GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands (CNS) – Last Thursday the Economics and Statistics Office (ESO) published the preliminary report of the 2021 Census, which revealed an estimated population of 69,656 living across 29,502 households.
Just under 53 percent of those living here are Caymanian, and there has been an increase of around 6,300 people since 2010. The unemployment rate among local people is over 8.5 percent, but Caymanians account for less than 44 percent of a workforce of 44,635. This represents a decrease of almost 3 percent in the balance of local and foreign people with jobs since 2010, when 47 percent of employed workers were Caymanian.
The census reached 97 percent of households, despite extending the deadline for the count from October to January. Officials estimate as many as 2,300 people have not been counted.
According to a release from the ESO, 549 households refused to take part, even though it is a legal requirement and discussions are underway about prosecutions. However, census workers were unable to reach anyone at another 409 households, where no one was interviewed.
Finance minister Chris Saunders, whose portfolio includes the ESO, recently noted that if these missing households had been counted, the total population would be well over 70,000, and in light of the pending return of thousands of tourism workers, the government will be making policy based around an estimated population of 75,000 people.
The preliminary statistics show that 306 people counted were living in institutions, including prisons, care homes and retirement homes. The rest were residing in households.
The non-institutional population has grown by 26 percent since the 2010 Census, which counted an estimated population of 55,036. The census found that Caymanians make up 52.9 percent of the population, while non-Caymanians are 45.9 percent. The remaining 1.2 percent of those surveyed did not indicate their nationality.
Almost 50 percent of the population lives in George Town, while 21.5 percent are in West Bay. Bodden Town, where 20 percent of the population now resides, reflected the highest growth of over 35 percent since the last census. The only district not growing is the Sister Islands, which is home to just over 3 percent of the population, while only 2.7 percent of the population lives in North Side and 2.5 percent in East End.
A total of 1,795 Caymanians were counted as unemployed, though many more are currently under-employed, as demonstrated by the number of people receiving the tourism stipend. In addition, 873 non-Caymanian unemployed workers were counted.
The census revealed that by a slight fraction, there are now more men in the population (50.2%) than women, a reverse of the 2010 statistics.
Other key figures showed that there are 3,865 vacant dwellings and the number of temporary second homes and temporary short-term rentals is 2,288. The number of residential units under construction is 2,192. The preliminary figures, therefore, offer a good indication of how many properties in Cayman are owned by individuals and entities based overseas.
The age of Cayman’s population is distorted by foreign workers who are not accompanied by their families. There are around 14,000 children and young adults under 20, but almost 26,500 people aged between 30 and 49. There are, however, 5,402 people over 65 years old, 4,680 of whom are Caymanain — a key number for government policy, given the challenges it faces over inadequate pension provision and the cost of healthcare.
The full census report is not expected until June. However, Saunders said these early numbers are still of national importance, as most recently demonstrated by the COVID-19 vaccination drive.
“Having accurate population data is vital in public health situations,” he said. “I’m incredibly glad that we took a cautious approach and asked for a re-estimate of the population prior to determining our COVID-19 vaccination targets. It was important that we got it right to ensure our population was sufficiently protected prior to re-opening our borders and to meet the targets set by other nations when allowing Caymanians and residents into their countries.”
He said that although the estimate was higher than the Fall 2020 Labour Force Survey, which is estimated within a 5 percent margin of error, the actual preliminary census population count of 69,656 falls well within this margin.
“If you factor in the 3.2 percent of households that did not respond to the Census survey for one reason or another, the preliminary population will be slightly higher than the Labour Force Survey 2020 estimated upper band,” he said.
Saunders also noted how measuring the growth in the population by district, especially his own area of Bodden Town, is also essential for public sector planning and decision making.
“We all knew that the populations in the Eastern districts, primarily in the Savannah, Newlands and Bodden Town areas, had grown exponentially merely by observation, but to have this proven by the census data is very important,” Saunders said.
“Having this data is vital as we look at how the government must plan and budget for the sufficient provision of public services, such as schools, health clinics and policing, as well as infrastructure, such as roads and hurricane shelters. We have to know where people are in order that we meet the current needs and also adequately plan for the future,” the minister added.