As many as 10,000 new work permits could be granted within the next year, according to Cayman’s leaders.
Immigration officials expect the number of permits issued to foreign workers to rise from just more than 30,000 to somewhere between 35,000 to 40,000 by the end of 2020.
Premier Alden McLaughlin confirmed the projected growth. Cayman issued a record 30,298 as of last month.
George Town Central MLA Kenneth Bryan brought up that estimate during discussion on the final work permit numbers for 2019.
Work permits were originally estimated to fall between 26,000 and 36,000 this year.
Bryan questioned Workforce Opportunities and Residency Cayman and Employment Ministry officials on next year’s predictions.
“Would it be fair to say then that [with the] same current trends … between 31,000 to 41,000, [there] would be at least 35,000 work permit holders?” Bryan pressed.
McLaughlin, who is the employment minister, agreed that estimate was correct.
“That’s what the projected numbers are, so we don’t know. The economy is driving along,” the premier said. “Unless we as the government make a policy decision that we are going to tell Caymanian business owners that you can’t hire any more people, we want you to shrink your business or stop growing your business, we have to make provision for the labour to run those businesses, so these are projections assuming the economy stays as buoyant as it is.”
Michael Ebanks, the acting chief officer of the Ministry of Employment and Border Control, explained to the Finance Committee that about 90% of work permit applications are approved.
Given the estimated number of applications, Bryan said that it would be safe to assume there could be around 37,000 work permit holders next year.
“I think this is something we have to be concerned about because another 10,000 people more projected and the government has not disagreed that there’s a possibility for that, what does that mean for traffic? What does that mean for the rental market?” Bryan asked.
The George Town Central MLA, in an interview with the Cayman Compass following the committee meeting, said the government is “predicting up to 41,000 [work permits] next year”.
Bryan defended his taking issue with the number of work permits during Finance Committee.
“This is nothing about we don’t want people here or we don’t want work permit holders here,” Bryan said. “The projections of work permit holders that high shows that our economy is doing well and strong and that is good, but there are adverse effects and it’s our jobs to try our best to mediate them.”
Bryan said at this point adding another potential 7,000 to 10,000 people next year into the traffic mix could have some serious adverse effects.
“We are talking about kids not being able to get to school. We are talking about people not being able to get to work on time, it can have ripple effects on family and community life,” Bryan said. “There’s so much more to this, especially the cost of living; the rental market will skyrocket again because of the supply and demand of our market.”