November 29, 2020

Letter to the Editor from Marco Archer

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A strategy for jobs

For the past four decades Cayman has focused on economic growth and relied on foreign labour to complement the Caymanian labour force whilst assuming that improved living conditions and greater social development and integration would follow automatically. However, it is now apparent to all that economic growth, improved living conditions and social development and integration do not all occur together or at the same pace.

Cayman has experienced rapid economic development during this period but social development and integration have struggled to keep pace and living conditions for many have not improved and may now be worse than pre-Hurricane Ivan conditions.

The rate of growth alone has been the sole determinant of economic success in Cayman with little regard given to the distribution of income amongst the population, creating the need for government assisted living and leading some to argue that the growth is not inclusive of the majority in the labour force.

A quick look at the latest available statistics, the 2011 Labour Force Survey Report, reveals that the overall participation rate in the labour force for the working age population of 15 – 65 and over is 82.8%, whereas, only 75% of the Caymanians of working age participate in the labour force as compared to 91% for non-Caymanians. It is also worth noting that with an overall unemployment rate of 6.3%, which is more than two times the acceptable rate, unemployment for all nationalities in the 15-24 age group at 20.8% is four times greater than most other age groups while the unemployment rate for Caymanians in the same age category is almost three times greater at 32.8% when compared to 11.5% for non-Caymanians. Similar startling statistics also exists for those 65 and over. Therefore, it is imperative that job opportunities commensurate with expectations and abilities are available to the unemployed youth and those over 65 within our population in order to reduce poverty and social tensions.

Recognising that the tourism and financial industries require semi to highly skilled labour and there is a significant and growing pool of low and unskilled labour in Cayman, the time has now come for Cayman to give serious consideration to economic diversification and training as a means of providing meaningful employment opportunities and to ensure greater inclusion of Caymanians in the labour force and poverty reduction in the long term. However, having found ourselves in this position with a shift in the global economy resulting in structural unemployment for many and jobs in the two pillar industries not likely to rebound to pre-2009 levels, what should we do in the short and long term?

We should give serious consideration to adopting a jobs strategy to assess the social value of jobs and identify what other types of jobs would also assist in sustaining economic growth, contributing to improved living conditions and social development and integration as well as identify constraints to job creation for the 15-24 and over 65 age groups. Such a strategy for Cayman might reveal that we need (i) greater collaboration between the public and private sectors to create employment opportunities for those struggling to find adequate employment, (ii) improve flexibility and fairness in the workplace with increased regulation in certain areas and decreased regulation in other areas, (iii) increased labour force participation and skill development through vocational and academic training across all age groups, (iv) establish permanent part-time jobs for those needing to work and care for children and keeping older workers longer in the workforce by enabling them to work shorter hours and take advantage of job sharing programs, and (v) facilitating a transition from government assisted living to working by encouraging able-bodied welfare recipients to enrol in vocational and academic training programs and by reinforcing the need to pursue gainful employment.

It is important to recognise that we did not arrive at this difficult point in time overnight and there are no quick fix solutions. The road back to economic stability and prosperity for Cayman will take prudent financial management on the part of the public sector, greater commitment from the private sector, compassion by those able to assist others and perseverance from those who are struggling. No one has ever succeeded by giving up and we should not.



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