Foreign employees working on government contracts in Cayman have increased by nearly 25 percent in the past three years, according to Immigration Department records.

At the end of 2014, there were 881 non-Caymanians working in the public sector, compared to 1,098 at the end of last year.

The increase in employees within the local government service over the past year was largely driven by a rising number of non-Caymanian workers, according to civil service human resources reports, which showed 6,250 people worked for either the central government civil service or its associated statutory authorities and government-owned companies by Dec. 31, 2017.

The majority of the new hires appeared to be non-Caymanians, as the percentage of Caymanians employed within the government service fell from about 74.5 percent in mid-2016 to 73.5 percent at the end of last year.

The increase in non-Caymanian government staff was mirrored by an increase in foreign work permit holders in the islands during the same period.

Immigration records showed the number of work permits held went up by 16 percent between mid-2015 and December 2017.

There were 25,870 work permits and government contracts for non-Caymanian workers active in the Cayman Islands as of February, according to records from the Immigration Department.

Those figures represent the highest numbers reported by the department since fall 2008, when there were nearly 26,700 permits for foreign workers held here, just before the world financial markets’ collapse hit Cayman’s economy

The Immigration Department’s work permit figures, which measure permit numbers at year’s end rather than at various times during the year, noted the number of permits held by foreign workers in the islands as of December 2017 was the highest it had seen in 10 years.

The figures include both private and public sector workers, but do not include non-Caymanian permanent residents or spouses of Caymanians working in the islands.

Unemployment

The work permit and government contract increases came at a time when Cayman’s government recorded a slight uptick in the territory’s unemployment rate.

The jobless rate went from 4.2 percent in the latter half of 2016 to 4.9 percent during the same time for 2017, the latest figures which are available.

The overall rate encompasses jobless figures for both Caymanian and non-Caymanian residents and represents the portion of the total workforce that is actively seeking a job, but which has not attained employment.

The Caymanian unemployment rate also increased during the same period, but only marginally. According to the government Economics and Statistics Office Labour Force Surveys, 1,406 Caymanians were unemployed in fall 2016, while 1,515 Caymanians were unemployed in fall 2017. The Caymanian jobless rate was calculated at 7.1 percent (fall 2016) and 7.3 percent (fall 2017) during the same period.