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A tiny paragraph in this week’s Economist alerted me to a small change in Cuban policy that could have ramifications for the Cayman Islands employment market.

After January 14, Cubans will no longer be required to obtain an exit permit in order to leave their country.  While the Heritage Foundation blog advises readers not to expect a sudden boom in tourists from Cuba (where the average monthly wage is apparently US$20), there is every reason to expect a sudden rise in applications for both skilled and unskilled jobs here in Cayman.

Many low income workers and tradesmen in the Cayman Islands come from nearby Caribbean nations where typical earnings are much less than in Cayman, but still probably in excess of those in Cuba.  There are no restrictions on Cubans working in Cayman akin to those in the States that reflect decades of frosty-to-say-the-least relations between the countries.  To obtain a work permit in the Cayman Islands one need only prove good health and character (as well as having a job of course!).

Furthermore the standard of Cuban education is regarded as extremely high.   Cuban education was ranked first equal in the world in the 2009 UN Human Development Report.  Jamaica, our second most populist Caribbean neighbour and source of some 7,500 local immigrant workers (per 2011 ESO report), ranked 108th.  The same ESO report states 119 Cuban work permit holders in Cayman while Cuba’s population is more than four times that of Jamaica (11m vs 2.5m).

A combination of good educational standards and low salary expectations could prove tempting for local employers unable to find a Caymanian for the role, while the ability to obtain a work permit, earn significantly more and work a mere half an hour’s flight from home could well appeal to itchy-footed Cuban workers.

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