Where did the jobs go? – Examining the rate of growth vs decline

Continuing our investigation into the question of where the jobs went I’ve done some additional analysis on the rate of growth vs. decline in Bermudian vs. non-Bermudian + Permanent Residents (PRC).

A reader raised the question of whether PRCs changing status might skew the numbers so I’ve included them as part of the “non-Bermudian” numbers

Let’s start by comparing overall Bermudian vs. non-Bermudian numbers since 2003.  In this chart I’ve provided illustrations of both non-Bermudians with and without PRC’s being included.  It is worthy to note that from the numbers it looks like most PRC job growth occured leading up to 2009 and then stabilized in a range between 807-842.

It is important to note that the chart is split with Bermudian numbers guided by the numbers on the left axis and non-Bermudians on the right axis.  This allows a for better visual relative comparison, though importantly both axis are zeroed so as to give a fair relative comparison.

What we see here is a confirmation of yesterday’s analysis where Bermudian jobs peaked earlier and have been in steady decline while non-Bermudian jobs had a sharp peak in 2008 and had a more aggressive decline.

Let’s look at that from another perspective isolating just the declines from 2009.

Again note, Bermudian numbers are relative to the left axis, non-Bermudians to the right and both axis are zeroed so as to not manipulate the perception of the numbers.

This chart gives a better perspective on the relative decline of non-Bermudian + PRC jobs vs. Bermudian.  What it shows is that when considering the decline in jobs by status vs the total number of jobs by status, the decline in non-Bermudian jobs was far more severe than Bermudian.

So why does it matter to compare the relative declines of non-Bermudian vs. Bermudian jobs?  Well it is the belief of this writer that imported highly-skilled highly-compensated labour is a major driver of Bermudian job growth and declines.  This is a hypothesis, not a fact so we need to examine the numbers to see if there is a correlation that would justify that belief.

There are roughly 3 times as many Bermudian jobs as non-Bermudian jobs.

The ratio itself hovered in a band between 2.5 and 3.2.  It is the suspicion of this writer that the only reason why we had a dip in this ratio from 2005 in that Bermudians were near full employment.  Verifying that will require a request for the raw data from the Labour Force Surveys going back to 2003.  That will be a question we’ll have to come back to when I’ve gone through much of the data the Statistics department has already provided.

None the less, generally the question is whether there is a correlation between non-Bermudian jobs and Bermudian jobs.  Generally speaking, does every non-Bermudian job create 3 Bermudian jobs?  If this is true and we want full Bermudian employment, how many non-Bermudian jobs do we need? If we have an oversupply of non-Bermudians, what impact and repercussions does that have and how do we prevent it?


Where did the jobs go?

One of the big questions I’ve been wanting to be able to answer is “where did the jobs go”?  It is rather easy to guess where they went but guessing isn’t very informative. It is far more useful to have survey numbers to do some analysis.

Thanks to the Department of Statistics who have fulfilled my request for raw Employment Survey Tables from 2009-2015, I can do some long overdue analysis of job trends.  (Which is far more interesting than political commentary)

As a teaser, here’s a couple charts taking a look at how employment numbers have changed since 2003. (Why 2003?  Simply because that’s what data I have available thanks to prior requests)

So let’s start by taking a look at Total Filled Jobs by Bermudian Status.

This chart gives us a big picture view of what has happened employment wise in Bermuda over the last 10+ years.

Some points of note, Non-Bermudians (Other) means non-Bermudians not including spouses and permanent residents, who are listed separately.  Also, Permanent Resident numbers weren’t available in 2003

The big takeaways here is that

  • there was a significant decline in total jobs from the 2008 peak of 40,213 to a hopeful bottom of 33,319 in 2015, a decline of 17%.
  • Bermudian jobs peaked in 2004 at 27,443 and have a hopeful bottom in 2015 of 23,576, a decline of 14%
  • Non-Bermudian jobs (not considering spouses and permanent residents) declined from a 2008 peak of 10,367 to a 2014 bottom of 6,885, a decline of 33.5%
  • Spouse of Bermudian jobs remained fairly stable, fluctuating near 1,950
  • Permanent Resident jobs grew from 286 in 2004 or 830 in 2015

Here’s a different perspective of the same numbers as a stack chart.

The 2004 peak of Bermudian jobs suggest that this may have been due to Bermudians reaching full employment.  In other words, there were more job opportunities than there were Bermudians willing to fill them.

One question that needs to be raised here is that if this indeed was the case, why did we massively stimulate the economy with a variety of capital projects financed by a ton of extra debt between 2004-2008?  All this when it is unclear what we stood to gain if we already had full employment?

Full Bermudian employment should be our goal.  We reached it and kept our foot heavily on the gas pedal of our economy.  That is, until we slammed on the brakes by introducing term limits at the same time as a global recession.  What impact did that have?  Hopefully the numbers will tell us more.

BHC shifts assets, Clarien offloads bad debt

The recently announced Clarien/BHC deal is odd. It is a nice opportunity to provide home ownership to those who aren’t likely in a good position to be home owners.  Long time readers will know that I’m not a fan of fancy loan schemes because they distort the market.  Whether you can save for a reasonable down payment is a good indicator of whether or not you can afford the mortgage.

So of course I’m intrigued by the Clarien/BHC deal as it seems like it effectively leverages BHC assets to help Clarien offload and repurpose bad debt under the guise of affordable housing. What am I missing here?

‘“BHC will guarantee the top 25% of each individual loan between 75% and 100% made by the Bank. Properties currently under the control of Clarien as well as select BHC-owned properties will be made available for purchase under the new initiative.”‘

– It isn’t a 100% loan. BHC is theoretically taking on the down payment risk.
– It is only applicable to properties that BHC sells or Clarien “conrols” (repossessed homes of under water mortgages”)
– BHC shifts their inventory to buyers who take on the risk, loaning them effectively the equity in the properties they’re selling.
– Clarien gets to shift underwater homes to new buyers without having to put them on the fair market

All so we can sell to people who can’t manage to save for a down payment and ultimately may not be able to afford the homes as a result.

Is the Genevieve-Tweed crusade worth it?

The PLP were in an incredibly strong position politically before Christmas riding a tail wind of support due to some interesting political maneuvers. They were, that is, up until they invested heavily in Reverend Genevieve-Tweed and killed a great deal of momentum. It leaves one to wonder why they’re still supporting the issue when there is a clear lack of support for him. It seems like a very costly move politically that could evaporate support for opposing the airport deal and leave them with few cards left to play in the lead up to the America’s Cup and ultimately the next election.

The PLP were doing astonishingly well. Then the tide shifted when the Unions tried to shut down the island and threatened America’s Cup over Reverend Genevieve-Tweed’s work permit.  It wasn’t a very strong play to begin with and was made considerably worse when the truth came to light regarding the Reverend’s true status, weird inaccuracies and failure by the AME Church to follow fair process.  Now they seem to be going down the rabbit hole of supporting a legal action for him to stay on island while still having him lead public forums and threatening further civil disobedience when few seem to support it.

Is the PLP actively leading all of this?  Perhaps not.  However they did align themselves very clearly with the People’s Campaign and the Unions when they actively promoted and led the blocking of parliament.  They also stayed very quiet and didn’t call out any of the People’s Campaigns actions and only belatedly questioned the threat to the America’s Cup. They tried to stay quiet through the mess of the Reverend’s work permit renewal ultimatum and the island shutdown but the damage was likely already done. Previously it might have been possible to disassociate themselves from the People’s Campaign and the opinions expressed by the leadership of the unions, but at this point that seems near impossible.

The opposition to the airport deal has also been so heavily tied to the People’s Campaign that the PLP may have lost momentum of public opposition on it. It certainly doesn’t help that in an interview the BPSU President and People’s Campaign leader Jason Hayward came across as uninformed. He certainly gets points for conducting himself in a calm and dignified manner worthy of his title. However, a leader also needs to lead and Mr. Hayward couldn’t put forth a clear alternative for the airport other than borrowing more money, which much of the populace understands simply isn’t feasible.

Blocking parliament may not be the winning strategy it was last time. Recent polls have shown that a significant majority of people disagree with it and worse this was a poll done before the whole Genevieve-Tweed debacle. Such an attempt might end up only representing those who harbour resentment with anything driven by the current government and not garner support and participation from the crucial swing vote. The wider scope of those who feel disenfranchised may not be so keen to follow Reverend Genevieve-Tweed anymore. He had a much stronger voice and following as a “son of the soil” than as the confusing mix of half truths that leaves few understanding what real ties he actually has.

The PLP were in such a strong position.  The OBA had wasted a great deal of political capital which the PLP was capitalizing on up until they proceeded to waste a lot themselves. Reverend Genevieve-Tweed seemingly has transitioned from being a political asset to a political liability that weighs on their momentum.  If the momentum is to be sustained they’ll likely need to continue stirring up animosity towards the airport deal without The Reverend’s assistance. Otherwise there may be few plays left as the America’s Cup may well shift public opinion given the sheer number of temporary jobs being created. Reverend Genevieve-Tweed doesn’t seem like a strong card to keep on the table so it will be interesting to see how they play it and what else they can do to sustain the momentum they’d build. It is interesting to note that the PLP seemingly has now pivoted to the topic of good governance and focusing more on what they would do in government.  Especially highlighting a pledge to fulfill campaign promises that the OBA have yet to follow through on.

OBA/UBP, whats the difference?

The OBA was to be something new and different with an inclusive approach that unifies the community in a way the UBP didn’t.  It was that hope for something different that helped get them elected. The question is, 4 years in, are they really all that different from what the UBP was? They certainly haven’t fulfilled a few of their campaign promises for inclusiveness and according to an “#AskThePremier” session on Twitter, the OBA has no clear plan to do so.

Remember this part of their platform?

So, what’s the status on some of these?

UBP: Economy, Business Interests, Growth, Policy Focus

OBA: UBP + Inclusiveness


Is the PLP preferencing politics over policy for work permits?

In the wake of the Reverend Nicholas Genevieve-Tweed debacle the PLP has claimed that their position on work permits for key personnel “has certainly evolved over the past ten years”. The PLP have stated that they would have allowed a waiver and granted the work permit renewal. This stance honestly seems more like a political move than good policy. It is a nice political soundbite but it isn’t clear how it puts Bermudians first. The whole point of key employee waivers is to create opportunities for Bermudians. How does granting waivers for pastors do that?

“The PLP position has certainly evolved over the past 10 years and one dual aim is to give companies and other organisations, including churches, the ability to hire the key people they need while maximising opportunities for Bermudians.

“The key is balance. The case involving Reverend Tweed shows that when it comes to churches, the OBA has not engaged in the level of consultation with this sector to the extent it did with international business.

Ok, they state that their aim is to maximize opportunities for Bermudians.  That is wholly applauded and agreed with. However, in Bernews the Shadow Minister for Home Affairs Walton Brown suggested the AME church should have been allowed a waiver for Reverend Genevieve-Tweed. Why?  Doing so would set a precedent that churches should be allowed waivers for pastors as key employees when a waiver is already available for Bishops.

“Current immigration policy allows for a waiver of advertising of jobs under specific conditions. Based on what has been in the public domain about the AME Church appointment protocols, it seems more than reasonable to allow such a waiver and grant the church the work permit renewal they are seeking.

The core reason to support work permit waivers for key employees is to encourage opportunities for Bermudians. If a company is told it can’t have employees who are essential to the business then that company will go somewhere else. The only reason to allow companies these sorts of exemptions is to encourage businesses to base themselves in Bermuda and thereby encourage Bermudian job creation and opportunities. What opportunity is created for Bermudians by allowing a church to preference foreign pastors over qualified Bermudian pastors?

The whole point of the work permit policy is to encourage training of Bermudians and continue ensuring qualified Bermudians are provided opportunity.  Even then it isn’t clear that it is very effective. So to go a step further and advocate voiding the policy even further by granting waivers for pastors doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Why even bother having a work permit policy at all if, like the term limit policy, you’re just going to give everyone waivers.

This is why the PLP’s statement doesn’t make a whole lot of sense from the perspective of putting Bermudians first. It seems politically expedient to capitalize on the idea that granting waivers to encourage business growth and opportunities for Bermudians is anti-Bermudian and act like there isn’t a level playing field when churches aren’t given the same opportunity.

“The next step — what the next PLP government will do — would be to consult and work with the faith community to address the concerns they have regarding the work permit process and the need for prioritising Bermudians and then have these matters addressed in a revised policy.

Right now the policy is that only Bishops are considered key.  For any other positions all churches must advertise and confirm that there are no qualified Bermudian applicants. The PLP effectively contends that pastors should also be exempt but in the same breath states they’d prioritize Bermudians. It doesn’t make any sense. We require that qualified Bermudian teachers are hired before foreign ones. What is so special about a pastor that makes it more important to have a foreigner fill the role in the case of faith but in the case of our children’s future it is not? Why is a foreign pastor more capable than an equally qualified Bermudian one?

The PLP states they “would have done things differently” and “consulted”.  Aside from simply granting waivers to preference foreigners in the case of faith, what else would they have done?  Where is the advantage for Bermudians in suggesting that they would allow churches to appoint whomever they want without advertising? It makes sense as a political move to back the churches because some Bermudians place the church at a higher standing than our collective future. From a policy perspective however it would set a questionable precedent and further invalidate the work permit policy while undermining the PLP’s stated goal of putting Bermudians first.

MPs who vote on the airport contract should be wholly informed

Opposition Leader David Burt makes a valid point in his rebuttal to the selection of the “blue ribbon panel”

‘The OBA refuses to share the airport project agreement with MPs who will ultimately vote on the contract, but will disclose this information to a panel with no legislative authority who he arrogantly states will “come to the same conclusion that I came to some time ago”.’

What is the point of having a parliamentary vote if MPs aren’t wholly informed on all of the terms of the deal.  By all means, every parliamentarian should be subject to non-disclosure expectations and not be allowed to publicly disclose details which remain private (why portions are private is a separate debate).  However, by no means should MPs be expected to make a decision based upon incomplete information.  To be absolutely clear: MPs being required to debate and vote on something to which they are not provided all details makes as much of a mockery of our parliament as blocking it does.

Frankly the PLP would make more of a positive statement simply stating they will boycott any vote on which they are not wholly informed and allowed to make a complete decision. In order to have a functioning two party democracy the opposition needs to participate. Make it clear that the OBA does not respect democracy and thus what is the point in participating if we live in a dictatorship anyway? That would garner respect and awareness not only locally but abroad as well and would make far more sense than blocking parliament which disrespects both democracy and the will of the people.

People wonder why I have little faith in either party, this is why. Ultimately neither party seems to respect democracy and both are more focused on winning than truly putting Bermuda first.

The OBA’s communication strategy is not inclusive


Premier Michael Dunkley shared a video on his facebook page regarding the airport titled “The Best Option”.  It is a good opportunity to highlight what I suggested in an earlier post that the OBA doesn’t do enough to involve people in the decision making process.

They must focus on educating people on the choices not their solution. Only then can they guide people on why their choice is the right one. The people need to understand why the OBAs choice is the best one, not be told that it is.

The video is a good attempt, but it glosses over the options and doesn’t explain the implications in layman’s terms.

Let’s start by assuming you can make it past the 20 second intro.  Then lets look at how the video is framed. In that vein, what is the context and overarching theme of the video?

Is it:

A. Here are the options we have to choose from.  Here is why each option is good, bad and the implications.  This is why we believe option X is the right choice


B. We’ve figured out the best option and here it is. The other options are bad because of �ßÆ.

Would you say the video takes an approach of A or B?  I personally see it as B and it frames the whole discussion that the decision has already been made.  The problem with such framing it that it lends itself to the view that the OBA can be pedantic and condescending. I recognize it as I can be guilty of the same.  The problem the OBA runs into is that this kind of framing isn’t inclusive and thus people tune out.

It takes until 9:36 into the video before the options are presented and sadly glossed over.

Ok, from a layman’s perspective I’m not clear with any of these why these options are bad. Why is it too expensive? Why can’t we borrow money? Why do we need to control cost and put up guarantees? What in the hell is a bilateral approach and what does quality beef have to do with anything?

“The first three options have huge risks.  Bermuda would have to increase the national debt and or guarantee the finances.  Bermuda’s credit worthiness could be impaired leading to a possible downgrade increasing the cost of paying the debt.  Bermuda would bear the risk of cost overruns and paying to fix any quality issues. It would delay the timeline which has happened frequently with past projects.

To a layman I suspect the above makes about as much sense as �ßÆ. What does it mean in plain english for someone who doesn’t think twice about running up high interest credit card debt?  Why does it matter if our debt and interest goes higher? What should I care about credit worthiness or a downgrade?  More importantly: how will any of this impact me, the average Bermudian?

Finally, what about the key point repeated over and over by the opposition that the project wasn’t put out to tender.  That isn’t explained anywhere.

The elements are there but the framing is backwards. It could do more to explain the good and bad of the options and the merits of each. By not doing so it makes people skeptical of why only the bad is pointed out. It could make the people feel involved in the decision making process. Telling people what the best choice is rather than helping them conclude it for themselves is nowhere as effective. The OBA’s approach could certainly be more inclusive. 

Why the OBA is failing to get buyin on the airport deal

The grand failure on the part of the OBA is that they’re pushing this whole airport deal as if their choice is the only option. This the problem with their style of governance. They can’t seem to figure out that today’s modern information based society requires a different governance strategy. They must involve the people in the decision making process.

The OBA are non-consultative ivory-tower politicians who keep following the same failing strategy. Here is roughly their approach to nearly every issue:

  1. Try to figure out the “right thing to do”
  2. Come up with a plan or legislation in isolation
  3. Announce the plan
  4. “Educate” the people on the plan
  5. Force through the plan or abandon it if there is too much backlash

It fails every time because it treats the masses like they’re stupid. It really doesn’t matter if their option is the best choice. Today’s internet based society is completely different than society was in the past. People have a lot more access to information and it raises a lot more skepticism. The people must be involved in the decision making process.

The OBA has to learn how to change its strategy or get used to the idea of being the opposition. They must focus on educating people on the choices not their solution. Only then can they guide people on why their choice is the right one. The people need to understand why the OBAs choice is the best one, not be told that it is.

The problems with what we want from the airport deal

Here is a summary of what we as Bermudians seem to want in the airport deal:

  • Primarily Bermudians to be employed in building or repairing it
  • To own all revenues from the resulting project
  • No new debt

Here’s are the problems.

  • Employing Bermudians makes the project expensive and risky.  Sure we could put the project out to tender and try to get say a Chinese company to fund and build the airport but they’ll insist on using their own labor to keep costs low, control the budget and benefit them.  Even still we’d have to give up revenues or increase taxes.
  • If we want to own all revenues from the resulting project we need to cover all costs and risks. We simply can’t afford it. We simply don’t have any money. The commission of inquiry showed one thing very clearly, we’re not capable of conducting a large infrastructure project on time and on budget.
  • We can’t afford to take on any new debt.  If we take on new debt during the period of rising interest rates that we’re facing, I am certain we’ll be forced into mass civil service layoffs.  Simply because we can’t introduce a new services/vat tax as that is incredibly complicated and takes a lot of time.  We can’t simply tax corporate profits as the PLP extended the exemption until 2035.  Passenger taxes are already high so we can’t increase those.  That leaves options of, increase duty and payroll taxes or cut the civil service.

The options suck, however the biggest problem we face is that the OBA makes it seem like we only have one choice. We absolutely have choices and that is what the OBA should be putting to the people. The people need to understand why the OBAs choice is the best one, not be told that it is.