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    Employment in the Bahamas

    A Tourism-Based Economy

    Most people working in the Bahamas are employed in the tourism or international banking sector, and these industries are the major driving forces behind the economy. In fact, tourism (as well as construction and manufacturing related to the tourism sector) makes up about 80%of the national GDP. The financial sector is the second most important source of income (contributing 15% of the GDP), as the country has a reputation as a major off-shore banking destination. In order to comply with requirements from OECD countries and especially the United States, the Bahamas have passed laws to prevent money laundering and signed numerous taxation agreements. Other, smaller industries are agriculture and general manufacturing, both of which contribute only a small percentage of the GDP.

    Although the country’s economy seems quite strong at first glance, expats should know that the Bahamas were hit hard by the global financial crisis in 2008. As a result of the global recession, the number of tourists visiting the Bahamas dropped significantly and many people lost their jobs. However, the unemployment rate has declined from 14.2% back in 2009 to 11.6% at the end of 2016, so there are signs of improvement. In addition, the country struggles with growing competition for jobs and dealing with the ever-increasing level of government debt. As the Bahamas maintain close economic links to the United States and depend on them for both international trade and tourism, the state of the US economy is also a matter of concern.

    All That Foreign Investors Could Wish for — Or Not?

    The exemption from both corporate and income taxes is one of the main draws for investors and expats interested in working in the Bahamas. The Bahamian government has taken measures to support foreign investors and has attempted to ease the process of opening a business, particularly if it is going to generate new employment.

    However, foreign investments also raise local concerns about foreign competition, and these worries are taken very seriously. You may encounter difficulties if your prospective business poses too much of a competition to local companies.

    Finding Employment: It’s Difficult

    While the Bahamas are more or less the place to be for foreign investors, expats who dream about working in the Bahamas have a hard time finding employment. This  is due to the Bahamian government protecting its citizens and attempting to decrease unemployment among its own population. The easiest way for expats to find work is to be transferred to a branch office by their employer abroad, in which case, your employer has to arrange and pay for your work permit. This is common practice with bank and insurance company employees who have special skills and qualifications.

    Work permits are usually issued for one year and can be renewed. However, after working in the Bahamas for five years or more, it is hard to get a renewal. To learn more about visa requirements and work permits, please have a look at our article on or contact the nearest Bahamian embassy or consulate.

    Doing Business in the Bahamas

    General Etiquette in the Bahamas

    Bahamians are known to be very outgoing and informal, with a strong sense of the importance of hospitality. You will learn that locals like to talk to strangers, and even invite them into their house on occasion. Harmless banter and poking fun at others is just as common as making fun of yourself. Despite all the joking around, keep in mind that religion  is of great value in the Bahamas. Many events are opened with a prayer, and verses from the bible are common in everyday speech. Sunday is highly valued as a holy day on which people dress up in their best Sunday clothes to attend service. It is important, both during work as well as during everyday life, to be respectful of this factor.

    Doing Business: Straightforward but Friendly

    Although people in the Bahamas are rather relaxed and informal, you should take care to act professionally. Always address your business partners with their academic titles and surnames —  don’t move to a first-name basis until invited to do so, which may take a little longer than on other Caribbean islands. Although business cards are exchanged without any formal ritual you should still try to be respectful during introductions, as it is seen as a representation of how you will treat this business relationship. Don’t bend the card, shove it in your pocket, and definitely don’t write on it. The latter is considered particularly rude.

    Bahamians are quite straightforward in their communication style, although they often make sure to remain friendly and humorous. Make sure to always arrive on time for your business meetings, even if your business partners may not do so. The negotiation style may be influenced by the UK and US, but Bahamians are more hierarchical. Meetings are often about discussing decisions which have already been made rather than about negotiating. Because personal relationships are considered important, a big portion of the meetings is spent on speaking about topics unrelated to business.

    The Taxation System: It’s All a Bit Different

    The good news for expats who wish to work or start a business in the Bahamas is that there is no personal income tax, corporate income tax, capital gains tax, or inheritance tax (although there is property tax). Next to a value added tax of 7.5% first introduced in 2015, tariffs on imported goods are one of the  a main sources of government revenue for the Bahamas, contributing 60% of the total revenue.  You must pay a duty fee on your imports, and this can be anywhere between 0% to 200%, depending on the type of goods. For example, there is no duty on computer software and books but between 100% and 200% on gasoline and tobacco. There is also a 7% stamp tax on all goods imported for business use.

    As an expat to the Bahamas, you will not be taxed on your income, but it is likely that you will have to pay a national insurance contribution (the equivalent to social security) of 9.8% of your weekly salary, of which you will pay 3.9% and your employer will pay 5.9%. However, this can differ based on your total income — visit the National Insurance Board of the Bahamas for more information.

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