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Survey: Expats a good thing

Business leaders welcomed a survey indicating that the majority of voters see expatriates as positive contributors to the economy.

The poll, conducted for this newspaper by Mindmaps, showed that two thirds of voters (66 percent) believe “expatriates create jobs for Bermudians and do contribute to the economy”.

That view was more strongly held by white voters, with 90 percent of them agreeing with the statement, against 52 percent of black voters who agreed with it.

However, 17 percent of those polled believed “expatriates take jobs away and do not contribute to the economy”. That view was more strongly held by black voters, of whom 26 percent were anti-expatriate.

Reacting to the news, Brad Kading, president of the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR) said: “We're gratified that the poll shows the overwhelming majority of Bermudian voters believe, as we do that the expat workers we have in our membership lead to greater job creation in Bermuda and greater opportunities for Bermudian employees.”

Meanwhile Cheryl Packwood, CEO of Business Bermuda, was also pleased with the support shown.

“That's a great figure. It's terrific that the majority of our population realise the value that foreign workers bring to the community,” she said.

The news follows controversy over whether work permit term limits should continue for guest workers and whether they win jobs unfairly over qualified Bermudians.

According to the Department of Statistics, there were 11,850 foreign workers in the work force in October 2011 compared to 26,247 Bermudians.

The number of foreigners peaked in 2008, the year the global economic crisis hit, when there were 13,033 of them in the workforce compared to 27,180 Bermudians.

In 2009, during a House of Assembly debate on employment trends, Opposition MP Grant Gibbons said Bermudians who are biased against expatriate workers need to get to grips with economic reality.

Dr Gibbons said negative views of guest workers were “quite pervasive” and Bermudians can be “very xenophobic”. He commented that a better job needed to be done of “optimising the relationship” with expatriates.

Last October, during a public forum on the economy, Gil Tucker, the Country Managing Partner of accounting firm Ernst and Young, described guest workers as “team mates”.

He said that his 200-person office has 24 nationalities represented. Mr Tucker went on to scotch what he described as myths.

“Expats in the past were brought here to do jobs that many Bermudians, based on the colour of their skin, were not allowed to do,” he pointed out, citing shop-tellers and bank-tellers as examples.

“The expats of today are different and we need to sever that in our minds. They come to help us stimulate the economy. When we send them back, we have less people spending in the economy.”

Mr Tucker stressed that limiting the length of time guest workers can remain makes Bermuda a less attractive place to work. For that reason, he lauded the idea of ten year work permits, which have recently been introduced by Government for some senior non-Bermudian key workers.

The poll was conducted by Mindmaps between March 6 and 15. A total of 400 registered voters were interviewed by telephone and the data was weighted to be representative of the population according to age, race and gender. The margin of error was 4.9 percent.

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Published March 24, 2012 at 8:00 am (Updated March 24, 2012 at 8:46 am)

Survey: Expats a good thing

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