The Cayman Islands provide an enviable opportunity for English-speaking professionals to live in a ‘tropical paradise’, and one that has the highest living standard within the entire Caribbean region (and the 14th highest per capita GDP in the world) at that. The Islands’ population, all told, is under 60,000 people with 100 square miles of territory, and it would seem that tropical cyclones present more of a threat here than the usual host of urban social problems (indeed, hurricanes are not to be taken lightly here either, as some of the more famous instances have caused several billion dollars’ worth of damage on the islands). Expatriate employees on the islands can justifiably take pride in contributing to their prosperity, since they do make up over 40% of the total workforce, and largely power both the finance and tourism industries.
The Caymans, like many islands of their size, have a reputation for being an offshore banking center – it is one of the world’s most notable hedge fund locations, and perhaps the fifth largest banking center overall – so work in the financial industry seems to be a feasible option for the foreseeable future.It should be noted, however, that the islands have come under scrutiny from no less than the current U.S. president for their use as a tax haven for multinational corporations (albeit shortly after the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown). Hedge funds seem to have decreased by 10-20% recently, despite the registration of offshore shell companies being back to near record levels.
The always reliable tourist industry
With its crystal-clear beach waters and fascinating coral reefs, it should almost go without saying that the tourist industry is also a regular source of employment in the Cayman Islands. However, one may have to do a bit of digging to find work that pays a high (i.e. six-figure) income. Those who have specialized knowledge in activities beloved of tourists (e.g. scuba diving) can probably find an “in” here as instructors or guides. Individuals just beginning their forays into international life may be able to find work in the islands’ significant number of bars and restaurants, as well, provided they already have the requisite skills and are not simultaneously making their entry into the workforce and into international living.
Another type of tourism – medical tourism – is being spoken of more and more as the Caymans seek to diversify their economy and deal with any possible new regulation of the aforementioned offshore finance industry. Though it is difficult to get specifics now, qualified medical professionals should certainly inquire about opportunities for local employment now before a proper local “boom” begins.
Real Estate in the Caymans
Meanwhile, real estate and development in the Cayman Islands is serious business, providing opportunities for project managers and for those with experience in municipal planning. Organizations like the Cayman Islands Real Estate Brokers Association [CIREBA] are prestigious ones with a voice in civic matters (see especially the controversy over the “community enhancement fee” below), which you will certainly encounter if you undertake this type of business on any of the islands. CIREBA does not, at the moment, publish any job listings on its site proper (www.cireba.com), but does link to more than 30 realtors that comprise the association. These include such familiar residential realty experts as Century 21 and Re/Max, luxury specialists like Sotheby’s, and at least a dozen locally-owned companies. This listing may be a handy one-stop shop for senders of CVs or for networkers. It is difficult to ascertain immediately what incomes are involved, though jobs for agents at international realtors are highly likely to be similar to the wages they command in the U.S.
Governmental or public sector jobs
Interestingly, the Cayman Islands government site (www.gov.ky) provides information on a number of open governmental positions as well: at the time of writing, the highest salaried job is for a deputy director within the islands’ Economics and Statistics agency, a position whose prerequisites include “at least ten years’ experience in a statistical agency”, or, alternately, a “Master’s Degree in Statistics or Demography and at least eight (8) years’ of experience with a statistical agency”. This highly analytical position pays around $100k annually at the most. Other governmental openings paying more than $50k annually include positions like literacy coach, school principal, and GIS [Geographic Information System] development assistant in the Land & Survey department. Salaries for teachers within the islands’ public schools often close in on the $50k range.
Something that any expatriate workers in the region may want to keep in mind is the occasional higher standards that they may be held to, or the familiar “to whom much is given, much will be asked” policy. This is evidenced by the 2012 attempt by Premier McKeeva Bush to institute a tax paid exclusively by expatriate workers. This attempt at creating a “community enhancement fee” was, mercifully for expats, unsuccessful: it “sparked outrage among expat workers” who were quick to criticize careless government spending as the real source of any financial woes for the islands (for what it’s worth, Bush is now the brunt of many jokes after being caught using his government credit card in an American casino). There are also very few items that are not subject to some form of import tax. However, the absence of a capital gains tax or even income tax in the country might make this levy a fairly easy one for professionals to deal with.