Cayman’s unemployment remains on track to hit a projected 6.9% by the end of this year, Premier Alden McLaughlin has said.
In August, Finance Minister Roy McTaggart pointed to this projected figure when outlining Cayman’s economic picture due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it remains unchanged at this point.
McLaughlin, in a statement Thursday responding to a question from George Town Central MLA Kenneth Bryan in the Legislative Assembly, said, “The Economics and Statistics Office has projected that by the end of the year unemployment is projected to increase to 6.9% from 3.5% at the end of last year, principally because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Bryan had asked whether there has been a decrease or increase in Caymanian job losses and whether Workforce Opportunities and Residency Cayman can determine if it is COVID-19 related.
McLaughlin said the closure of local borders and the loss of tourism due to COVID has caused job losses.
The premier said data collected during the period of the shelter-in-place provisions indicated that 50% of WORC’s job-seeking customers who made contact with the Department of Labour and Pensions for employment services reported COVID-19 as a factor in job loss.
“Highest numbers were seen among persons displaced from the tourism and construction industries, although construction has now recovered, as well as administration, retail and public transportation,” McLaughlin reported to the House.
He said 1,461 jobseekers registered to date since November 2019, including 1,183 Caymanians.
“As of now, 806 Caymanians are registered as unemployed, 619 of that number registered as unemployed between March and present, versus only 157 Caymanians registered as unemployed during the period November 2019 to March 2020 – that is prior to the shelter-in-place provisions being implemented,” he said.
Bryan questioned whether the department was considering mechanisms to verify the causes of job losses as he suggested that there could be individuals using COVID-19 as an excuse to get rid of employees.
The premier pointed out there were no changes to the Labour Law and its provisions relating to dismissal.
However, he added, “I think we can say confidently that, given where the economy was and the very, very low employment levels prior to COVID, the vast majority of unemployment situations now are the result of the fact we have almost no tourism industry, certainly no real international tourism industry.”
He said there is some local tourism, but the government is continuing to work on ways to ensure that unemployed workers can look after themselves and find jobs in other fields.
“There is still no shortage of jobs in Cayman,” the premier said. “If you look at the sheer number of work permits, there are lots of jobs over here; it is a question of matching individuals and their skill sets to jobs that are actually available.”
Drop in dismissal complaints
McLaughlin said the Department of Labour and Pensions has reported a decline in the number of unfair-dismissal complaints.
The premier, responding to a question from Newlands MLA Alva Suckoo said an average of 49 complaints were made per month this year compared to 108 monthly complaints in 2019.
Opposition Leader Arden McLean questioned if the complaints had been dealt with.
The premier said 40 investigations were currently active, and seven had been completed and referred to the Labour Tribunal.