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The Cayman Islands’ 2021 Census Report shows that Jamaica ranks second as the place of birth for Cayman residents. However, this does not translate into Jamaicans taking second place for the top jobs in Cayman. Instead, Jamaican born workers mostly work as housekeepers, cleaners, caretakers, gardeners, police and construction workers, where they earn the middle-to-lower end of the salary scale in Cayman. In contrast, workers representing smaller percentages of the population (the UK, USA and Canada) in terms of birth, appear to command Cayman’s highest salaries. I believe there are several reasons for these disparities, some of which I mention below.
Cayman’s economic needs
First, as Cayman developed rapidly (with more buildings, homes and businesses) Cayman was forced to find people from overseas to fill posts for construction and other areas where tradesmen were required. This happened because Cayman did not establish large enough of an institution to equip and train a sufficient number of Caymanians to take these jobs as they became available.
In addition, there was a period of time in Cayman that professions like tradesmen, electricians and others in the construction industry were not deemed to be “prestigious enough” for my fellow Caymanians to pursue as careers. Instead, my fellow Caymanians were attracted to jobs in banks and other places in the financial services industry. A matter of preference, as it were.
The result of these permutations and combinations is that a smaller number of Caymanian-born workers were represented in trades industries over the years when compared to Jamaican-born workers (the 2021 Census also confirms that construction is the largest employer of Non-Caymanians and is the fifth largest place of employment for Caymanians, confirming that the long-held trend of the number of Non-Caymanians versus Caymanians in the construction industry is continuing).
Literally being located next door also influenced Cayman as a choice for Jamaicans.
Advantages of being include:
Ability to return home quickly in case of family emergenciesAllows parents working in Cayman to conveniently see their children in Cayman during the summer holidays when school is outShort flight
These benefits also translated well for Cayman businesses too because they could obtain workers on short notice when sufficient labourers were not available in Cayman to complete new or ongoing projects.
My suspicion is that, over time, because of the convenience and proximity, human resources managers developed a “preference” for Jamaican workers, especially in construction and housekeeping.
At the same time, however, for the financial services industry to thrive, human resources managers in that sector recruited many of their managers, directors and partners from the UK, USA and Canada. The median salary for these positions, as shown below, is about 6k per month (note that partners can make millions of dollars per year at law firms and accounting firms, not just 6k per month).
Salary of managers according to 2021 Cayman Census
The median salary, however, for construction and trades (where many Jamaican-born workers are employed) is 3k or less per month, with housekeepers in the region of 1k per month (often, this situation does not change even when Jamaican-born workers obtain Caymanian citizenship). This is highlighted in the preceding table and the table below.
Salaries in construction based on the 2021 Cayman Census Report
Importance of differences
The significance of the differences between positions held by Jamaican-born workers (representing a large percentage of residents on the basis of birth) and the UK, USA and Canada (representing a smaller percentage of residents on the basis of birth) is that, given the salaries, Jamaican-born workers are likely to have a harder time surviving the high cost of living in Cayman and may also live near or at the poverty level.
Anomaly could have been avoided
This anomaly, in my view, may have been avoided over the years if human resource planners considered Jamaican scholars for positions in the financial services industry at the same time that they assessed Cayman’s needs in trades industries.
For example, looking at Rhodes Scholarships alone, these have been awarded to Jamaicans from the 1950s to date, for literary and scholastic attainments, according to data published by the University of The West Indies. Jamaica also boasts good university education standards, with some Caymanians even obtaining their education in Jamaica in the past. Jamaica could have therefore been seen as a reliable source of educated candidates for top jobs, not just construction and housekeeping.
Opportunity to change things
Ignoring what could have been, the Cayman government and businesses have an opportunity now to correct the existing mismatch. The will to do this, however, may depend on the attitude towards more diversity at the top.