This region is made up of 28 island states, principally in the Gulf of Mexico. They generally have a modest state of economic development and many rely heavily on tourism and cash crops such as bananas and sugar cane.
Although Puerto Rico is officially an independent state it is actually closely controlled by the USA. All countries suffer from being in the hurricane belt and Haiti in particular suffers from political instability.
The Cayman Islands is a notable tax haven. Cuba remains officially a communist state, but its policies are much compromised in recent years. Bermuda is sometimes included in this region, but geographically it is distant from it and much closer to Europe.
Labour market summary: Employers are generally free to recruit staff on the open labour market and in most countries there is a large supply of cheap immigrant labour. All countries have health and safety laws in place and most operate a statutory minimum wage system (often not frequently updated), but few effectively enforce them and penalties are too low to deter infringements.
In Jamaica an employer found guilty of infringing a legal requirement can appeal and the lengthy delays can make the appeal difficult to oppose. Most workers hold more than one job and have little job security.
In the Dominican Republic it is common practice to work weeks consisting of 4 x 12 hour shifts and not to pay overtime (although legally required to do so. An employee may refuse to undertake dangerous work, but will generally lose their job if they do so. Moreover, labour inspectors are generally poorly trained and often unwilling to follow up a complaint.
In Haiti most workers in the large informal sector earn less than US$1 an hour. Annual medical examinations are required and paid for by the state – but this is seldom adhered to or payments honoured.
Although there is a looser framework of employment laws in Barbados and no limit to overtime, the small body of labour inspectors appears to perform their job well. However, there is no minimum wage and around 20% of the population live in poverty.
In the Bahamas employment laws are not well enforced and visits from labour inspectors are pre-announced and infrequent.
Greatest advantages: Proximity to US markets and plentiful supply of inexpensive skilled and semi-skilled labour. Lack of stringent enforcement of labour laws.
Greatest disadvantages: Poor local supply of higher level skills, low level of employee integrity and threat of protection rackets in some areas.
Proportion of global land area: 0.19%Proportion of global population: 0.55%
Annual rate of population increase: 0.1 to 1.3%
Life expectancy: Men 72years (Haiti 60.9) Women 77.5 years (Haiti 65.2)
Working population in the informal economy: 55% (Dominican Republic)
GSI Modern slavery (Forced Labour) 1% Dominican Republic.
Unemployment rate: 13% (3% in Cuba)
GDP/capita PPP (current) $15,200. ($2000 Haiti, $8,900 Jamaica)
Female labour participation rate: 41.5% (Cuba)-63.8% (Haiti)
Male labour participation rate: 67.3% (Cuba) to 79.5% (Dominican Republic)
World Bank rating (doing business): Puerto Rico 64 to St Kitts&Nevis 134/ 190
FedEE overall employment potential rating: 5/10
FedEE regulatory rating: 7/10
Minimum wage rates (selected states)
– Cuba 471 pesos/month Foreign companies only 2014
– Cayman Islands $6/hour February 2016
– Dominican Republic RD$9000 – 15400 per month April 2017
– Haiti 290 to 400 gourdes per 8 hr day August 2017
– Jamaica $6200/40 hour week. January 2016
– Trinidad & Tobago TT$15 / Hour 2015