Jamaicans hoping to visit the United States wait outside the United States Embassy on Old Hope Road in St Andrew. – File

By Corey Robinson–

It appears that most Jamaicans would turn down the chance to migrate despite the many problems facing the country, with a little more than 30 per cent saying they would pack up and leave today if given the chance.

A recently concluded national survey has revealed that despite the tough economic conditions, the high levels of crime and corruption, and several other problems, just over six in every 10 Jamaicans would not leave if they had the chance to migrate today.

For those who would leave, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Cayman Islands are the countries of choice.


That’s according to an islandwide poll commissioned by the Jamaica National Building Society and conducted by Bill Johnson Survey Limited between December 7 and 15, 2013. The poll used a sample size of 1,008 Jamaicans age 18 years and older.

According to the findings, 62 per cent of respondents would not leave the ‘Land of Wood and Water’ to take up residence abroad, while 36 per cent of respondents said they would leave today if possible. Only two per cent were flat-footed, vacillating between the two options.

“That’s fantastic. If I were there and I were a part of that survey, I would be in that 62 per cent,” declared Irwin Claire, managing director of the Caribbean Immigrant Services, based in Jamaica, Queens, New York, after it was pointed out that 43 per cent of those who said they would leave Jamaica chose the United States (US) as their preferred country of relocation.

Irwin Claire

Irwin Claire

“The harsh economic conditions in the US make it difficult for even those who were born here, and then there are also social and other challenges that have an impact on people,” noted Claire.


He argued that it is more pragmatic for young Jamaicans pursuing educational goals to migrate to the US than for older Jamaicans seeking to do the same.

“The standard of living is better here, but the quality of life – except for crime and violence – is better there,” he said.

With the survey also showing that most Jamaicans believe their personal economic situation has worsened in the past year and fear that it will be even worse this year, economic factors were blamed for making many want to seek out better shores.

Twenty-two per cent of those who said they would leave explained that they would do so in search of a better life and for better employment opportunities.

Jamaica’s bad economic state is the reason 12 per cent of the people would leave, while nine per cent said they would leave for new exposure and experiences.

The study found that five per cent of respondents had lost all hope in Jamaica, but only four per cent were pinning such hopelessness on the nation’s bedevilling crime problem.

Jamaicans Celebrating

Jamaicans Celebrating

The latest official data for the US, Canada and the UK show that in 2011, just under 24,200 Jamaicans were issued visas for permanent residence in these countries.

However, not all of those migrants left Jamaica for those shores as some migrated to other countries.

  • Education levels of those who would migrate

Less than high school28%

High School/HEART37%

College, University, Graduate School43%

  • Reasons for wanting to migrate centre around opportunity

For a better life22%

Better job/employment opportunities22%

Better opportunity14%

J’can economy is bad12%