Just what benefit will Southlands and newer developments bring? To whom will those benefits flow?
If the triple approach of new properties, expanded airlift, and increases in real visitors (i.e. not business people, not friends visiting friends, not relatives coming out for a holiday with family) does work, then the new Jumeirah Group property at Southlands will make a profit on the millions that they invest. But there’s no guarantee of profit.
However, there are other guarantees. One is that Jumeirah will employ a majority of non-Bermudians. They’ll be unprofitable if they don’t. Driven by the profit mandate, they’ll do what’s necessary. They’ll employ labour at the same wage rates as the rest of Bermuda’s Hospitality Industry.
In the 1980’s, with Bermudians leaving the Industry, Bermuda’s Hospitality Industry began adjusting. It began by hiring in the wider global labour pool. The Industry stopped hiring West Europeans. It replaced them with cheaper labour from the Indian sub-continent, Asia, and Eastern Europe. The wage rates for this labour were set in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. The rates have advanced only because of global inflation and not because of competitive Bermuda factors.
Today, Bermuda’s Hospitality Industry has the lowest median income. In 2006, at about $36k, it was only 70% of Bermuda’s $51k national median, and income improvement always trails that in all other sectors.
Bermuda’s Hospitality Industry now squeezes out its profits by employing the cheapest and most efficient labour that it can find. That labour is not Bermudian. No mass-market hotel in Bermuda can afford to have a majority Bermudian staff working for the kind of wages that Bermudians require if they are to have an acceptable Bermudian lifestyle – given the weeks and hours of work actually put in.
Only Bermuda’s smaller niche units can afford to employ Bermudians. They can do that because their niche customer base allows them to charge more. Their Bermudian labour force provides a higher level of service and a higher quality ambiance – which then allows these employees to earn slightly more as well as stay in work all year round.
Jumeirah will employ non-Bermudians in its kitchens, dining rooms, salons, spas, and in its technical support operations. Jumeirah’s top management – the people who look after the owner’s millions – will be non-Bermudian.
Bermudians will appear as token waiters, token bartenders, token kitchen staff, token middle-management, token everything. At Southlands, wherever a Bermudian works, he or she will be in a minority – like a wine cork floating in a swimming pool.
That’s the reality. It’s created by the fact that Bermuda has an oversize and still growing economy. There are only about 48,000 of us Bermudians. But us lot are living on an economic platform – we call it Bermuda – that services a 65,000 person 40,000 worker economy that – every day – still finds itself short of labour. Us 48,000 can only provide about 28,000 people who can and will toil. Us lot actually have a world-beating percentage of our indigenous population in gainful employment. Still, economic platform Bermuda – our home – finds itself short of labour.
The Southlands/Jumeirah addition adds one more economic demand to an already supply starved worker pool.
Top those realities with the scary reality that us lot – collectively, nationally – have been producing a too large number of under-educated young Bermudians who need to find a place in our over-large, highly-competitive, high-demand economy.
Bermuda’s over-large economy has a voracious demand for educated, capable, trained, workers who’ll provide the required range and quality of services and skills. Yet us lot have been throwing our own under-educated young people – the majority male –onto an educational dung heap. We’ve been building a highly combustible piled-up heap of discontented, disenchanted, testosterone-filled young males. Daily, incrementally, this piled-up and already dis-contented group gets pressured a little more by the steadily enlarging crowd of ambitious job-holders coming in from overseas.
We sometimes see and hear about small but regular outbreaks of violence and xenophobia. These are little bells of warning. They’re telling us that we need to act faster and take stronger action to fix our real problem.
Bermuda’s real problem? For Bermudians, Bermuda promises high incomes and high hopes. For Bermudians, Bermuda delivers high costs leading to dashed hopes (housing). Bermuda provides a plethora of jobs and opportunities – with still more jobs and opportunities coming, but these are jobs that are beyond the reach of too many poorly and badly educated Bermudians.
For Bermudians – Bermuda’s real problem is the growing gap between promise and delivery.