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Number of foreigners working with work permit slightly declined

Foreigners are frequently employed in the Caribbean Netherlands.  The Wet arbeid vreemdelingen BES forbids foreigners to work in the Caribbean Netherlands without a valid work permit (TWV). The law is intended to protect the local labor market and to prevent unfair competition between businesses and with regards to employment conditions. In order to understand developments in relation to the number of aliens working with a work permit, the Unit Social Affairs and Labor of RCN has conducted a trend analysis.

In the period 2011-2016, a total of 8.297 applications for work permits were filed by employers at the Social Affairs and Labor Unit. On Bonaire and St. Eustatius, almost 1 out of 10 employees is an foreigner who is working with a work permit. On Saba, 1 out of 5 employees is an foreigner working under a work permit. The trend analysis shows that after an increase in the influx of foreigners with work permits in 2012 and 2013, the number of employers applying for a work permit has decreased. On Bonaire, temporary employment agencies or secondment agencies are used more often than in the past. This results in a more flexible deployment of staff on the labor market. On St. Eustatius, a large metal company has been active since 2012andhas many aliens working on the basis of a work permit. These findings are a clear signal that the functioning of the labor market has changed in the Public Entities.

Most foreigners come from the Dominican Republic and other countries in the region. Those are Venezuela, Colombia and Peru. The fifth country many foreigners come from is China. On Bonaire and St. Eustatius, foreigners are mainly males (70-80%), while on Saba the male/female ratio is almost 50/50.

On the one hand, the small size of the islands implies that not all positions can be filled in by the local supply. A professor of medicine, for example, has no possibility to get a degree on the islands and it is also a very specific position. On the other hand, the question arises whether the foreigners working, for example, as bricklayers and hairdressers are actually needed.

The primary focus of the analysis was on investigating how foreign labor had developed in the period 2011-2016. The Public Entity Bonaire (OLB, Openbaar Lichaam Bonaire) has commissioned an exploratory study of the situation of immigrants on Bonaire. This trend analysis and the study among immigrants will serve as the basis for further discussion whether the policy regarding foreigners should be amended. Therefore, the trend analysis will also be submitted to the Public Entities and other relevant organizations. The report by the RCN Social Affairs and Labor Unit can be found on The report of the OLB can be found on

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