Regional Mobility Trends: The Caribbean

For both economic and personal reasons, migration is an appealing prospect for some Caribbean citizens. Intra-Caribbean and international migration remain pronounced features of Caribbean migration patterns. Intra-Caribbean migrants are those nationals who travel from their countries to others within the Caribbean region for employment purposes.

An important example of this form of migration involves the movement of Cuban doctors and nurses to Anglophone Caribbean states, where they work in hospitals in these countries. Cuba–Caribbean health agreements support intra-Caribbean labor force migration by minimizing the shortage of health care professionals in the region.

International migration has negatively impacted the pool of doctors and nurses in the Caribbean region. Some doctors and nurses from Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago have opted to exploit opportunities in developed countries — namely, the US, the UK, and Canada — because health care facilities in these countries are equipped with modernized technologies, and compensation packages are better.

Further, demographic factors and developed countries’ policies have facilitated the migration of citizens from the Caribbean region. For example, Canada’s aging population and the increased demand for state spending on senior-related programs, coupled with reduced tax revenues, have factored into the government’s decision to extend Canada’s immigration through the Express Entry program. Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada — the immigration department of the Government of Canada — has reported that, between January 2015 and May 2018, 1,470 Jamaicans obtained Canadian permanent residence by applying to this program.

Intra-Caribbean and international short-stay migration will probably remain stable in 2019, but return migration may be hampered by economic and safety concerns in the region.

Short-stay international migration continues to be a major trend among residents of Caribbean countries. Some Jamaicans have traveled to the US and Canada on these countries’ guest worker schemes. These migrants obtain seasonal employment in the US and Canada as hotel and agricultural workers. Similarly, university students from Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and Barbados have also obtained summer employment in the US through work and study programs, where their services are utilized in the food industry.

The UK and the US have also provided scholarship opportunities to students from the English-speaking Caribbean through the UK Commonwealth, Chevening, and Fulbright scholarship programs. These annual scholarship opportunities are popular avenues through which people from the Caribbean enter those countries as short-stay migrants for academic purposes.

Another trend in the region is that of return migration. Short-stay migrants normally return to their countries once their seasonal employment or scholarships end. Additionally, some Caribbean migrants who have been naturalized as citizens in developed countries have returned to their countries of birth to retire. In Jamaica, a special program has been established to assist returning residents with their resettlement.

The 2019 outlook for the Caribbean region is that migration in all its forms is likely to continue. Intra-Caribbean and international short-stay migration will probably remain stable, but the resettlement of retirees through return migration may be hampered by economic and safety concerns in the region.

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