Plunge revealed in work permits granted
The number of work permits granted each year dropped by more than 6,800 in just six years, according to Government statistics released yesterday.
The report showed that the estimated number of work permits issued peaked at 18,131 in 2007 — but had dropped to 11,330 by 2013, the latest figures available.
The 2013 work permit figure was the lowest issued in a single year for more than a decade, according to the 2014 Bermuda Digest of Statistics, published yesterday.
But Home Affairs Minister Sen Michael Fahy said that figures for 2014 would show an increase in the number of permits granted — reversing the long-term decline.
Economist and consultant Peter Everson said keeping the numbers of people working on the Island was vital to the Island’s future.
He added: “The difference is that there are fewer people working in the economy and that’s a problem because the cost of governing the country has risen, the cost of healthcare has risen and the cost of pensions has risen.
“We have a smaller group paying for all these costs.”
Mr Everson said the shrinkage in the economy had happened over all sectors — from international business to construction and hospitality.
He added: “All of these have shrunk and the only ones that have grown are support services — government administration, health and social and education.”
Mr Everson said: “It’s the size of the working population which supports Government revenues and pensions, so it’s important for Bermudians who have retired or approaching retirement and those who are still in school and just about to enter the workforce — it affects everybody.
“We need the size of the economy to be bigger to pay the bills.”
Mr Everson said the grant of Permanent Resident Status (PRC) to some overseas workers in Bermuda would have affected the number of work permits issued after 2007 — but not by a large amount.
He added that the Bermudian workforce had also grown smaller over the same period, although it had not varied in large numbers either.
Mr Everson said: “Because many Bermudians are unemployed or underemployed, there is a frustration among many Bermudians that they don’t have the appropriate skills to get better-paid employment. That’s a real and very understandable feeling.”
And he added that had probably been the spur for Government to plough so much money into workplace development.
He said: “There are still large numbers of work permits issued — what that tells us is that Bermudians can’t apply for the jobs they like, so the question is how to get them retrained and skilled to get these jobs they want.
“That not a Bermudian-only issue — it applies pretty much across the western world.”
Sen Fahy said that the number of substantive work permits — those for periods of between one and ten years — stood at 11,321 for 2014, while temporary permits numbered 6,951.
He added that — in tandem with an increase in permits — the national training plan aimed to predict the areas where Bermudians should consider training for future posts.
The 2013 work permit estimates showed that, of the 11,300 permits issued in 2013, 4,820 were for three months, while 3,930 were for periods of up to a year, with most being renewals for the full 12 months.
A further 2,580 work permits were issued for between two and five years and the report pointed out that these permits were counted in the year they were granted, although they remained valid over subsequent years.
In 2007 — the peak year for work permits — of the 18,131 granted, 6,917 were for three months, with a further 4,820 issued for up to a year, again mostly renewals for the full year. And 6,394 permits were issued in 2007 for between two and five years.