“work-permits generate Bermudian jobs” vs. “Bermudian jobs should be created first”

It is easy to take knowledge for granted.  Given two statements “work-permits generate Bermudian jobs” vs. “the only job growth is non-Bermudian” it can be easy for inherent bias to drive support the latter over the former.  People are inherently biased towards protectionism and anti-foreign sentiments as part of our natural instinct.  If you lack the underlying knowledge to be able to validate either statement then you lean on bias. This is why it is so important that statements like “work-permits generate Bermudian jobs” are validated and proven.

Let’s compare the two statements.

“Bermudian jobs should be created first”.  

Justifying this statement doesn’t require a great deal of knowledge.

You need to know

  • Bermudians need jobs and are unemployed
  • Non-Bermudians have lots of jobs
  • Companies are hiring non-Bermudians
  • “Non-Bermudian was the only category with growth” (if you don’t realise that when you remove government attrition, Bermudian jobs also grew)

Then you add bias

  • “I can think of many cases where a Bermudian was unfairly passed over by a non-Bermudian” (which is founded in some truth)
  • “We’re only importing people from [x] who are taking all of the Bermudian jobs”
  • “Surely a Bermudian could do any of those jobs, they can’t be that difficult”
  • “Companies should be forced to do more, after all, they’re making a fortune being here in Bermuda”

Lack of knowledge makes the conclusion pretty easy.  You don’t need to understand a great deal about how our economy works or why this happens.  It seems like a straightforward solution.  You take the non-Bermudian jobs and give them to Bermudians.  Problem solved, right?

Unfortunately it is far more complicated than that.  Too many simply don’t understand how complex our job market is.  How many Bermudians would sign up to a program to only ever be seen by Bermudian doctors and surgeons?  Likely few because there simply aren’t enough.  Most every Bermudian can understand that being doctor is a complex skill set and appreciate that we need to import doctors.  Far fewer understand that other skill sets can be just as complex and that asking a company to only hire Bermudians for highly skilled roles when there are shortages who can perform them is the equivalent of introducing an “only Bermudians can be doctors and surgeons” policy.

Let’s now look at the other statement

“work-permits generate Bermudian jobs”

Justifying this statement requires a great deal of knowledge and actively competes with common bias.  There are no reports or statistics that back up this statement.  No research has been done.  If you walk up to any woman or man on the street and proclaim “work permits generate Bermudian jobs”, how many would agree with you?

In order to agree with this statement you need to know and accept

  • The difference between work permits for high skill jobs vs. low skill jobs
    • High skill jobs tend to rely on assistance
      • an executive, manager or group of professionals may rely on an administrative assistant, a job which is typically filled by Bermudians
      • Senior skilled professionals tend to hire and train junior professionals
        • Often times these are Bermudians
    • Low skill jobs reduce costs
      • Example: A foreign waiter may help keep a restaurants costs under control which makes eating out more affordable which makes tourism in Bermuda more affordable which helps prop up other jobs filled by Bermudians
      • Bermudians cannot build a reasonable life on some of the low skill service jobs but to push up the costs of those jobs would push up our cost of living
      • Efficiency is always much harder to sell than growth
  • Work permit workers drive spending in our local economy
    • Work permit holders contribute a very significant portion of local spending in our economy, of which there are no official reports or statistics
    • Bermudian mortgages are propped up by work permit holders driving more flow through our economy allowing Bermudians to accumulate wealth.
    • Bermudian health care is propped up by healthy imported workers who pay high rates (we are among the highest in the world on health care spending) to cover the costs of our aging population
  • That our economy is NOT like a traditional one, we are service driven and produce very little domestically
    • You cannot use traditional economic models for our economy and a basic knowledge of economics can betray this understanding
    • Our economy produces very little, exports almost nothing and relies on imports of almost everything to survive (food, fuel, goods, materials).
    • Our economy is primarily service driven both for exports and internally
    • In order to be able to trade with foreign countries we need to generate something of exchange. We do that through services
      • We import foreign expertise through an environment attractive to busineses that deal internationally
      • We rely on foreign expert labor as our population is unable to compete at the olympic level that our international business competes at.
  • That for much of the boom years we had over employment which caused the ratio of Bermudians/non-Bermudians jobs to be skewed

It requires a great deal more explanation and a good reason why this writer supports the suggestion of a “non partisan body focused on economic public relations”.

For example, we should be able to readily explain with real statistics the actual number of Bermudian jobs created by every non-Bermudian job.  As an example, based upon data I could pull together I have seen that from 2003-2015 we have maintained a ratio of roughly 3 Bermudian jobs for every 1 non-Bermudian+PRC.

Note the dip from 2004-2009 was likely due to Bermudian overemployment and us overheating the economy with too many expat jobs

This of course is a very gross approximation and could be whittled down to certain categories but it gives a general idea.  We need long term statistics on this sort of data to verify this kind of ratio over the long term.  Did we have periods of lower employment before our work permits started rising?  Can we distinguish between categories to know how much of an impact each has and clearly explain it?  Overall it would be much preferrable to be able to say, with evidence that “every work permit creates 3 Bermudian jobs” than a generic and unproven “fact” that “work permits generate Bermudian jobs”.

The government, regardless of party affiliation should be focusing resources on clearly explaining the jobs expats create.  We should have reasonable reports and statistics going back historically showing how much they contribute to the economy and how many jobs are created for every expat we bring in.