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Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Those who voted to leave

The monthly magazine Guyana Review published by Mr David Granger continues to publish interesting and useful articles on a variety of topics. In the May issue there is an article on The Guyanese diaspora which comes up with the estimate, using census figures from those countries, that the total number of Guyanese (i.e. born in Guyana) now in the US, Canada and the UK is at least 315,600 and if illegal immigrants are added who may not be caught by the censuses the figure could be between 350,000 to 400,000. If one adds to that emigrants in Suriname, Venezuela, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados (the article reports that the authorities there cite a figure of 5,302 Guyanese legally resident and estimate a further 2,000 to 3,000 illegal immigrants) Guyanese emigrants may well exceed 500,000. As the article notes, these figures do not include people born abroad of one or more Guyanese parents who may consider themselves Guyanese. If those children are added, the popular saying that there are now as many Guyanese overseas as there are in Guyana may have some truth in it.

Starting with the report of our 2002 census which gave the population as 751,223 persons the article notes that this is only an increase of 3.8 per cent on the 1991 census, or .34 per cent a year and is less than the figure of 759,567 in 1980. Our population has fallen slightly over 20 years, which is of course due to the very high levels of emigration during that period. The census shows that from 1991 to 2002 the population in East Berbice/Corentyne (Region 6) fell by 15 per cent and in the city of Georgetown by 30 per cent, from 48,842 to 34,179. The first statistic confirms that a lot of Indians in Berbice have been leaving. The second, on Georgetown, is more complex and requires more detailed analysis. Why has the population of the city fallen so much, have people been leaving the city (because of crime) to live in other parts of the country, where the population is stable or has increased slightly?

Using the latest US census figures the article provides some more interesting information:

"Nearly 84 per cent (176,460) of the people born in Guyana declared themselves as belonging to "One race". Of this group, 90,580 or over 51 per cent identified themselves as 'Black American;' 46,755 or over 26 per cent as 'Asian' and 31,065 or 18 per cent as 'Some other race;' this suggests Indo-Guyanese migrants were unsure whether to identify themselves as `Asians' or 'Some other race.'

Another 4,305 (over 2 per cent) identified themselves as 'White' and 3,370 (nearly 2 per cent) identified themselves as 'American Indian and Alaska Native' - that is to say, Amerindians or Indigenous Peoples. The 2002 Census of Guyana gives the Amerindian population as 68,8l9; so this suggests that nearly 5 per cent of the Indigenous population of Guyana is living in the US."

There is some more interesting census information:

"The educational attainment of the Guyana-born population was slightly below that of the US population as a whole: of the 171,995 people over 25, 120,345 (70 per cent) were high school graduates and 28,505 (nearly 17 per cent) had a Bachelor's or higher degree. In the US, 80 per cent of the over-25s had graduated from high school and 24 per cent had a Bachelor's or higher degree.

In terms of employment, 135,615 (68 per cent) of the over 16s were in the labour force, of whom 125,495 (93 per cent) were employed, 1,085 (0.8 per cent) were in the armed forces and 9,040 (nearly 7 per cent) were un-employed. In terms of occupation, most of the Guyana-born people who were employed worked in "sales and office occupations" - 37,685 or 30 per cent, "management, professional and related occupations" - 33,545 or 27 per cent, and in "service occupations" - 26,650 or 21 per cent. The median household income was US $45,470. Of the 84,665 households headed by people born in Guyana, 12,390 (nearly 15 per cent) had annual incomes of less than US $15,000, while 38,360 (45 per cent) had an annual income of US $50,000 or more, 10,610 (13 per cent) of them having an annual income of US $100,000 or over (US Census Bureau 2005: Table FBP-l and FBP-2)."

The real 'overseas vote' has been the vote by hundreds of thousands of Guyanese in the last few decades to emigrate. Many left although they had jobs because they could no longer put up with the unstable politics or the crime or the falling educational standards which presented them with a problem for their children. As the US census figures show some have failed to get employment but the vast majority have and some have done well. Some of those in the diaspora have continued to help those at home either by remittances to families or by providing medical or other assistance and more recently by investing. Government should address the possibility of establishing a closer connection with this large diaspora which possesses a variety of skills and experiences, perhaps by means of a special website, which could seek to list some of the skills available in the diaspora through a process of voluntary registration, and could also list opportunities for investment.

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