for another year before launching in the summer of 2019. WORC’s intended focus is “two inter-related elements: full Caymanian employment and a well-supplied business community that is globally competitive,” according to interim director Sharon Roulstone.

Attempting to coerce companies into hiring employees based on anything other than their individual merit threatens to stifle or destroy the economic prosperity upon which we all rely and, incidentally, the foundation upon which Cayman’s “economic miracle” was built.

Cayman’s immigration law is clear: When a position attracts applications from an expatriate and an equally qualified Caymanian, the job goes to the Caymanian. (From a manager’s perspective, obviously it’s far less costly and troublesome to hire the Caymanian, thus avoiding the entanglements of overseas recruitment and relocation, the lengthy and close-to-extortionate work permit fee structure and other associated costs and frustrations.)

This is not the first, and certainly will not be the last, time we will say it: The government needs to resist the temptation of meddling in Cayman’s businesses.

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  1. I really think that the Premier is spreading himself too thin and trying to inject himself into everything and needs to be WATCHED . The WORC program, I believe that it will be more hurt to the business community and Caymanians than good . And the Immigration Department shouldn’t be getting itself involved so deeply into the employment business . If their Laws aren’t working , then what makes them believe that a program will .
    Is this what you call , keep messing around with it until you get it right, and in the main time don’t know what will happen in between .

  2. I think the Compass misses the fundamental point that WORC will be able to analyse the emerging patterns of employment in order to ensure that Caymanians receive the best possible training to gain the necessary qualifications necessary to secure employment which would, otherwise go to an expatriate.

    This is a welcome initiative to progress Caymanian employment and the Premier is to be applauded for his foresight.

    In terms of the ‘unemployable’ where these are due to medical issues, they should not be regarded or classified as ‘unemployed’ per se and should be classified as unable to work and receive support until their condition changes.

    Those who, through deliberate choice, or through lifestyle choices, disbar themselves from employment, should be similarly discounted and removed from any ‘unemployment’ support until they are genuinely seeking work.

    • Can you please clarify what do you mean by ” receive the best possible training to gain the necessary qualifications necessary to secure employment “. There are no trade schools in the Cayman Islands, as far as I know, except for the Superior auto programme.
      To receive the best possible training you need to have: #1 a vocational school, #2 the best possible teachers, #3 willing students who would want to be the best in a chosen trade, #4 long term unemployed candidates must be professionally evaluated for learning disabilities before being accepted to a trade programme to identify his or her individual learning profile and then design a program of cognitive exercises for that individual.
      Difficulty with reading, writing and mathematics, comprehension, logical reasoning, problem solving, visual and auditory memory, non-verbal learning, attention, processing speed and dyslexia could be the hidden reasons for a person not being able to keep a job.
      To avoid being embarrassed, a person with learning disabilities chooses to quit his job. Many adult learning disabilities could be successfully addressed. The brain’s ability to change both its physical structure and its functional organization in response to training and experience is excellent at any age.
      Many children and adults in the Cayman Islands can benefit from full/ part time programs with the sole purpose of helping individuals of all ages with specific learning difficulties.
      Arrowsmith school in Toronto is an excellent example. Why not to become a participating school?
      Arrowsmith Program is hosting Information Sessions at Toronto location for professionals involved in education or who are interested in the field of learning disabilities and the work of Arrowsmith Program. https://arrowsmithschool.org/information-sessions/
      MUST attend for the Cayman’ educators/administrators, private and public. Because there is a reason why so many can’t hold a job or succeed at school. Determine the root cause of the unemployment problem.

  3. John have you seen in the past that Caymanians have been experienced and qualified and still didn’t get the job , but a work permit was sold for the same job .
    What makes you think that by the Premier saying that he is doing this program to get Caymanians ready for the job market, is going to be any different from the past .
    I will applaud him if he stayed out of the hiring process of employees.