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Survey finds labour force shrinking

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Slide: Bermuda’s labour force has shrunk by nearly 4 per cent over the past two years (Source: Department of Statistics)

Bermuda’s labour force has shrunk over the past two years, while the unemployment rate has dropped and pay packets have swollen.

These were some of the findings of the 2018 Labour Force Survey, published by the Department of Statistics yesterday.

The survey was based on responses from 1,437 households in May this year.

The survey found that median gross annual income from a main job climbed 9 per cent from $58,113 to $63,288.

The survey also suggests that the number of Bermudians in the working population has increased by more than 4,000 to 30,560 since 2016. In contrast, the number of non-Bermudians, a category that includes non-Bermudian spouses of Bermudians and Permanent Resident Certificate holders, has plunged by more than 5,000, from 9,225 to 4,051.

The Royal Gazette contacted the Department of Communications yesterday for further interpretation of these figures. A spokesman said a response was likely to come today.

The Labour Force Survey offers insights into Bermuda’s working population, but the Department of Statistics describes the annual Employment Survey, in which all employers are obliged to participate, as the primary government source for employment trends.

The last such survey conducted in 2017, found that there were 33,653 filled jobs, with 23,667 of them held by Bermudians, 7,338 by non-Bermudians, 1,862 by non-Bermudian spouses of Bermudians and 786 by PRC holders.

The survey published yesterday found that the labour force — defined as people aged over 16 who are either working or looking for work — dropped by more than 1,500 compared to two years ago, from 38,155 to 36,646, a decline of nearly 4 per cent.

The unemployment rate fell from 7 per cent to 6 per cent and, among Bermudians, from 8 per cent to 6 per cent. The fall in the unemployment rate was most notable among young people, with the unemployment rate for under-25s falling from 23 per cent to 18 per cent.

The labour force participation rate fell to 80 per cent from 83 per cent two years ago.

The “economically inactive” population rose 6 per cent from 15,428 to 16,389. This category includes all people over 16 who are classed as neither employed, nor unemployed.

A breakdown showed an increase in the number of retired people from 8,319 in 2016 to 9,168 this year. There were also more full-time students not seeking work, 3,273 compared to 3,032, and more people not actively seeking work, 911 compared to 828.

Underemployment remains an issue for 17 per cent of the working population, according to the survey. These 6,343 people were described as working, but willing and available to work “more adequately”.

The shrinking labour force identified by the survey speaks to the island’s demographic challenge that has been much discussed in recent weeks, with thousands of “baby-boomers” due to retire in the coming years.

A population projection released by the Department of Statistics last month predicted that one in four people in Bermuda will be over 65 by 2026, adding to the strain on pensions and healthcare provision.

Meanwhile, there will be fewer working-age people paying into the system, meaning the old-age dependency ratio, described as the number of seniors as a share of those of working age, will rise from 24.7 in 2016 to 39.9 in 2026.

The Government has announced it will look at raising the retirement age to 67 as one way of addressing the problem.

Business leaders including John Wight, president of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, have led calls for the island to change its approach to immigration and attract more working-age people to the island, in the interests of economic sustainability.

To read the Labour Force Survey, click on the PDF under “Related Media”

Better news: the youth unemployment rate has fallen by 5 percentage points from two years ago (Source: Department of Statistics)
Demographic challenge: the economically inactive population increased over the past two years (Source: Department of Statistics)
Falling jobless number: the quantity of unemployed people fell over the past two years (Source: Department of Statistics)