Published On: Wed, Nov 8th, 2023

Almost one in five households live under the poverty line

PHILIPSBURG — At least 19 percent of St. Maarten’s population has a monthly income of 1,000 guilders ($558.66) or less, it appears from an analysis of the local labor market by the Economic Bureau Amsterdam in collaboration with Tackling Law. The Social Economic Council has defined the poverty line as being 80 percent of the minimum wage. This puts the household poverty line at 1,223 guilders ($683.24).

St. Maarten’s monthly minimum wage of $855 (at the time the report was published) compares poorly to that of other Caribbean islands like Bonaire ($1,236), Saba ($1,434) and Statia ($1,446). The minimum wage on Curacao is $963.50 and that on Aruba $1,057.77. Per January 1, 2023, the minimum wage in St. Maarten equals that on Curacao.

“The minimum wage on St. Maarten has become the lowest of Caribbean islands of the Kingdom, while costs of living are among the highest,” the report states. “In 2010 the minimum wage of St. Maarten was the highest of what was then the Netherlands Antilles. In the decade thereafter the minimum wage on St. Maarten was surpassed by those of all other countries and public bodies of the Dutch Caribbean.”

Between 2016 and 2022 the minimum wage was not indexed. Corrected for inflation it is lower in real terms in 2022 than in was in 2010, the report states. The cost of living in St. Maarten in terms of price level is higher than the minimum wage.

The report contains some curious information about the population and the work force on St. Maarten. According to the local bureau of statistics (STAT) the population was 42,759 in 2022, but the civil registry reported already in 2019 a much higher number: 61,750.

The report furthermore notes that the labor market is dominated by residents who were born outside of St. Maarten. According to the 2011 census 20,753 of 26,204 inhabitants were not born in St. Maarten. Interestingly, of the 20,753 foreign born residents only 2,953 came from other parts of the kingdom. Of the 17,108 employed residents in 2011, 14,106 or 82 percent, were born outside of St. Maarten.

Unions play a minor part in the job market, it appears from the report. It states that between 3,000 and 4,000 workers are union-members; they represent around 13 percent of the work force. In the Netherlands union-membership is around 18 percent.

In 2021 the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor (VSA) registered 639 requests for work permits for foreign workers. A large majority of these requests (92.6 percent) were granted. Remarkable: one third of these work permits (more than 200) was for the adult entertainment industry – in other words: for prostitutes.