Public sector largest employer Caribbean Netherlands

According to a survey by Statistics Netherlands (CBS), the Caribbean Netherlands’ largest employer is the public sector. The Caribbean Dutch government employs more than 1.9 thousand people, i.e. 15 percent of all people in work on the three islands.

In 2016, 10.7 thousand people between the ages of 15 and 74 were in paid employment on Bonaire; this was 1.6 thousand on St Eustatius and almost 1 thousand on Saba.
The proportionally largest public sector is found on Saba (27 percent). This is also the island with a high share of people working in the education sector, mainly linked to the US-based Saba University School of Medicine. On Bonaire, more employees are found in the sector hotels and restaurants than in the public sector (14 versus 13 percent). The island also has a relatively large construction sector (11 percent). On St Eustatius, manufacturing is a major employer (17 percent). This is linked to the presence of the US-based NuStar company, which has a storage terminal on the island. Both in the public sector and in manufacturing, the majority of people in work are employees. By contrast, there are relatively many self-employed in the two sectors hotels and restaurants and construction (21 and 18 percent respectively).

Number of employed (15-74 yrs) in the Caribbean Netherlands, by sector of industry, 2016
 BonaireSt EustatiusSaba
Hotels and restaurants14108
Public sector131527
Financial and
business services
Transport and storage672

Majority of workers not island-born

Fewer than 4 in 10 people in work were born on the island of domicile. On Bonaire, 20 percent were born on another island of the (former) Dutch Antilles, e.g. Curaçao, Aruba or St Maarten; 14 percent were born in the European part of the Netherlands, while 29 percent were born elsewhere. On St Eustatius and Saba, 43 and 46 percent respectively of all people in work were born elsewhere. The origin of workers from elsewhere is very diverse, with those from the Dominican Republic forming the largest group. On Bonaire, there are also relatively large shares of workers from Colombia, Venezuela and Peru.

Half of government employees are island-born

The population groups in work vary from sector to sector. In the public sector, nearly half of all employees are island natives; this is even 58 percent on Saba. Furthermore, relatively many government employees were originally from another island of the (former) Dutch Antilles. On Bonaire in particular, relatively many public sector employees originate from one of the islands of the (former) Dutch Antilles, or – to a lesser extent – the European part of the Netherlands. On St Eustatius and Saba, almost 1 in 5 workers were born elsewhere.
In the education sector, large differences are seen among the islands when it comes to the origin of employees. On Bonaire, 43 percent of employees in the education sector were born there; 27 percent were born in the European part of the Netherlands, while 21 percent were born on another island of the (former) Dutch Antilles. On St Eustatius, the majority are from another island of the (former) Dutch Antilles or elsewhere. On Saba, 65 percent were born elsewhere.


Workers in hospitality and construction sectors often from elsewhere

In the sectors hotels and restaurants and construction, there are relatively few island-born workers: 23 and 25 percent respectively. These sectors are dominated by workers from elsewhere, in most cases from Central and South America including the Dominican Republic, Colombia and Venezuela. One exception is the hotel and restaurant sector on Bonaire, with relatively many island natives and European Dutch.