Population, economy grow; voter increase expected

The Cayman Islands resident population was estimated at more than 60,000 people during 2015, the highest number the British Overseas Territory has reported and the first time population totals for the tiny, three-island chain have officially exceeded 60,000.

The population estimate for 2015, presented in the Cayman Islands Compendium of Statistics, was 60,413, eclipsing the previous high mark set in 2014 of 58,238 residents.

Estimates are based on a survey of about 1,400 residents, with a 5 percent margin of error – about 3,000 people in either direction.

Since 2008, population figures were reported to be in decline following the international markets’ collapse which, in Cayman, led to fewer jobs and a significant drop in work permits held by non-Caymanian employees. The numbers, which were averaging around 55,000 to 56,000 between 2010 and 2013, hitting their lowest point in 2010, started coming back up two years ago.

The population increase was fueled largely by non-Caymanian workers, who were estimated at 24,791 (42.6 percent) of the local population in 2014, and 26,176 (43.3 percent) of the population in 2015. The Caymanian population also increased slightly during the same time but lost its overall share of the local population. Caymanians made up 57.4 percent of the islands’ residents in 2014, while in 2015 that fell to 56.7 percent.

Other than an estimated population drop of about 300 residents in North Side district during 2015 and a gain of a few hundred in neighboring East End, things stayed about the same in Grand Cayman’s main population centers, according to the report.

George Town remained, by far, the largest district in the islands, accounting for about half of its population, eclipsing 31,000 residents for the first time.

Bodden Town and West Bay were neck-and-neck for the second-largest district population, with Bodden Town retaining its status of second-largest island district by about 100 people, the statistical report noted.

Population estimates for the Sister Islands, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, increased sharply, going from 1,839 in 2014 to 2,196 last year.

Wesley Howell
Wesley Howell

Work permits

As its population increased in 2015, the territory’s overall unemployment rate fell to 4.2 percent, its lowest levels since 2008, according to the Office of the Premier.

The drop in the jobless rate was entirely due to a decrease in unemployment among Caymanians.

That decrease came against the backdrop of a work permit increase in the islands.

All non-Caymanians who do not have permanent resident status must obtain permission from the government to work in the islands.

In fall 2014, when the Caymanian unemployment rate was 7.9 percent, the Immigration Department reported about 20,500 active work permits and government contracts.

In fall 2015, with the Caymanian unemployment rate at 6.2 percent, the corresponding number of work permits was nearing 22,500. As of February 2016, the total number of work permits and government contracts held in the islands was put at more than 23,000 by immigration officials.

Over the past five years, work permit numbers have seen a steady increase in Cayman, from a low of about 18,500 in the 2011-2012 era.

The ESO statistics revealed that just more than 1,200 Caymanians were jobless in the fall of 2015, compared to 1,562 Caymanians without employment in the fall of 2014.

Conversely, the number of unemployed non-Caymanian permanent residents rose during the same period. There were just 129 (2.8 percent) permanent residents jobless in the fall of 2014, compared to 283 (6.6 percent) in the fall of 2015.

The unemployment rate among non-Caymanian workers also rose slightly, going from a miniscule 0.9 percent to 1.4 percent during the same period. Typically, the unemployment rate for work permit holders is quite low because they are not allowed to stay on island without a job.

Voters

The number of registered voters in the Cayman Islands is also expected to rise to its highest-ever level before the next general election, set for May 2017. However, the numbers show that has not occurred just yet.

The official Cayman Islands voter list for the May 2013 election stood at 18,492 people. On July 21, 2016 – a little more than three years later – there were 18,457 registered voters.

However, if past experiences are any guide, the number of registered voters will increase drastically before the next election.

“When the Electoral Boundary Commission did their work [in 2015], the [voter] list was at 18,297. So to have the list where it is now, subtracting deaths, folks sentenced to more than 12 months [in prison], while adding new voters is actually a good sign, before most candidates declare,” said Elections Supervisor Wesley Howell. “We projected to have our highest level of voter registration by the time registration closes before the May 2017 general elections.”

The list of registered voters stood at 15,386 in May 2009 and dropped to 15,136 prior to a referendum on the one man, one vote/single-member constituencies issue held in July 2012. By the May 2013 general election vote – less than a year after the referendum – the number of electors soared to 18,492.

Cayman made it easier for prospective voters to register following constitutional changes that took effect in November 2009. Those allowed anyone holding Caymanian status to register to vote, regardless of citizenship in other countries.

Still, members of the 2015 Electoral Boundary Commission noted in their own estimates that some 25 percent of Caymanians who were eligible to vote simply had not registered.

The Compendium of Statistics for 2015 puts the total number of Caymanians age 15 and older at 25,906. It is estimated that at least more than 24,000 of those voters are age 18 or over as so are eligible to vote.

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