There is always a lot of conversation on the street and the radio talk shows about employment. In the current economic situation, that is to be expected. After all, there are quite a few Caymanians who are currently unemployed, some that have been so for a long time. The cause of this mass unemployment is discussed with vigor.
A few different explanations are being offered by members of the public as to the cause of this problem. The usual culprits batted around include foreigners taking the jobs, employers being unfair, and government not doing anything to help. Surely, however, there is at least one more cause for the high rate of Caymanian unemployment that is not being suggested quite as frequently. Let us just call it simply, the will to work, or rather, the lack of will to work.
To say that anyone lacks the will to work is a strong statement that begs to be clarified; so, here goes. This is not about whether someone is lazy. Neither is it about someone being hardworking. This statement is simply related to the potential worker’s frame of mind or their individual viewpoint regarding particular jobs.
A while back, this reporter wrote a piece on the “Forbidden Jobs” in our society. In that article, it was shown that certain jobs like bartending did not attract local applicants. This was due to Caymanian culture and morals, and the belief that those jobs are degrading and/or immoral. Whether or not one cares to admit it, there appear to be other jobs that do not attract a lot of Caymanian interest. However, the salary and status of the job have a lot to do with an individual’s unwillingness to apply for the job.
Now we all know about our maritime history and the sacrifices our forefathers, and their families, made when the men had to go to sea in order to provide. Our seamen are revered and respected for that act. What is lost from the current generation’s mind regarding this is that not all of the Caymanian seamen were captains or chief engineers. In fact, most of them were not. Still, each Caymanian that went to sea provided sustenance for their family. That is because they took whatever job was offered to them, worked hard at that job, and seized the opportunities for advancement through education and experience. It was not uncommon for an Engine Room Wiper to later become an engineer.
Nowadays, there is a definite unwillingness, on the part of a small group of persons, to start at the bottom and work their way up. In this case, a part of the Caymanian work ethic is being ignored, and an opportunity for putting some food on the table is missed. As the older generation used to say, “Any job that pays for honest, hard work is a good job.” In this economic climate, can anyone really afford to turn down a job unless they have a better one waiting in the wings?
Now, it can be understood if there is a choice between a low-paying job that would not cover the bills and the ability to stay home and take care of the family in other ways. After all, a parent caring for their children is, in itself, a most valuable job. Or, maybe an individual may turn down a particular job and choose to stay home and grow food in the backyard, go fishing, or something similar, in order to provide for their family. That is also to be commended.
However, what “the unwillingness to work” is referring to is when there is someone who could be employed in a low-paying job, but instead prefers to stay home and be dependent upon someone else. This would seem to be indefensible and in need of attention.
As the publisher of this publication believes in fairness, this article endeavored to look at a slightly different side of the Caymanian unemployment problem. Usually as the unemployment issue is debated, the ever-increasing phenomenon of a “unwillingness to work” is not mentioned. Perhaps it is because we as a society do not like to admit that there is a problem among our own kind. Or perhaps it is because we don’t like to point fingers that might end up pointing in our own family member’s general direction. Regardless of the reason, this is a real occurrence and should at least be included in the public discussions.
Caymanian Times Senior Reporter