Just over half of the people receiving a monthly tourism stipend from government are employed in some capacity, with 13% in full-time employment, according to a Ministry of Tourism survey.
Currently, 3,398 people are receiving the $1,500 stipend, at a cost of $5 million a month to government.
In the survey, 49% of respondents said they were not currently working, with vast majority stating they had no other source of income. Of the 51% who described themselves as employed, 74%, or 1,158 people, were considered underemployed and were working fewer than 30 hours a week.
Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan, speaking at a press conference to present the survey findings on Thursday, said these figures combined meant that 87% of respondents were considered unemployed or underemployed, and that 13% were in full-time employment.
However, he said the survey had not provided enough data to show if everyone currently receiving the stipend were in financial need of it “because we don’t know what kind of job they’re doing, we don’t know the income have, we don’t know how much they were making before [compared] to how much they’re making now”.
The minister said he was aware that some of the stipend recipients were fully employed, including in government jobs, but pointed out that the criteria for receiving the stipend when it was put in place was that anyone who had been employed in the tourism industry at the time the borders closed could apply for it.
He said an assessment would be done at the end of this year to determine if the recipients were “genuinely in need of that money”.
During a press conference on Thursday, the government announced that anyone receiving the tourism stipend – even if they are employed – must register with Workforce Opportunities and Residency Cayman, known as WORC.
Currently, only 33% of the recipients are registered with that agency.
The report noted, “There is an opportunity for WORC to encourage people to see registration as a priority when they are unemployed.”
The government is working with the Cayman Islands Tourism Association and WORC to place Caymanian staff in vacancies in hotels, restaurants, attractions and watersports operations as the islands prepare to reopen the borders.
The online survey was completed by 3,107 stipend recipients, which accounted for 91.5% of the 3,398 total recipients. Department of Tourism officials said efforts were being made to reach to the remaining 289 people to complete the survey.
The report by the Department of Tourism on the survey, which was carried out between 23 June and 6 July, gives an insight into the demographic that is receiving the stipend.
Bryan said the information garnered from the survey would help guide the work of a recently established Remobilisation Committee, which aims to get displaced tourism workers back into the industry and find jobs for Caymanians interested or qualified to break into the tourism field.
The stipend for displaced employees from the tourism sector was introduced after the borders closed in March last year, initially as a one-off payment of $600 that month, followed by monthly stipends of $1,000. That was later increased to the current amount of $1,500.
In November and December this year, the monthly sum is expected to be decreased to $750, in line with the phased reopening of the borders, according to an earlier government announcement.
Age and gender
The stipend survey found that the 55% of the respondents were female and 45% were male.
The average age was 46.3 years old, with just 27% being 35 or younger.
The survey report noted, “This shows the urgent need to put programme in place to get young Caymanians more involved in the tourism industry.”
Stayover or cruise?
Before COVID-19 shut down Cayman’s borders and brought the tourism industry on island to a standstill, according to the survey, 64% of the respondents were working primarily with stayover tourists, while 36% dealt with cruise ship visitors.
The report stated, “Most stipend recipients reported that they primarily served stay-over visitors. Even though cruise was selected by just 36%, this is large enough to impact the overall wellbeing of tourism workers.
“In addition, it should be noted that many persons who selected the stay-over option are also impacted by cruise visitation.”
Kinds of jobs
Prior to the border closure, the top three jobs held by respondents working in the tourism industry in housekeeping (12%), as sales clerks (10%) and as bus drivers (8%), the survey report noted.
Of the respondents, 28%, or 868 people, had worked as managers or supervisors.
Hotel accommodations and attractions recorded the lowest level of management or supervisory roles. “This could be a result of these sectors having a low supervisor-to-staff ratio,” the report noted, but said further investigations can be done to determine what other factors play a role in these numbers.
“As expected, with the level of entrepreneurship in these sectors, the Transportation and Watersports sectors accounted for the highest rate of persons being in a manager or supervisory role,” the report stated.
The majority of workers (70%) who responded to the survey stated that they had worked in the tourism industry for at least six years.
The survey found that 68% of respondents had been vaccinated, with the majority of those aged 35 or older.
Of the 962 people who were not vaccinated, 73%, or 692 individuals, said they would consider getting inoculated if they were employed in the tourism industry.
The vaccination rate for employed respondents was 75%, compared to 62% for unemployed stipend recipients.
The district with the most tourism-related workers, according to the survey, is West Bay, with 1,244 displaced employees, followed by George Town with 973, and Bodden Town with 648.
The report noted that West Bay is the only district where the number of people who stated they were unemployed was higher than the number in work. The West Bay residents also had the highest reliance on the cruise industry, as the majority worked in watersports.