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(CNS Business): With unemployment among Caymanians growing and close to 20,000 work permits held by foreign nationals, the premier has called on local employers and business owners to give Caymanians a chance to work. McKeeva Bush questioned how there could be so many work permits issued to the private sector while so many local people were without a job. Bush suggested that the current unemployment rate was 8%, but according to the Economics and Statistics Office it is nearer 10% among Caymanians and among young men it is even higher. Bush said he was not asking businesses to give work to people who were not qualified but where a Caymanian was capable of doing the job employers needed to give priority to the local population.
Speaking at the Mary Miller Hall on Wednesday evening, at a public meeting about the budget, the premier appeared puzzled that the country's immigration policies had allowed a situation where the local unemployment rate was increasing but there were still some 20,000 people from overseas working in the jurisdiction on permits.
He revealed that one of the new fees in the budget would be an extra 5% for work permits held for staff doing work that could be done by Caymanians, such as clerks and painters. Bush said he hoped the new fee would encourage employers to take on local people who are seeking work instead of looking overseas for people.
The premier said it appeared to be too easy for employers to make a case for permit holders to be employed when there were suitable Caymanians available, although he did not explain what criteria would be used to identify jobs that could be done by Caymanians.
“There has far too much been going on,” he said, referring to work permits still being given to overseas workers, despite a weakening economy in which local people were being laid off. Bush added that he hoped the additional fee would encourage people to use available local staff and create job opportunities for the unemployed.
If employers insisted on “going down that road” of employing work permit holders, they would pay the extra fee. “We need to meet this challenge,” he said. “We don't expect a painter to be an accountant but we can expect a painter to paint.”
Bush said he was trying his best to help people at a time when businesses did not appear to be concerned about what was happening to the local people. He said they appeared not to understand that they can't make ends meet and can't pay their electrical bills, and as a result end up on the doorstep of every politician looking for assistance.
He appealed to employers and business owners to do their bit for the community by employing local people. He said employers should not be telling Caymanians who are looking for work and prepared to do anything that they are over qualified but should give them the job. Bush said the private sector had to play its part and help address the problem of local unemployment by giving up some work permits and taking on Caymanians instead.
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