Seven out of ten Caribbean Dutch in employment

In 2016, 69 percent of the Caribbean Netherlands’ labour force (the population aged 15 to 74 years) were in paid employment. On Bonaire and St Eustatius, the employment rates stood at 70 and 66 percent respectively; on Saba, this was 62 percent. This makes Saba one of the Dutch municipalities with the lowest employment rate, according to newly released figures from the Labour Force Survey Caribbean Netherlands 2016 conducted by Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

Bonaire had 15.3 thousand inhabitants between the ages of 15 and 74 in 2016. On St Eustatius and Saba, the population was 2.4 thousand and nearly 1.6 thousand respectively. The latter island houses an American medical university, and because of this a relatively large part of its population are (foreign) students. To a large extent, this explains the lower labour participation rate.

Slightly more men than women have paid jobs in the Caribbean Netherlands. On Bonaire, 72 percent of the men and 68 percent of the women aged 15 to 74 are in employment. On St Eustatius, these rates amount to 67 and 65 percent respectively; on Saba, 64 and 59 percent respectively. Both men and women living in the Caribbean Netherlands primarily work full-time. On Bonaire and St Eustatius, there are however slightly fewer women than men in full-time employment, while there is hardly any difference on Saba.

Low labour participation among young people

Employment rates are highest between the ages of 25 and 64. It is not customary for young people in the Caribbean Netherlands to work part-time alongside their training or education. Nearly half of 15 to 24-year-olds on Bonaire and St Eustatius indicate that they are either not willing or able to work, mainly due to their studies. On Saba, this even applies to over 60 percent. In addition, on Bonaire and St Eustatius unemployment is high among young people in particular. On all three islands, 18 percent of the over-65s are in paid work: a higher employment level than among their peers in the European Netherlands. They relatively often work in part-time jobs.

Net labour participation rate in the Caribbean Netherlands, by age, 2016
 Net labour participation rate
15-24 yrs39.2
25-44 yrs85.4
45-64 yrs78.3
65-74 yrs18.1
St Eustatius
15-24 yrs15.4
25-44 yrs83.6
45-64 yrs75.1
65-74 yrs17.2
15-24 yrs28.2
25-44 yrs75.6
45-64 yrs75.8
65-74 yrs18.5

Mainly lower educated among unemployed

In 2016, 6.7 percent (equivalent to 770 people) of Bonaire’s labour force were unemployed. People are considered unemployed when they are not in paid employment, have recently looked for work and are currently available for work. Unemployment on St Eustatius stood at 7.1 percent. The lowest rate was recorded on Saba: 3.3 percent. On all three islands, the majority of the unemployed are low-skilled. In total, 65% of the jobless population of the Caribbean Netherlands were lower educated.

Retirement and education main reasons for not having a job

Around 20 percent of 15 to 74-year-olds on Bonaire and St Eustatius indicate that they are not looking for work, not available for work nor willing or able to work. This share is highest on Saba: 32 percent. This is related to the relatively large group of medical students living on the island.

People on Bonaire and St Eustatius mention early retirement, retirement and old age as the main reason for being unwilling or unable to work, followed by education or training. Over half of the people living on Saba say education is the reason for not being willing to work. Sickness or disablement comes in third place on all three islands. The share of people who are not in work due to the care for their family or household is relatively small in the Caribbean Netherlands. These are mainly women.

Reasons for being unwilling/unable to work (15 to 74 yrs) in the Caribbean Netherlands, 2016
 (Early) retirement or advanced ageEducation/trainingSickness/disablementCare for family or householdOther reasons
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