Cayman’s fast-growing economy is heavily reliant on foreign labour.
More than half of the workforce is non-Caymanian, the territory’s Economics and Statistics Office reported in November.
The largest group by nationality are Jamaicans, of whom 12,788 are on work permits. Filipinos are another large group with 4,578 on permits.
Britons and Americans are well represented, but the diverse workforce, comprising people from about 130 countries, has seen greater numbers coming in recent years from countries including India (1,461), Nicaragua (550) and South Africa (437).
In Bermuda, the 2019 Employment Briefs survey found that non-Bermudians earned a mean gross annual income that was nearly $20,000 above the Bermudian worker’s average of $61,500.
However, in Cayman, the Spring 2019 Labour Force Survey shows that non-Caymanians are dominant in the lowest salary bands, of up to CI$3,600 per month, while Caymanians are the dominant group at higher income levels.
Cayman has no payroll tax. Instead it levies large work permit fees, effectively meaning that employment taxes are aimed exclusively at foreign workers.
The higher paid the role, the higher the work permit fee.
The employer of an accountant brought in from overseas to work at a bank, for example, would pay an annual work permit fee of CI$13,650 (US$16,380), while the permit for a marketing executive would be CI$10,400 and CI$18,200 for a senior legal counsel, or CI$27,675 for a chairman.
Many educational roles from school principals and teachers to school janitors and kitchen helpers are exempt from work permit fees.
Work permit fees earned the Cayman Government CI$87.3 million (US$104.8 million) in 2018.
The industries employing the largest shares of the workforce are wholesale and retail (12.6 per cent), construction (11.7 per cent), financial and insurance activities (8.9 per cent), followed by professional, scientific and technical activities (8.8 per cent).