There are currently just less than 1,000 people registered as unemployed and actively seeking jobs in the Cayman Islands.
Data from the Workforce Opportunities and Residency Cayman department – established at the beginning of last year – shows 1,656 people have registered with the agency.
Of those, 965 are listed as unemployed. The rest are either students or are in jobs but actively seeking new opportunities.
Jeremy Scott, the director of the agency, said he believes the numbers accurately reflect the employment situation in the country.
Though WORC initially had teething problems establishing its system, he believes that by now most job seekers are aware of the portal and are registered.
He said there were an average of more than 1,000 vacancies listed on the portal each month since September, despite the collapse of the tourism industry.
Since May it has been mandatory for employers to list jobs, including work permit renewals, with the site. Scott said the best chance for any Caymanian seeking work to find employment was by registering with WORC.
From an economic perspective, Scott said it was encouraging to see that the number of job seekers listed with the department was relatively small, given the global situation with COVID-19.
“I think those numbers are fairly low,” he said.
He accepted that not everyone who was out of work would be registered in the system. There are 2,898 people currently claiming the tourism stipend designed for people who have lost income due to the border closure.
Some of that difference could be explained by self-employed tour operators and taxi drivers, for example, some of whom are struggling to keep their businesses afloat and holding on for the return of tourists rather than actively seeking work.
If anyone in that category is looking for a job, even temporarily, Scott advises they sign up for WORC.
“The way we can ensure everyone gets a fair shake is if they use the platform. The system only works if people use it,” he said.
“The statistics speak for themselves in terms of the opportunities that are out there.”
He acknowledged it could take time, despite significant public relations efforts in the past six months, for everyone to be aware of WORC and to be utilizing its services.
Of those registered with WORC, Tania Ebanks, who manages the Employment Services Unit, said 337 had found jobs, including 200 during the worst period between April and June.
“That was when we were seeing some opportunities for stock-takers, supermarket workers, delivery drivers and we had clients that could fill those opportunities.”
Discerning job seekers
She said it had been harder to place people in employment since the end of lockdown, despite a recovery in some sectors of the economy.
The data shows that around half of those registered with WORC have post-secondary education and almost a third have a college degree.
She said those applicants might not be prepared to take a minimum wage job on a construction site, for example, particularly if they could access a stipend that pays a similar amount while they look for work more appropriate to their education and interests.
Equally the economics of minimum wage employment might not make sense for someone with children, once the cost of childcare and transport has been factored in.
Others are choosing to take advantage of educational opportunities, including courses provided by UCCI and by hoteliers to get skills that could enable them to enter the job market at a higher level.
“We have job seekers who are becoming quite discerning,” she said. “You can’t just say look at all these jobs, people should be taking them, everybody’s circumstances are not the same.”
Ebanks added that the portal was not just for entry-level positions and she encouraged employers to view it as a chance to find real talent for their organizations. She said there were very good candidates listed with WORC and encouraged employers to ‘shop local’ for new staff.
“Use the system. We have a diverse pool of candidates. It is not just entry level personnel,” she said.
WORC provides oversight
Scott urged anyone looking for a job to ensure they were signed up with WORC. He said it would allow them access to more opportunities and was the only way to ensure government could monitor their applications and ensure they were given a fair opportunity under the law.
He said anyone applying for a job without WORC’s support didn’t have the same oversight.
He recommends that people take opportunities when they come up – even if they are not the most suitable – warning that the stipend will end at some point and that employment experience of any kind is useful.
In the long term, WORC aims to monitor trends in employment and workforce development that can assist policy makers.
Laura Watler, acting deputy director of business development, said the system will evolve so that data can be extracted and analyzed to provide guidance on education and training.
WORC aims to recruit a labour market manager and an industry partner analyst that can help analyse the data at a macro level. Watler said this would involve looking at future as well as current labour market demands.
“If we know a certain industry is coming we can work with the schools and other partners to ensure Caymanians are ready for those roles,” she said.