‘Statistics tell only part of story’
Racial income inequality must be addressed, but political commentators warned that statistics only tell part of the story.
The 2016 Census revealed that annual personal income by black workers fell by 13 per cent from 2010 to 2016, while personal income for whites rose by 1 per cent.
Denis Pitcher said there is obvious income inequality on the island, but he argued figures are often skewed because of Bermuda’s reliance on expatriate workers.
Mr Pitcher said: “Too often we sensationalise misleading statistics without accepting that they tell an inaccurate and incomplete story.
“The vast majority of our statistics and trends are published comparing black and white or Bermudian and non-Bermudian. Our reliance on a large expat workforce can distort these numbers and turn people against the very things that could help address the root causes of our problems.
“Unfortunately, we rarely compare statistics and trends by race and status, such as comparing black Bermudians to white Bermudians. By not doing so, we distort the picture of true income inequality, which makes for an easy target for short-term political gains but an impossible problem to solve in the long term.”
Mr Pitcher said the island was reliant on foreign investment and skilled labour to create jobs, skewing figures.
Giving an example, he referred to the Government’s recent agreement with Binance, which was promised to bring at least 40 jobs to the island.
Mr Pitcher said: “It has been suggested that 30 of those jobs will be Bermudian, so ten of them will be non-Bermudian.
“The likelihood is that the majority of those ten non-Bermudian jobs will be highly skilled, highly paid positions filled predominantly by white people.
“While Binance has made a very welcome pledge to invest in training and education, that will take time and the 30 Bermudian jobs are more likely to be support roles.
“Those support roles are likely to be more representative of our local demographics, but they are unlikely to be as well paid as the non-Bermudian jobs.”
Mr Pitcher argued that such trends could make racial income disparity appear greater even as more black Bermudians find work.
He said: “Solely comparing black and white is a poor means to measure our racial income inequality problem when we rely on foreign investment and workers, who distort those numbers.
“Instead, we need to focus on measuring the Bermudian racial inequality problem so we can identify whether or not we’re achieving our aim of reducing racial income inequality.”
Mr Pitcher said addressing racial income inequality must be a goal for any Bermudian government.
He said: “We cannot solve global inequality, but we can most certainly do more to solve Bermudian inequality.
“As such, I am very encouraged and hopeful that the pledges to incorporate funding and support for educating Bermudians on this proposed new fintech industry will do more to provide opportunity for all Bermudians and help narrow the gap.”
Charles Jeffers, a political commentator and deputy chairman of Age Concern, suggested some of the declining income in the black community could be because of a growing number of seniors leaving the workforce.
He said: “I wonder how much that has to do with the people who were 60 or 62 at the time of the last census and who have since turned 65.
“Their income would have decreased drastically.”
Mr Jeffers said this is reflected in the employment figures for the public sector, where the number of employed fell from 3,819 people in 2010 to 2,628 in 2016.
He said: “Within the last five years, the OBA was offering early retirement.
“In some cases it wasn’t just early retirement, but not filling jobs when people left. We have heard in some areas there was quite a bit of short staffing.
“I guarantee if there was a survey done now you would see those numbers jumping up again.”
Mr Jeffers said that allowing seniors to remain in the workforce longer might help to address the issue. He added: “We are not helping people by forcing them out of the workforce and then giving them financial assistance.”
News, page 10