Caribbean Netherlands: Growth in Employed Labour Force Stagnates in 2020

Kralendijk, The Bottom, Saba, Oranjestad, St. Eustatius – In 2020, the employed labour force in the Caribbean Netherlands hardly increased compared to 2018. Only Bonaire recorded a slight increase over this period, while St Eustatius and Saba saw a slight drop in the number of employed. This is evident from the most recent Labour Force Survey Caribbean Netherlands, conducted by Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

The Labour Force Survey Caribbean Netherlands (LFS-CN), from which the figures on the number of employed are taken, is held every two years, between October and December. Due to the COVID-19 measures, the survey could not be conducted earlier than between December 2020 and March 2021. Developments in the figures cannot be attributed unambiguously to the coronavirus crisis; changes may have occurred earlier.

The measures that came into effect in mid-March 2020 to combat the spread of coronavirus included closing the airspace of the islands and putting a halt to cruise traffic. As a result, foreign tourism on the islands came to a complete standstill. Island residents were still allowed to move freely on the islands. When the LFS-CN 2020 was carried out, it was possible to travel to the islands by plane again, but not yet by cruise ship. The Dutch government made financial support packages available for workers and companies on the islands that were affected by the restrictive measures.

Slight increase in employed labour force on Bonaire

Last year, the number of people in work on Bonaire stood at 11.5 thousand, slightly more than in 2018 (11.2 thousand). As the population on the island increased more rapidly as a result of a positive migration balance, the labour participation rate fell from 73.1 percent (2018) to 69.8 percent (2020). On St Eustatius, there were over 1.7 thousand people in paid employment; on Saba, more than 1.1 thousand. This is equivalent to a labour participation rate of 71.0 and 73.4 percent respectively. The number of employed on St Eustatius was 8 percent down on 2018, while on Saba it was 3 percent lower. The decline in the number of employed can partly be explained by a clean-up of the population registers on these islands, which resulted in a downward adjustment of the population figures.

Bonaire: fewer employed in transportation and storage and in culture, sports and recreation

A number of sectors on Bonaire saw a decline in the number of employed compared to 2018. The sharpest drop was seen in transportation and storage (-240), followed by other services (-190) and culture, sports and recreation (-150). Professions related to the transportation of tourists, tour guides and diving instructors, for example, disappeared. Compared to 2018, the number of people employed in public administration and health care also decreased.

The share of employed in information and communication doubled (+190) compared to 2018, to more than 3 percent of all people in work. A large increase was also seen in renting and other business services, accommodation and food services, construction and education. As a result, accommodation and food services and construction overtook the public administration sector on Bonaire as the sectors with the highest number of employed. In accommodation and food services, there were mainly more self-employed. In the construction sector, growth was almost entirely due to workers from Central and South America. The number of construction workers from the local population (born on one of the islands of the former Netherlands Antilles) declined.           

St Eustatius: mainly fewer employed in transportation and storage and in manufacturing

On St Eustatius, there were mainly fewer employed in the sector transportation and storage (-60) and in the manufacturing industry (-50) compared to 2018. This is mainly related to fewer temporary contracts. Unlike on Bonaire, the transportation and storage sector did not see a decline in business activities related to transportation of tourists, but a decline in storage activities related to the oil storage terminal. This terminal provides a large part of the employment on the island and has been in the hands of a new owner since 2019. In the sectors culture, sports and recreation, other services and accommodation and food services combined, the number of employed was equally lower (-60). With a share of 20 percent of the total number of employed, public administration remained the largest sector on the island. Compared to 2018, it increased slightly.

Saba: public administration remains sector with most people in work

On Saba, tourism-related sectors such as accommodation and food services and culture, sports and recreation saw almost no shifts in the number of employed compared to 2018. However, the manufacturing industry recorded a slight increase, while the trade sector recorded a decline. Public administration continued to be the largest employer on Saba, followed by education because of the medical university on the island.

StatLine – Caribbean Netherlands; labour participation, key figures

StatLine – Caribisch Nederland; werkzame beroepsbevolking, bedrijf (SBI 2008) (in Dutch)

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