15% reduction in work permit holders
The number of people holding active work permits has dropped by 15 percent compared to late last year, according to new figures.
There were a total of 10,127 guest workers holding active one-to-five year permits as of November 25, according to previous figures from Minister of Trade and Industry Kim Wilson.
Yesterday, she revealed the total number of active permits as of March 31 this year was 8,608; a reduction of 1,519.
The decrease is following a year-on-year trend, as last year's figures were down nearly eight percent on the year before.
The figures for active permits do not take into account the number of people on Island with temporary work permits for seasonal jobs or those awaiting full work permits. They are different from the number of permits issued in any given year.
Chamber of Commerce head Stephen Todd said he was not surprised by the drop, which has already been reflected in more empty rental properties and reduced consumer spending.
"It has contributed to an overall reduction in income and revenue generation across the board," he said.
He attributed the drop to a number of large reinsurance companies redomiciling, plus the impact of the global economic crisis.
The figures emerged as a result of a Parliamentary question from Opposition Senator Craig Cannonier, the Shadow Minister of Trade and Industry.
He explained to The Royal Gazette that he wanted the figures so he is prepared for the outcome of an ongoing unemployment survey that will establish the true number of jobless in Bermuda.
Giving the answers, Sen Wilson also revealed that a total of 3,916 new one-to-five-year permits were issued during the course of last year. In the first three months of this year, a total of 1,648 had been issued.
Government has recently announced that some key workers will soon be exempt from work permits and able to get permanent residency for themselves, their spouses and their children.
Premier Paula Cox said on July 8 that senior executives and those responsible for making decisions "critical to the continuity of a company in Bermuda" will be able to get Permanent Resident's Certificates for themselves and their families after ten years on the Island.
She added that the policy will soon be amended so some jobs will be automatically eligible for a ten-year work permit. These will only be issued where companies can prove they have created jobs for Bermudians.
The current term limit is six years but the Opposition has long complained that strict term limits are unwelcoming to international business and threaten the financial success of the Island.
Asked about current "key person" work permits, Sen Wilson said: "The number of waivers from term limits that have been granted to key persons since April 2007 is 1,909."
Sen Cannonier said he had no comment to make on the new figures until he has more information from the unemployment survey, which was completed on July 1. Government has said the results will be announced later this year.
Sen Cannonier said he wanted to know more details about the number of unemployed persons and guest workers in each employment sector to assess what action needs to be taken.
However, he agreed with Mr Todd that the effects of a reduction in the number of foreign workers have been felt by Bermudians who used to rent properties to them.
"This has affected rental income drastically. Many Bermudians rely on that income," he said.
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