Emigration contributing to Jamaica's low population growth - ESSJ
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Despite a significant drop in emigration due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a total of 16,866 Jamaicans were granted visas for permanent residence in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom (UK) in 2020, fueling the trend of low or no population growth for Jamaica.

The figures are contained in the latest edition of the Economic and Social Survey Jamaica (ESSJ), a publication of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), which was released last week.

The lack of growth in the population is compounded by the country's low birth rate which dates back to the 1980s.This is compounded further by the fact that females in their prime productive years are leaving for better opportunities abroad.

The PIOJ has acknowledged that emigration over the past two years could have put a bigger dent in the country's population except for restrictions put in place to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the end of 2021, PIOJ estimates put the country's population at 2,736,800.

In 2020, there was a 66.1 per cent decline in the number of emigrants from Jamaica who were issued permanent residence or British citizenship.

According to the ESSJ, "This decline can be directly attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions”.

It said that “Despite the declines observed, the USA continued to be the destination of choice for Jamaican emigrants. A total of 12,826 Jamaicans were granted permanent residence visas for the USA, a decrease of 69.1 per cent compared to the previous year”.

The categories ‘immediate relatives to US citizens’ and ‘family sponsored preferences’ remained the primary categories of admission (76.6 per cent and 17.8 per cent, respectively). This was followed by ‘employment-based preferences’ at (5.2 per cent).

The ESSJ said there was no data on age, sex and occupational status for Jamaican migrants to the USA at the time of publication.

Meanwhile, a total of 2,030 emigrants were granted permanent resident status to Canada in 2020, representing a 49 per cent decrease relative to 2019. Over the past five years, the largest proportion of Jamaicans granted permanent resident status was between 25 and 44 years of age.

“Many of these individuals are females in their prime productive and reproductive years, a trend also highlighted in the 2017 International Migration and Development Policy and Plan of Action,” said the ESSJ.

In 2020, a total of 285 emigrants in the 30–34 age group were granted permanent resident status, reflecting a decline of 48.2 per cent in emigrants to Canada compared with the previous year. Emigrants in the 25–29 and 35–39 age groups were the second largest groups of emigrants to Canada; both groups accounted for 230 each in 2020, a decrease of 47.1 per cent and 53.5 per cent, respectively when compared with the previous year.

Jamaicans 40–44 years who were granted permanent resident status numbered 165, a decrease of 51.5 per cent relative to 2019.

Data from Citizenship and Immigration Canada pertaining to emigrants from Jamaica are classified in keeping with the 2015 Jamaica Standard Occupational Classification published by STATIN. There are seven occupation groups. In 2020, the largest proportion of permanent emigrants was categorized as ‘non-workers, new workers, homemakers, students and retirees’ (80.5 per cent), followed by ‘unknown’ (10.1 per cent).

A decrease of 3.3 percentage points was observed in the former category when compared with the previous year, and an increase of 3.8 percentage points was observed in the latter category with respect to number of permanent emigrants from Jamaica relative to the previous year.

The data revealed that the majority of temporary workers from Jamaica to Canada (81.4 per cent) held ‘elementary occupations’.

In the meantime, British citizenship is granted to applicants under one of four categories: naturalization based on marriage; naturalization based on residence; registration of minor children; and registration based on other grounds.

The number of Jamaicans who were granted citizenship in 2020 was 2 010, a decline of 14.2 per cent compared with the previous period.

Between 2016 and 2020, the number of persons who were granted citizenship fluctuated. The category ‘naturalization based on residence’ (66.6 per cent) continued to record the largest proportion of British citizenship approved, followed by the category ‘naturalization based on marriage’ (17.7 per cent) and ‘registration on other grounds’ (8.6 per cent).

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