Opinion: Commissiong On Black Unemployment

October 30, 2014

[Opinion column by PLP MP Rolfe Commissiong] The data entry in the Workforce Survey on unemployment produced by the Department of Statistics and which reflected the 2013 numbers, said it all.

Black unemployment stood at a persistently high 9% in Bermuda last year, while unemployment levels for whites and PRC holders had dipped to 2%. In other words unemployment for whites and PRC holders for all intents and purposes was nonexistent.

In fact most countries would give everyone a national holiday if they were able to get unemployment down to even five percent; yet here in Bermuda some appear to be more employable than others. Could it be that over employment which was the norm in Bermuda only recently, is now reserved for a select few. The 2% figure seems to suggests, that may indeed be the case.

Most of my colleagues and friends however, scoff at the 9% figure cited for black unemployment. They insist that there must be some under reporting going on,as they are convinced that black unemployment has to be at the 15% level or higher.

They could be on to something for if former Premier Cox is unemployable; notwithstanding her unimpeachable qualifications, than who is?

The survey also indicates that the relative gap or disparity between white and/or PRC unemployment levels and that of blacks has widened in comparison to the 2012 figures.

What is almost as disturbing from my viewpoint has been the relative silence of the OBA’s Bob Richards and Grant Gibbons, on this issue.

However, the real and in some cases lasting damage is being done to black households all up and down Bermuda. During my canvassing I am increasingly meeting mainly black Bermudians who are transitioning from short term unemployment of three months or so to a more damaging long term status.

And note that unlike most other “Western” countries our unemployed do not have an unemployment insurance scheme available to cushion the blow of short to mid-term unemployment.

Growing numbers are now entering into their first and in some cases second year of unemployment. This is producing consequent strains on households and family members which will only grow over the coming months.

Another, likely by- product of the OBA’s failure to facilitate job growth after two years in power is the presence of strong, albeit anecdotal evidence that growing numbers of black Bermudians are concluding that they have no other option, than to pull up stakes and emigrate from Bermuda in search of work and opportunity.

As Shadow Minister of Finance David Burt said recently on Sherrie Simmons show on Magic FM, it is one thing to leave the country to broaden ones horizons and to gain work and other types of experiences. This is what we would characterize as “good” emigration and we should encourage it, especially among our young people.

But it is another thing when the young and the not so young are emigrating because they feel that they have no choice then to leave or migrate, due to a dearth of real employment opportunities in the country of their birth.

Are we experiencing a so called “brain drain” in this regard? Many on our side of the aisle and most objective observers, tend to think so.

What is sobering is that after nearly two years of waiting for the election commitments of the OBA to materialize in terms of jobs, it is clear that their promise of “shared sacrifice” was a hollow one.

After all, a sacrifice that is falling squarely upon those least able to bear the burden of its demands, is a sacrifice that is perverse by its very nature.

In part two, I will explore the growing implications for Bermudian workers and for workforce development in Bermuda as a consequence of current OBA policy and legislative initiatives. I will also briefly highlight the PLP’s commitment to real reform and solutions which are at once progressive and sustainable.

- Rolfe Commissiong

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  1. Part II Opinion: Commissiong On Unemployment - Bernews.com : Bernews.com | November 9, 2014
  1. Skeptic says:

    This article raises some important points about the struggles of different segments of the community, but it does so for political gamesmanship and as a consequence is not constructive or helpful to the community and the very people struggling the most. The PLP were in a unique position for 14 years to influence public policy and very importantly, our education system, to create improved opportunity for Bermudians. The opportunity was squandered. We now have a serious challenge to rebuild our community and our economy, and frankly the frequent unwarranted, spiteful attacks and articles such as this, simply make the job of convincing foreign investment to return to Bermuda much harder to achieve. So don’t blame the OBA, but put your effort into helping find the middle ground to bring the community together to restore foreign confidence and investment.

    • Sally says:

      Well research article based upon factual data. It highlights some significant facts that we must consider as it regards unemployment in Bermuda. I look forward to reading part 2 . The government needs to work in collaboration to address this pressing issues. Well done Mr. Commissiong. Keep pushing this critical.

      • Creamy says:

        So why is it that black women do very well getting well-paid employment in Bermuda?
        What educational opportunities are handed on a plate to black women that are denied to black men?

  2. inna says:

    Rolfe- you set your self up when you mentioned Paula Cox’s unimpeachable qualifications. If my memory serves me correct, i think she was impeached a few years ago from the highest office one could hold in Bermuda!

  3. San George says:

    And it should be Rolfe. We don’t own anything. We are parasites. The PLP had 14 years to make a difference. You squandered it.

  4. Toodle-oo says:

    Mr Commissiong , here’s a little experiment that we know you’d love to conduct.

    March all those pesky, overpaid white people , including the many not even earning $50,000 a year to the airport and docks. Load them all on planes and ships and wave them farewell. Board up their houses and apartments. Shut down their businesses.

    Get back to us in a year and tell us what the unemployment figures look like then .

  5. hmmm says:

    Yet from 2012 to 2013 the Underemployed and Unemployed black population was reduced.

    So there were many more underemployed and unemployed at the end of the PLP reign than in the first full year of OBA

    Great job OBA. Me thinks Rolfie forgot to mention that.

    I wonder what would happen if we profiled the ex-pats who left and included them in the unemployment numbers.

    • Evans Bay says:

      The reported decrease in black unemployed reflects the fact that those unemployed were not looking for employment anymore…they had made adjustments in life / lifestyle and had accepted that there are no jobs…so effectively have given up or are comfortable to be on financial assistance in some cases….so the reported figure declines while no real impact was made to the numbers…

      • Allspice says:

        I am unemployed and looking for work.
        If people don’t look for work they can hardly complain that they have none.
        If they don’t look for work because they believe that the OBA is sabotaging their efforts then really they must be very foolish. Survival comes before politics.
        What is it? Do these people choose to be unemployed until a party they like is elected?
        Yes, it is hard to get work. I know it. I’m looking because I have no choice.
        Wow, ifi could “make adjustments” and not work!
        Who are these people?

  6. yo mamma says:

    Isnt the statistical disparity due to the fact that there are more blacks than whites here?
    separate but related point: how the heck does Buzz get away with having so many foreign workers!I kinda know already but Ive been wondering if others noticed/care that these low skilled opportunities should be filled by bermudians. Of course they pay too low for any local to maintain a household but better than nothing. Maybe…..

    • Raymond Ray says:

      yo mamma: I agree with you, and I often emphasize it. Why can’t / don’t Bermudians accept the low wages paid out to the foreigner and either seek assistance from Govt. while looking for a better paying job elsewhere? Or do this; get an education and better themselves and believe me things will get better…

      • Varied says:

        I think things like the Buzz situation have encouraged the suggestion of a minimal wage in some quarters.

        Remember too, some jobs may not offer enough to locals to cover costs of e.g. daycare for children, so they may not even be able to apply for those positions.

  7. 32n64w says:

    It’s a good thing the article title starts off with “opinion” because there is an absolute dearth of facts to support Rolf’s remarks. He continually refers to anecdotal observations.

    In part 2 let’s hope he discusses the impact the PLP’s record borrowing from NON-Bermudians to support their last eight years in Government has effectively sold this and the next generation of Bermudians into financial slavery with massive annual interest obligations, not to mention the fact we actually have to repay $2,000,000,000!!

    The PLP’s ineptocracy has severely limited the OBA (or any) Government’s ability to restart the economy thereby disadvantaging all of us. What are the chances he’ll be honest about that as the facts are clearer than any anecdotes he might make a passing reference to or discussions about shared sacrifice.

  8. Smh says:

    The PLP singlehandedly destroys Bermudas economy and their failed policy drives away 5,000 expat and families and now he wonders why we have unemployment? Who do you think benefited from all those expats being here, other professionals? No, it was the average, hardworking Bermudian….take a long hard look in the mirror Rolfe and own your part in our distruction rather than crying foul now after 14 years at the contract trough

  9. Frank says:

    When will it stop?

  10. Just a matter of time says:

    I recall both industries doing just fine under a PLP Govt up to the 2008 crash, in fact better than ever in many instances. What about those years? The PLP ‘ singlehandedly’ destroyed Bermuda? It was a combination of factors. Stop the nonsense.

    • SMH says:

      The crash didn’t sell un into financial slavery and cause 5000 expats and families to leave taking the trickle down employment they created with them. Why are other countries booming again and we’re still suffering and those 5000 aren’t coming back? A competent Government knows a) not to let an economy overheat and b) put money aside for a rainy day. An incompetent Government a) adds gasoline to the over heated economy by 1) bringing in a record number of people on work permits and 2) starting massive capital projects such a LBE Building, Berkley and Grand Atlantic and b) spends like drunken sailors to a point of $2B in debt so that there are no funds available when needed most. Any other questions?

    • SMH says:

      The crash wasn’t what sold all of us into financial slavery and caused 4-5000 expats and families to leave taking the trickle down employment they created with them. Why are other countries booming again and we’re still suffering and those 4-5000 aren’t coming back? A competent Government knows a) not to let an economy overheat and b) put money aside for a rainy day. An incompetent Government a) adds gasoline to the over heated economy by 1) bringing in a record number of people on work permits and 2) starting massive capital projects such a LBE Building, Berkley and Grand Atlantic and b) spends like drunken sailors to a point of approx.$2B in debt so that there are no funds available when needed most. Any other questions?

  11. Triangle Drifter says:

    Oh dear.not very many seem to care what Rolfe has to say.

  12. Creamy says:

    Yeah, well unemployment was given to Bermudians by the PLP. While Bermudian jobs were being exported overseas the PLP rejoiced. Now they pretend to be concerned.

  13. aceboy says:

    I recall Col. Burch saying it made him smile to see all the For Sale signs outside homes as the recession kicked in.

    We all know why he said that, now Rolfe wants to make it out that this unemployment is something of a plot against black people.

    • Creamy says:

      Yep. Burch took great delight in house prices plummeting. What he ignored was the reason for the plummeting house prices – a tanking economy, and unemployed Bermudians. Unemployment was deliberately self-inflicted by the PLP.

  14. Meeeee says:


    Take a look at the graduation figures just put out by the public school Educators. Note the disparity between males and females. Recall that these 18 year old graduates would have started school in 2001.

    It would appear that about 70 males are missing from that graduating group.

    Tell me Rolfe,who are these 70, what race are they most likely to be, and why are they missing?

    Don’t forget who was running everything between 2001 and December 2013.

  15. Common Cents says:

    Back in 2009 I ran into an old friend at the main post office in Hamilton, and commented about how my business was suffering due to the poor economy. My friend, a prominent PLP politician, told me the best thing for Bermuda was to downsize and get back to the way things were seventy years ago. She went on to say that 10,000 to 20,000 Bermudians needed to leave the island and move to England, where they would be taken care of by the public purse (dole). Her response to my business concerns left me speechless!

    • SMH says:

      One of the PS told me that a PLP cabinet minister proposed the idea of sending a boatload of unemployed men to one of the island to grow vegetables for a season then come back here and sell them. Much like someone brought up at the SAGE town hall meeting. The PS said that both he and his assistant just sat there with their mouth open at the suggestion. There you have our core reason we are in this financial mess today…politicians with the best of intentions but no clue how finance works in charge of the public purse.

  16. MAKE MY DAY says:

    Simple really….If you study hard – get the right education and take it all seriously – then good companies will employ you!! They are NOT obligated to employ just any old one!! First you have to prove-yourself!!

  17. swing voter says:

    kinda hard to hide behind the figures if social engineering and parental involvement was done the right way. Educate your kids, equip them with basic survival skills, sacrifice your life for them, send them to good universities with post graduation programs to work, co-op, train in the US or Canada. When your children do return, who can deny them employment?

  18. Raymond Ray says:

    I smile and simultaneously have to shake my head Rolfe. You know damn well why the unemployed African descendants e.g.”blacks Bermudians” are at the level you mentioned, it’s basically for two reasons. (1) Many young “black” Bermudian fellas don’t have the required skill/s to do certain jobs and are forced,(by choice) to settle for manual labour jobs and of course we all know that’s tough work. (2) The ratio of the population here on the Island of Bermuda is basically 2/3 of African descent; leaving the remainder 1/3 of various heritages.
    We can not blame people coming here to better their lives if our own Bermudians of many descent don’t wish to do the work for the wages paid to the foreign workers:-( Many choose to lay-up on Govt. Social Services and complain…instead of “reaching up and not out”

  19. Alvin Williams says:

    Any one who thinks that they can live off the social assistance benefits that this government hands out is living in a cloud-cuckoo-land and so is those who think that Bermudians are benefiting from living off social assistance. Of course increased numbers of Bermudians who can’t make it financially in this country are fleeing to England where the financial assistance benefits are a little better; although the citizens of Britain are getting tried of all those economic refuges who are flooding across their border including Bermudians; all consider that Britain is a soft touch. Governments like Bermuda are also to blame; for the more they are able to off load to England for their failure to create the conditions so that their people can live and earn a living in their own country; the less they will have to pay out. But if Britain continues to threaten the rest of the EU about what it will do and not do to remain a member of the European Community; may find itself on the outside may be force to consider it can no longer take in all those economic refugees? At that point the bottom would have fallen out and Bermuda’s unemployment rate would take a further jump from all those returning Bermudians.

  20. Fed Up Bermudian says:

    Does anyone know what the actual figures are, percentage-wise per race? So in other words, what percentage of the black population is unemployed, and what percent of the white (and Portuguese) population is unemployed? We also need to re-think the whole ‘underemployed’ statistic, who determines that and what are the criteria? Because I think I should be earning more kind of isn’t good enough, needs to be non-subjective metrics.

    Not criticizing, just want to know.