The Impact of Natural Disasters on Labor Shortage in Dominica

Doctoral Thesis / Dissertation, 2019

119 Pages, Grade: 4.0

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Table of Contents



Problem Statement
Purpose of the Study
Significance of the Study
Nature of the Study
Hypothesis/Research Questions
Conceptual Framework
Definition of Terms
Scope, Limitations and Delimitations

Literature Review
Natural Disasters
History of Natural Disasters in Dominica
Hurricane Maria
International Migration
Intra-regional migration
Brain Drain
Gender Drain
Construction Sector
Population Growth
Impact of Remittances
Return Migration
Ross University School of Medicine
Chinese Population in Dominica

Research Method and Design Appropriateness
Population, Sampling, and Data Collection Procedures and Rationale
Internal and External Validity
Data Analysis

Data Collection
Primary Reason for Leaving
Hurricane Maria Influence
Return to Dominica Question
Reasons Why Migrants Left Their Jobs
How Migrants Viewed Staff Retention
How Participants Viewed Their HR
Respondent’s Views on Immigrant Labor in Dominica
Data Analysis

Discussion of Findings
Recommendations for Future Research
Economic/Social Cost of Migration
The Role of Government
Limiting and Delimiting Factors
The Role of Chinese Community in Dominica
Migrants Who Left Briefly
The Children
Residents Who Did Not Migrate






Natural disasters occur globally, and they inflict losses especially to smaller vulnerable countries. The tiny island of Dominica was devastated by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. The impact caused ranged from infrastructural damage, lost lives, and a shortage of skilled labor. A labor shortage leads to brain drain and migration. Minimizing the loss of labor after a disaster is challenging. The residents who migrate are the ones with the financial wherewithal and are usually more educated. People flee from disaster-stricken countries to get away from storms in order to maintain a comfortable life. Inadequate pay, poor working conditions can contribute to the depleting labor force. These migrants mainly comprise workers in the medical, construction, Information Technology, hospitality, and education fields. Training skilled workers, adequately compensating them, and providing excellent working conditions can help mitigate their departure even in post disaster periods. While natural disasters cannot be prevented their impact can be minimized by adequately preparing for their occurrence and effectively managing their aftermath. An adequate supply of qualified labor is the lifeline of any vibrant economy but that same economy can lose that lifeline after the occurrence of a natural disaster if conditions are unfavorable.


I would like to dedicate this project to my parents, particularly my mother Helena Robin who instilled a positive work ethic and zeal in me to help others, and my dad George Connor for a resilient spirit. Also, to my children Kelbert and Vernelle who are my life.


I thank the Almighty God for blessing me with the ability to accomplish this milestone in my life. I would like to express special thanks to the members of my Dissertation Committee headed by Dr. Scott Eidson. Dr. Scott is a tremendous person, brilliant and supportive. Dr. Robin Westerik has been incredible. She’s one of the reasons why I completed this program. Dr. Catrin Hechl-Novak provided expert support during the short time she spent on my Committee. Then there are my extended family, friends, and well wishers who ensured that I completed the program because it meant something to them as well. I must mention Julian “Mally” Eloi (deceased) a dear friend and brother who provided inspiration throughout his life to me. I owe him much. Thanks Ma Joe (Celia Nicholas) for your incessant encouragement.


Table 1 Caribbean Migrants in the U.S.

Table 2 Stocks of SIDS Highly Skilled immigrants in OECD Countries, 2014

Table 3 Primary Reasons for Leaving Dominica

Table 4 Will You Return to Dominica?

Table 5 Participant's Views on Immigrant Labor in Dominica


Figure 1 Dependent and Independent Variables

Figure 2 Trends in Natural Disasters and Migration

Figure 3 Dominica Net Migration Rate 1985 - 2005

Figure 4 Annual Population Growth Rate by Region

Figure 5 Did the Hurricane Influence your Decision to Leave Dominica?

Figure 6 Reasons Why Migrants Left Their Jobs

Figure 7 How Migrants Viewed Management’s Policy Towards Staff Retention

Figure 8 How Respondent’s Viewed Their HR

Figure 9 Areas of Expertise


The pilot study examines how Dominica’s labor force has been impacted by natural disasters, migration, and brain drain. The impetus for this research was Hurricane Maria which struck the island in September of 2017, and the subsequent economic, physical, and social chaos that followed. This chapter presents an overview of the current project, outlining the background, purpose, significance, and nature of the study. The significance and purpose of the study provide a compelling case for the research.


The island of Dominica is located in the Eastern Caribbean between Guadeloupe to the north and Martinique to the south. This former British and French territory is oftentimes mistaken for the Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic. While the Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti Dominica is a single country. Dominica mainly espouses a black African culture, has its famous 365 rivers, predominantly black sand beaches, rich volcanic soil, and is known as the Nature Island of the Caribbean. The political and educational systems are based on the English model. French creole (Kwéyol) is spoken by some residents (Honychurch, 2017).

Over the years, Dominica has experienced its share of natural disasters and the resulting impacts of those storms. While natural disasters occur in every corner of the world and they affect us all, some to a greater extent than others, Dominica is a regular victim. In 2015 Tropical storm Erika elicited havoc of over $500 million in damages or 90 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (Crask, 2015). In 2017 Hurricane Maria devastated the island causing over $1.6 billion (226 percent of GDP) in damages to this small island state (IMF Country Report, 2018).

Natural disasters result in drastic changes including changing cultures where people of different cultures intermingle and where various skills and knowledge are transferred from country to country and region to region (Pelling & Uitto, 2001). Hurricane Maria is considered one of the worst natural disasters to affect Dominica and this research study examines the impact it had on the country of Dominica in a few selected areas. The increased outward migration, the enormous damage to infrastructure including housing, and economic loss are factors that were studied here. In this study, we will look at variables such as migration, economic challenges brought on by business closure, the loss of medical personnel, and the impact on the construction sector, brain drain, return migration and remittances.

According to McConville (2018), humans always attempt to move away from areas of natural disasters to maintain their comfort levels. That movement may be local, regional or international. Migrants move to different areas depending on what attracts them. For example, a professional healthcare provider like a nurse will travel to a location where there is a demand for nurses, benefits are attractive, and remuneration is high (McConville, 2018). A carpenter may migrate to a country where hurricanes are few because of his or her fear of hurricanes.

When individuals migrate there are consequences associated with this movement, that is, for the source country and the receiving countries. Source countries lose skilled labor and receiving countries gain those skills. These countries lose human capital some of whom who are highly qualified and specialized. Consequently, when fewer people are employed, especially in a small population, there is less discretionary income and therefore less money to spend which affects economic growth (Ingram, 2019). Additionally, in the receiving countries there can be cultural clashes between existing residents and newcomers, and illegal immigration could become an issue. Healthcare and national security resources could be stressed when demand for services increases. The national net cost imposed by illegal aliens on local, state, and federal agencies in the United States is estimated as high as $19 billion (GAO, 1995). Natural disasters are not peculiar to Dominica. However, Dominica has the lowest minimum wage in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) (, there has been constant nurse migration (Felix, 2018), and one of the highest net migration rates in the world (Fontaine, 2010). The proposed study will seek to determine whether these factors together contributed to possible depletion of the active labor force after Hurricane Maria.

Dominica’s geographic location makes it vulnerable to natural disasters which are becoming more intense and potentially catastrophic (Julca & Paddison, 2010). Elie (2017) posited that natural disasters are one of many factors that can affect the flow of immigrants. The population growth outlook for Latin America and the Caribbean is dismal according to Saad (2009). Saad (2009) predicts that the region’s growth rate will be 0.3 percent by 2050. The shortage of skilled labor will therefore be further impacted where shortages already exist, specifically in the infrastructure and nursing industries. A healthy citizenry is critical to any economy and nurses play a vital role especially in the provision of primary health care services. Their training and skills are critical in prevention and management of basic health issues. While construction is a positive growth indicator it also requires various skills to rebuild after disasters such as carpentry, masonry, and painting. Effective project management is also important. Scarce resources must be managed above board at all times to prevent issues such as cost overruns and ensure client satisfaction, accurate cost appraisal and proper planning (Murphy Construction, 2015).

Brain drain refers to the migration of skilled workers from their homelands to reside in other countries in search of better employment opportunities and a higher standard of living (Lozano-Ascencio & Gandini, 2012). The question here is, does brain drain directly impact the labor supply. When individuals are attracted to other countries where they live and work their home country is deprived of their presence and skills. Families are motivated by better job opportunities and better tertiary education and the thought of higher “credentials and increment in human capital formation” (Pienkos, 2006, p. 23).

There is not a lot of literature available on the effects that natural disasters have on small island developing states (SIDS). This study will seek to provide that information with emphasis on Dominica. An adequate and skilled labor supply cannot be overemphasized for social stability and economic growth especially after a natural disaster.

Problem Statement

When natural disasters occur, they cause havoc to infrastructure, lives and livelihood, land, and even emotional stress. This can affect families and the local economy. Some people may choose to migrate locally, regionally, or internationally as a result of natural disasters. This can lead to brain drain and possibly a shortage of labor. The study investigates the shortage of skilled labor after Hurricane Maria in Dominica and provides recommendations to minimize the problem.

Dominica’s vulnerability to exogenous shocks from global economic conditions and natural disasters makes the small island state potentially susceptible to loss of its skilled labor to other countries. Hurricane Maria, which struck the island in September 2017, devastated the fragile economy and exacerbated an exodus of part of its labor force.

Global warming concerns are relevant to small island states like Dominica. Due to climate change, natural disasters like Hurricane Maria are becoming more frequent (Melillo, Richmond & Yohe, 2014). The intensity, frequency, and duration of North Atlantic hurricanes, as well as the frequency of the strongest (Category 4 and 5) hurricanes, have all increased since the early 1980s; the annual average temperature has increased by 1.30F to 1.90F since 1895 (Melillo et al., 2014, pp. 20, 28). The subject of global warming is prevalent in environmental science and climatology (AMS, 2012). Since natural disasters are becoming more ferocious and catastrophic vulnerable, small island states like Dominica must create and develop strategies to mitigate exposure to disasters, attract and retain skilled and other labor. The government of the Commonwealth of Dominica has committed to make the island the first climate resilient country in the world. To that end in 2018, it committed to collaborate with various development partners to create and launch the Climate Resilience Agency of Dominica (CREAD). For every $10 million pledged Dominica will offer the right to use a total of one million tons of carbon sequestered by its rainforests and marine environments as an offset over the course of 20 years. Apart from repairing and building roads, schools and health facilities farmers all over the island will be provided with support including training (, 2018). Agriculture has been the backbone of the local economy for several years where it makes up to 40 percent of the working population although eco-tourism has been increasing (, 2019). Strengthening the agricultural sector will make it more formidable and resilient. Small island states must also accelerate the recovery process after a disaster. There are competing countries seeking assistance to reestablish their economies and minimize the loss of their human capital.

As part of the response management program after a storm, policymakers must ensure that processes are in place to reduce frustration and anxiety among citizens. The longer it takes for the community to return to some form of normalcy the more impatient citizens may get. An employee whose place of employment gets extensively damaged during a disaster would be extremely concerned about the length of time it would take him or her to get back to work. Or, if a farm is wiped out by heavy rains or an enraged river the employees could express similar concerns. Disaster managers can use effective management tools to boost much needed support and communication between themselves and those affected by the disaster. In a practical sense, this will only be effective if pre-planning was done and everyone was prepared. What is needed now is to examine the effect of natural disaster on brain drain, migration, and the loss of labor in Dominica.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the pilot study is to investigate the extent to which natural disasters and other factors have led to a labor shortage in both private and public sectors in Dominica and to make recommendations for minimizing brain drain, increasing incentives to maintain and grow the labor force, and ensuring the sustainability of the Dominican economy and long term economic and social development. The study will show how one or more variables produce change in another (Cooper & Schindler, 2014). This causal-explanatory study will illustrate the impact that natural disasters, income, and working conditions among other variables affect labor shortages small island states with Dominica as a case study.

Recent studies have shown that the skilled professionals who migrated away from Dominica consisted of nurses and construction workers who are critical to any country particularly after a storm (Felix, 2018; McKenzie, 2018). Asrianti (2011) pointed that the major reasons why people migrate are family and economy. However, some people resist moving because some believe that volcanic debris will produce fertile soil which is vital for local subsistence agriculture. It is seen here that cultural bias takes preeminence over all other factors in the decision-making process for Indonesians as it relates to migration and natural disasters. Migration in Indonesia is mainly rural to urban. The study concluded that by 2050 as many as 201 million urban residents in Indonesia would be at risk from multiple hazards due to climate change (Asrianti, 2011). The study did not investigate the impact on brain drain in Indonesia. The emphasis of the study was focused on internal and regional migration and not labor loss to any specific area. Another study was done on migration and youths in eight selected countries in Northern Latin America and the Caribbean: Panama, Jamaica, Haiti, Nicaragua, Mexico, the Dominica Republic, Costa Rica, and El Salvador. This study focused on youth migration. Youth migration is accelerated by skill transferability when youth have a primary and higher level education compared to others. Geographically, economically, and population-wise they all surpass Dominica. The study was conducted by Baez, Caruso, Mueller, and Niu (2016) but it did not investigate migration and brain drain or natural disasters and brain drain on labor shortage, for example. Drabo (2015) conducted an in-depth study on natural disasters migration and concluded that there is a direct correlation between natural disasters and migration and education levels of migrants. Although the relationship between highly educated migrants is positive it is not significant (Drabo, 2015). However, according to Drabo (2015), the cost of migration and liquidity constraints pose a challenge for those who are less wealthy and less educated. Nevertheless, some people when faced with the reality of being affected by natural disasters choose to migrate (Schmid, 2006). The studies did not investigate the impact on labor shortage as a result of natural disasters as is being done with this study on Dominica.

It must be noted that the common theme espoused by all the authors is that one of the ways in which residents of a country react to natural disasters is by migrating. This migration can occur internally, that is, rural to urban, within a region, or internationally. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) concluded that migration can be regular or illegal. Rural to urban migration and regional migration are common in Latin America and the Caribbean (Thomas-Hope, 2002). According to Felix (2018), nurse migration may have exacerbated after Hurricane Maria which was already a problem prior the passage of the storm. Some individuals who migrated weeks after the storm were interviewed and expressed the reasons for migrating. The reasons ranged from educational opportunity, economic, a persistent desire to migrate, and opportune time. The migrators were mainly young professionals from the island who migrated to the United States and Canada. Others migrated to other Caribbean islands like St. Lucia and Antigua (Felix, 2018). The brain drain issue affects the English-speaking Caribbean countries and is very profound and needs more consideration from policy makers and managers (Melbourne, 2016). Intra-regional migration as well as extra-regional migration is a part of the way of life of Caribbean people (Thomas-Hope, 2000).

In this study, the independent variables considered are brain drain, natural disasters, and migration of skilled labor. The dependent variable is labor shortage (figure 1). One of the ways individuals respond to natural disasters after being displaced is to migrate. They want to maintain their usual level of comfort (McConville, 2018). This implies that people will move to safer countries if they can afford to do so. The ease of migration will facilitate the movement of people especially if they are in search better remuneration, improved standard of living, if they are tired of working in poor conditions, if there is little or no respect from their superiors, and if the receiving country provides them with unbelievable attractions like job promotions and other perks. Although it is not a new phenomenon, there was an increase in the number of nurses who migrated from Dominica after Hurricane Maria (Felix, 2018). The hurricane may have augmented the exit of these much-needed healthcare workers on the island.

Brain drain refers to the migration of skilled workers from their homelands to reside in other countries in search of better employment opportunities and a higher standard of living (Lozano-Ascencio & Gandini, 2012). The question here is, does brain drain directly impact the labor supply. When individuals are attracted to other countries where they live and work their home country is deprived of their presence and skills. Families are motivated by better job opportunities and better tertiary education and the thought of higher “credentials and increment in human capital formation” (Pienkos, 2006, p. 23).

Migration can be legal and irregular. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM)

a migrant is any person who is moving or has moved across an international border or within a State away from his/her habitual place of residence, regardless of (1) the person’s legal status; (2) whether the movement is voluntary or involuntary; (3) what the causes for the movement are; or (4) what the length of the stay is. (para. 1) Low income and poor working conditions are seen as contributing factors towards brain drain and consequently migration which could be internal from rural to urban or intra-regional or extra-regional (Pienkos, 2006). For example, in 2005 Canada extended its post graduate work program and the United States increased its cap on H-1B visas (skilled immigrants) from 65,000 to 95,000. These could be seen as “pull” factors in attracting well-trained professionals from developing countries (Pienkos, 2006). Pull factors could somehow facilitate the immigration of skilled workers and students. According to Pienkos (2006), migrants are attracted to better working conditions, opportunities for promotion, better working conditions and attractive remuneration.

- Natural Disasters
- Migration
- Brain Drain

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1: Independent (IV) and Dependent Variables (DV)

Significance of the Study

The purpose of the pilot study is to investigate the extent to which natural disasters and other factors have led to a labor shortage in both private and public sectors in Dominica and to make recommendations for minimizing brain drain, increasing incentives to maintain and grow the labor force, and ensuring the sustainability of the Dominican economy and long term economic and social development.

Although studies have been done on natural disasters affecting Small Island Developing States (SIDS), policy makers in those countries have not prioritized mitigation particularly as it relates to labor shortages. According to Baker (1997), citizens who can migrate (after a storm) do so because they view migration as a safety valve, that is, security for the elderly and help for the unemployed. Schmid (2006) posited that some governments favor the exodus of their skilled labor force over human capital which provides remittances to those who stay home. This cultural and political characteristic inculcates an attitude of a viable option, vis-a-vis migration as a remedial policy measure. This study will seek to show that natural disasters are becoming more costly for already small fragile economies like that of Dominica. Governments and private sector policy makers must adapt and adopt new approaches and strategies in order to effectively manage their human capital predominantly those in short supply like nurses and construction workers.

Researchers have determined that 45 percent of employers worldwide report that they cannot find workers with the needed skills (Schumann, 2018). The demand is always going to be high for workers with specific skills that are in short supply. Workers such as electricians, carpenters, masons, and bricklayers are in short supply (McKenzie, 2018). Healthcare workers are in demand all over the world (Hamilton & Yan, 2004). While source countries may not have the bargaining chip, they can request a fairer benefit from the migration that they directly or indirectly encourage.

The beneficiaries of the study are the local private sector business owners, the government, relief and aid agencies like the Rotary Club. Private sector agencies like the Dominica Association of Industry and Commerce (DAIC) are also beneficiaries of the study. The general public along with other researchers will also benefit from this study exercise.

Nature of the Study

The quantitative research methodology was used for this study. The quantitative research methodology was appropriate for this study because it focuses mainly on survey rather than qualitative methods. The quantitative approach has its place where it is inductive as in an emerging quality or pattern (Creswell, 2014). The research investigated patterns and trends from the data collected from the respondents. Confidently selecting the correct research approach to accomplish the goals of the study is highly desired. The researcher must have guidance, and the readers must be able to follow with clarity. The questionnaire was the instrument of choice and therefore, the quantitative method was well suited for this pilot project. A mixed methodology will satisfy the quest for all available data and information on the subject matter. The qualitative research approach uses structured interviews and observations (Creswell, 2014). No structured interviews were conducted. Qualitative methods researchers obtain numeric descriptions of trends, attitudes, or opinions of a population by studying a population sample.

The instrument of choice was the survey/questionnaire which was employed to collect the necessary data required in the pilot study. Recent migrants from Dominica were interviewed and data was retrieved from secondary sources such as online newspapers, periodicals, magazines, dissertations, and other published materials such as the IMF Country Report for Dominica, 2018. SurveyMonkey was used as an essential supplemental tool in the research process to provide the quantitative data. Since other Caribbean territories share similar economic and cultural backgrounds, some parallels were drawn for purposes of adding validity and value to the study.

Chapter 2 expounds and clarifies information from some of the various secondary sources which ground the study in the recent literature. The study of natural disasters is a dynamic area of research. This extensive literature forms the basis for this study to some extent because an integral part of the research hinges on Hurricane Maria. Elie (2017) posits that the hurricane seems to have catapulted the migration process from the island depriving the country of much of its labor force and a sudden increase in brain drain from Dominica.

Research Questions

The specific independent variables under study are migration, brain drain, and natural disasters. The dependent variable is shortage of labor. The study closely examines the impact that the independent variables had on the labor shortage after the natural disaster impacted the island.

This research project raises the following questions:

1) To what extent does migration affect loss of skilled labor supply in Dominica?
2) How does brain drain affect the socio-economic and health status of Dominica?

For question 1, the hypothesis and the null hypothesis are as follows:

H1: Natural disasters lead to an increase in the loss of skilled labor in developing countries like Dominica.

H0: Natural disasters do not lead to an increase in the loss of skilled labor in developing countries like Dominica.

Question 2:

H1: An increase in brain drain leads to an increase in socio-economic and health challenges in developing countries like Dominica.

H0: An increase in brain drain does not lead to an increase in socio-economic and health challenges in developing countries like Dominica.

Conceptual Framework

Application of quantitative methodology tested the relational concept of brain drain, natural disasters, and migration to evaluate whether these variables impact a shortage of labor in Dominica particularly after Hurricane Maria. Therefore, a casual -explanatory design is proposed. This pilot research study will seek to show the relationships among these variables. Maintaining an adequate labor supply is critical for small island states which are vulnerable to disasters and where opportunities for individual and national economic growth are limited. This area of research analyzes the impact that variable forces such as natural disasters, brain drain, and migration have on labor shortage. The quantitative method will test whether natural disasters, brain drain, and migration have a positive impact on labor shortage in Dominica.

The impetus of this study is Hurricane Maria which struck the island of Dominica in September of 2017. Powerful natural disasters like Maria can have varying effects on residents including, but not limited to, loss of property, loss of jobs, and death of family members. Business owners and government policymakers get concerned about possible migration and subsequent brain drain (Melbourne, 2016). Researchers like da Camara & Jackson (2010) and Mbaye (2017) agree that migration and brain drain are complex issues which affect developing countries. This is principally true as it relates to nurse migration (da Camara & Jackson, 2010). A nursing shortage means that capacity is reduced to offer quality healthcare and vacancies become the norm. Moreover, with only an average of 55 percent graduation rate among nurses and an inadequate number of tutors in the English-speaking Caribbean, the situation remains grim (da Camara & Jackson, 2010). Scholars also lament that ethical concerns should be foremost in the nurse migration programs especially among the major importers such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada (McElmurry, Solheim, Kishi, Coffia, Woith, & Janepanish, 2006).

Da Camara & Jackson (2010) and Salmon, Yan, Hewitt, & Guisinger (2007) agree that stakeholders in the source and receiving countries should collaborate to improve the process of nurse migration, including such things as adopting a regional approach, addressing nursing service capacity, and increasing training. This activity is not new to the region, but different governments approach the program in their own way with some governments adopting formal agreements and other none (Salmon et al. 2007). Importantly, the study is not restricted to analyzing the nursing problem in Dominica, but this issue dominates the research because of the costs incurred on the health of the country and the losses suffered of these skilled professionals because of nurse migration. The construction industry, agriculture, and other industries where skilled workers are in short supply are identified. Electricians, and plumbers are included in this category. Although there are no official records available it is public knowledge that over the years, many Dominican young men skilled in carpentry, joinery, masonry to name a few, have been migrating to other Caribbean islands where the remuneration is more lucrative. The minimum wage in Dominica stands at EC$4.05 per hour which is the lowest in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) ( This amount is equivalent to US$1.50.

Immediately following natural disasters, when rebuilding is necessary, there is an increased demand for construction workers including skilled workers like plumbers and electricians. There is sometimes rural to urban migration where individuals from the rural areas move to the city where jobs are generated much quicker than say in the countryside where agriculture is typically the dominant source of employment (Thomas-Hope, 2002). There is also regional migration to other neighboring countries or international migration to more developed countries.

For purposes of this study, migration is an independent variable which impacts labor supply or shortage from the source country and a benefit the receiving country. While individuals migrate for various reasons such as, to escape conflict or violence, to find refuge after being displaced due to environmental factors, or invitations from family members overseas the migration process may deprive source countries of their skilled personnel such as doctors, nurses, teachers, plumbers, electricians, or carpenters (McConville, 2018).

There is some disagreement as it relates to relationship between migration and natural disasters. Wing-Tse (2013) concluded that people will not necessarily migrate after a disaster because only a few have the financially resources to do so. Researchers such as Messick (2016), Mbaye (2017), and McConville (2018) concur that environmental factors like natural disasters somehow lead to migration. While Wing-Tse (2013) disputes their position, individuals sometimes employ all available means in their quest to find a country that will accept them. An example is, migrants trekking for several days in caravans from Central American countries like El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to the Southern U.S border (CBS news, 2018).

Definition of Terms

Barrel Economy: a Caribbean economic phenomenon where families depend on migrants in the diaspora to send barrels filled with food, clothing, and household items to them, particularly for the holidays.

Brain drain: a situation where all or the majority of intelligent, skilled or capable resources within a given field or geographic region leave the area because of various factors including lack of high paying jobs (brain drain, n.d.).

Caribbean Islands: The Caribbean Islands is a massive archipelago located in the Caribbean Sea that can be subdivided into a few different regions: the Lucayan Archipelago, the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles and the ABC Islands. There are 13 sovereign states and 17 dependent territories in the Caribbean, and the predominant languages are English, Spanish, French, Dutch and Antillean creole. The Caribbean sprawls across more than 1.06 million square miles and is primarily located between North America and South America (

Dominica: an island in the Eastern Caribbean; former British and French territory which is oftentimes mistaken for the Dominica Republic.

Healthcare worker: is one who delivers care and services to the sick and ailing either directly as doctors and nurses or indirectly as aides, helpers, laboratory technicians, or even medical waste handlers (Joseph & Joseph, 2016).

Hurricane Maria: this 175mph storm devastated Dominica on September 19, 2017 and Puerto Rico and the U.S Virgin Islands on September 20, 2017 resulting in over $102 million in damages second only to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (Masters, 2017).

IMF: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an organization of 189 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world (

Kwéyol: (native) language made up of French vocabulary and West African grammatical structure (Honychurch, 2017).

Labor shortage: an economic condition in which there are insufficient qualified candidates to fill the marketplace demands for employment at any price (labor shortage, n.d.).

Migrant: a migrant as any person who is moving or has moved across an international border or within a State away from his/her habitual place of residence, regardless of (1) the person’s legal status; (2) whether the movement is voluntary or involuntary; (3) what the causes for the movement are; or (4) what the length of the stay is (IOM, 2018, para. 1). Natural disasters: include all types of severe weather. Tropical storms, floods, tornados, hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, winter storms, or any combination thereof can be categorized as natural disasters (dhs, 2018).

Receiving country: a country of destination where migrants travel to. Major examples are the United States of America, Canada, England, and France.

Skill (labor): Skilled labor is generally defined as the amount of worker's expertise, specialization, wages, and supervisory capacity. Skilled workers are generally more trained, higher paid, and have more responsibilities than unskilled workers. Skilled workers have long had historical import as masons, carpenters, blacksmiths, bakers, brewers, coopers, printers and other occupations that are economically productive. For the purposes of this study, however, an emphasis is placed on skilled laborers within the nursing and construction industries (skill/labor, n.d.).

Small Island States or Small Island Developing States (SIDS): This group of United Nations member states characterized by ‘their small size, remoteness, narrow resource and export base, and exposure to global environmental challenges’.

Source country: a country from which migrants originate. They are sometimes referred to as developing countries including countries in the Caribbean, Africa, Central, and South America.


The study is based on three main assumptions. First, the survey/questionnaire respondents were truthful and genuine about their perceptions and attitudes when responding to the questions posed to them. Second, the survey instrument used to measure the variables was adequate despite possible challenges such as getting the survey to the respondents. Third, that the data collected is representative of the situation in Dominica and reflects trends and realities in neighboring island nations and is therefore generalizable beyond Dominica.

Scope, Limitations, and Delimitations

The scope of the research study involves independent variables such as brain drain, natural disasters, and migration which affect the labor shortage on Dominica. The limitations of the study include certain aspects such as data quantity retrieval from sources in Dominica which impacted the study, at least its content. Another aspect is lack of sufficient control because of distance even though technology is available. Physical separations between the researcher and the sample population also provided a manageable challenge. These limitation issues might affect the validity of the responses and other information.

One limitation is the assumption that individuals who have verbally agreed to participate in the study may not actually provide the promised data due to time constraints or other limitations. That was the case with two executive personnel critical to this research study. Another limitation is that a small sample size is expected due to the fact that challenges exist in identifying individuals who migrated since they are widely dispersed.

An enormous challenge exists for researchers who require data from the various government departments, as well as from the private sector. Although this is a project limitation, it serves as a learning moment for researchers to contribute more to the needs of the stakeholders that are identified.

A deliberate decision was made to limit and focus on the three variables of migration, natural disasters and brain drain in this pilot study. These themes were able to capture the topic and define its relevance in matters of labor shortage. The study focus is entirely on Dominica and could provide data that is not generalizable to other countries. Another delimitation is the use of instruments like interviews, other secondary sources, and other instruments like SurveyMonkey which form part of the research study. Other topics such as the role of foreign aid agencies after a disaster such as USAID, the IMF, and the IOM, disaster mitigation, worker training and retention, among others could be studied.


Natural disasters occur every year and small island states like Dominica are affected with increasingly severe storms (Pelling & Uitto, 2001). The nurse migration issue continues to affect developing countries and they continue to lose some of their healthcare personnel to the more developed countries like the United States and the United Kingdom as long as the expected benefit is greater than the expected cost (Foad, 2005). Brain drain continues to be a factor that countries like Dominica must proactively address. It means therefore, skilled workers may migrate to destinations that are more appealing in terms of better working conditions, higher salaries, and greater opportunities for job promotion (Nurse, 2004). However, some governments have articulated a loose position of migration whereby remittances take preeminence over the departure of human capital (Schmid, 2006).

In Chapter 1 we were presented with the background to the study, the purpose of the study, some of the challenges and limitations encountered, and the significance of the research study. Chapter 2 gives a comprehensive explanation and history of the variables that contribute to the issue of labor shortage in the developing countries like Dominica. The topics in focus are migration, natural disasters and brain drain and their impact on labor shortage. Based on the literature review, the migration situation and brain drain exacerbated after Hurricane Maria devastated Dominica in 2017 when the need for labor became dire (McKenzie, 2018; Felix, 2018).


Natural disasters are increasing in frequency and severity due to climate change resulting from climate variability (Kreft, Eckstein, Junghans, Kerstan, & Hagen, 2015). The National Climate Assessment predicts that extreme weather conditions have escalated and will continue on a worldwide scale. Countries like the United States are already experiencing the impacts but small island states like Dominica in the Caribbean are even more susceptible and vulnerable (Melillo, Richard, & Yohe, 2014). Hence, disaster preparedness and disaster management are critical in recovery strategies at the governmental and local business levels (Aguirre, Kadihasanoglu, & Franklin, n.d).

Dominica, as a small island state with a mere 71,000 people, and as a country in the path of hurricanes and other tropical storms is vulnerable structurally, economically, and commercially (IMF Country Report, 2018). Historically, natural disasters have resulted in migration of citizens away from their communities in search of new beginnings and economic opportunity (Yang & Mahajan, 2017). The exodus of part of the labor force is highly impactful for development and redevelopment, particularly after Hurricane Maria of September 2017. Managing the resulting labor shortage and preparing for future events that impact business growth and development is therefore paramount and urgent.

To explore these topics in greater detail, this chapter is divided into sub-topics which include natural disasters, the construction sector, the health sector, brain drain, migration, Hurricane Maria, education and the labor market, and the local labor force. The purpose of the chapter is to provide a historical picture of the variables which relate to natural disasters and Dominica. A closer look at the topics will expound how residents are impacted by storms which affect the physical infrastructure where they live, the economy, education, health and sometimes their desire to migrate (Mbaye, 2017).

Natural disasters

Natural disasters include all types of severe weather. Tropical storms, floods, tornados, hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, winter storms, or any combination thereof can be categorized as natural disasters (dhs, 2018). These severe weather types can pose significant potential threat to health and safety and property (dhs, 2018).

Natural disasters have shaped the course of history, impacting ecosystems and altering human civilizations (Pelling & Uitto, 2001). In more recent times, scholars have recorded these events in the Small Island States (SIDS) collectively since 1900 (Pelling & Uitto (2001). There is documentary evidence from 1900 to 1997 and the period 1987 to 1997. The overall trend showed that disasters were more frequent over the 10-year period when compared to the 97 year period. For example, for Bahamas there were 4 events in 10 years and only 11 in 97 years, and for Antigua & Barbuda 3 and 7 respectively (Pelling & Uitto (2001). Beginning in the late 1990s researchers began focusing more attention on natural disasters and migration. Twenty of the most expensive natural disasters occurred in the 1990s and early 2000s (Julca & Paddinson, 2010).

Natural disasters can be massive in terms in physical damage caused but also on the local economy. According to Guha-Sapir, Hargitt & Hoyois (2004), natural disasters are an exogenous shock to the economy of a country. In addition to direct losses suffered such as destroyed buildings, a country can suffer indirect losses resulting from decreased productive capacity due to the displacement or loss of labor and damaged infrastructure. Decreases in production and production shocks are a result of high volatility of consumption - higher imports and reduction of exports (Julca & Paddison, 2010). The recovery process normally takes years after a disaster. Melillo, Richmond, & Yohe (2014) further conclude that, island states like Dominica are already experiencing slightly hotter temperatures and sea level rise. Additionally, more extreme weather is predicted. Coral reefs provide food and protection for particular fish stocks but can be negatively impacted from warmer surface water temperature (Julca & Paddison, 2010). The Caribbean Islands depend on tourism as a major economic income earner, with estimated 14 percent contribution to the region’s GDP in 2013 (Kennedy, 2018). Beaches can be compromised, hotels and ancillary structures can be damaged during a storm. Reconstruction can take years to complete. After the Storm, the cost of construction materials, the availability and cost of labor became major concerns for business establishments and homeowners in Dominica, according to a local engineer (LeBlanc, 2018). This helps explain why humans always attempt to move away from disaster areas to maintain their comfort levels, physical, economic and otherwise (McConville, 2018).

Messick (2016) advanced that families engage in migration in order to minimize risk from natural disasters (p. 9). Natural disasters can impact the labor market as well, especially in a fragile economic industry like tourism. Garzon (2017), pointed out that workers can easily transition from formal to informal sector after a disaster.

Like in Jamaica, natural disasters can cause employees in the formal sector to join the ranks of the informal sector. For example, hotels can be damaged, and employees prefer to remain employed and may temporarily or permanently transition to the informal sector. With little or no coping mechanism in place citizens may seek to migrate to places where they perceive to be more secure and the economy is more resilient. Since data is unavailable for irregular migration we do not know the magnitude of this method of movement of the labor force (Garzon, 2017).

There is a correlation between natural disasters and migration. Mbaye (2017) observed that some scholars suggest that natural disasters increase migration and others suggest that climate change has only a marginal effect on migration. Groschl & Steinwachs (2017) concur that international migration provides an adaption mechanism to natural disasters although there is little evidence that natural disasters affect medium to long term international migration. However, middle income countries experience push-pull effects on migration when heterogeneity is considered (Groschl & Steinwachs, 2017). Push factors force the individual to move voluntarily and pull factors are factors in the destination country that attract the individual. These are further explained later in the chapter. One thing they can agree upon is that natural disasters and migration increased at almost the same rate over the last 2 decades. Figure 2 illustrates the trajectory over the twenty-five-year period.

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Source, Environment and Development Economics 20 (2015)

History of natural disasters - Dominica. Dominica is located 61° W and 51° E between the two French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe in the Eastern Caribbean. Its location in the Caribbean puts it in the general path of the tropical storms and hurricanes that traverse from east to west across the Atlantic every year. It is also known as the Nature Island of the Caribbean.

The island has had its share of tropical storms and hurricanes. According to Masters (2017), Dominica suffered five direct hits from hurricanes since 1915. The other years were 1916, 1930, 1979 and 1995 before Hurricane Maria in 2017. In 1979 Hurricane David struck with 150 mph winds causing tremendous damage amounting to $160 million to property while 40 persons lost their lives (Masters, 2017). The other recent major disaster to wreak havoc on the island was Tropical Storm Erika in 2015. Tropical Storm Erika drenched the island with about 10 inches of rain in a few hours resulting in deadly mudslides island wide. Thirty-one individuals lost their lives and the resulting damage was about $500 million or 90 percent of the islands GDP (Crask, 2015). But it was Hurricane Maria in 2017 that caught everyone’s attention because of its intensity and the damage it caused.

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Hurricane Maria. Hurricane Maria struck the island of Dominica on September 18, 2017. Maria, packing winds of 175 mph, would be recorded as the single most devastating natural disaster to impact the country (IMF Country Report, 2018). According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) 2018 Country Report on Dominica, the category 5 hurricane caused damage estimated at 96 percent of the island which amounted to US$1.3 billion or 226 percent of Gross Domestic Product. This included damages to infrastructure, agriculture, residential houses, and other property. For comparison, in 1979 Hurricane David, which at the time was viewed as the worst storm to affect the island, caused damages amounting to 37.5 percent of GDP (Julca & Paddison, 2010). This also included damage to infrastructure, agriculture, residential houses, and other property.

Hurricane Maria became an instant push factor. Natural disasters are examples of push factors which force people to find a desired result. In this case, the hurricane “pushed” some people away from the island towards better opportunities. According to one news reporter who visited the island two months after the hurricane, “informal estimates suggest one-fifth of the population fled the island since September with ferry operators reporting that a growing number of passengers are opting for one-way tickets” (Elie, 2017). Food for The Poor, a Florida-based aid and rescue agency, suggested that “about 40 percent of Dominica’s 74,000 residents fled the island after the storm” (Turnbell, 2018). The immediate loss after such massive disasters comes from decreased productive capacity due to displacement or loss of labor or damaged infrastructure (Guha-Sapir et al., 2004). Although disasters are considered exogenous shocks their impacts can have a long-lasting impact on the socio-economic fortunes of the local population.

The 1940s and 1950s saw a mass movement of residents from the English-speaking Caribbean to England to help rebuild the country after the Second World War (Philo, 2018). Some came from Dominica. These retirees have since returned to the lands of their birth to spend their twilight years. The passage of hurricane Maria gave them a rude awaking about natural disasters. According to the Economist,

Some people and businesses have given up on the disaster-prone island. Several thousand people have moved away. Pensioners from the Windrush generation, who moved to Britain in the 1950s and then returned to Dominica, have now gone back to Britain (2018).


Migration is viewed as a worldwide natural phenomenon. Simpson (2017) noted that there are “pull” and “push” factors that determine migration. Some are economic and others are non-economic. Examples of economic push factors are low wages/poverty and high unemployment. Non-economic push factors include natural disasters and corruption. On the other hand, there are economic pull factors which include high wages and good healthcare and education systems. Non-economic pull factors include family and friends and rights and freedoms (Simpson, 2017).

Researchers agree that there are a several reasons why people migrate but five of them stand out (McConville, 2018; Nunez, Sepehy, & Sanchez, 2014). Five of the main reasons are drought, hurricanes and flooding, earthquakes, war and conflict, and disease (McConville, 2018). These five reasons result in push migration. According to Nunez, Sepehy, & Sanchez (2014), there are eleven “surprising reasons” why people migrate. Some reasons are, to escape future persecution based on race, religion, nationality and/or membership in a particular social group; to escape conflict or violence (gang); and to find refuge after being displaced due to environmental factors (para. 3, 4, & 5). They concur on finding refuge after being displaced due to environmental factors such as natural disasters, and to escape conflict or violence.

Due to geographical location the Caribbean islands are vulnerable to natural disasters and climate change (Yang & Mahajan, 2017). This vulnerability of the Caribbean impacts the decision making of potential migrants in making a determination about migrating “when the expected benefit exceeds the expected cost” (Foad, 2005, p. 4). The correlation between natural disasters and global migration is ongoing and complex (Mbaye, 2017). Most migrants move from developing countries to richer countries in their respective regions like in the Caribbean or South America or major European countries like Britain, Germany and the United States. Some migrants do so legally and others illegally, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM, 2018). These immigrants who migrate are those who can afford to relocate (Mbaye, 2017). They come from lower and upper-middle income countries such as Dominica Thomas-Hope, 2002).

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Source: International Displacement Monitoring Centre

International migration. International migration is a dynamic force that integrates humanity from country to country in all cardinal points. Researchers have found, however, a significant amount of migration is from South to North because the north is perceived as being richer and the south poorer (Simpson, 2017). Foad (2005) stated that “a potential migrant will only do so when the expected benefit of migration exceeds the expected cost” (p. 4). This is true of a migrant moving from a country in Africa to a European host country or a Dominican migrating to Canada in North America. According to Hatton & Williamson (1992), international migration in the Western Hemisphere was prevalent in the nineteenth century during slavery and the early part of the twentieth century up to World War 1. Hatton & Williamson (1992) contend that economic integration necessitated overseas migration, hence the push factor.

Yang (2017) submits that migration increases after natural disasters like hurricanes and flooding. This is mainly true in countries with large migrant populations in the United States. The number of Green Card applications and recipients increases when residents facilitate the entry of others. Some overstay and others are undocumented (Yang, 2017). While Yang (2017) did not make the distinction in the types of immigrants, Tse (2013), observed that, only those with the financial ability will migrate since disasters bring about decreased financial resources to fund migration.

Intra-regional migration. There has been people movement for decades among the neighboring countries in the Caribbean region (Thomas-Hope, 2000). Interdependence among economies and labor markets is an established informal practice. While the labor migration corridors of the South-North have long existed, sub-groups have also engaged in legal and illegal migration, and it is common for individuals to move among islands like Dominica, St. Martin, Antigua and Guadeloupe. The export of agricultural produce from Dominica to other islands was commonplace in the 1970’s and 1980’s with little restriction. Melbourne (2016), identified that Guyana, Grenada, and St. Vincent represented the major sources of immigrants in the region. Melbourne (2016) noted that collecting data is complex and smaller islands do not readily keep such records which would provide accurate counts. Conversely, Simpson (2017) recognized that receiving countries can provide records of legal entry.

Brain Drain

According to Melbourne (2016), “brain drain refers to the migration of skilled workers from their homelands to reside in other countries in search of better employment opportunities and a higher standard of living” (p.2). Brain drain directly impacts the human capital of a country when skilled workers migrate. One country loses while another gains that resource. Skilled workers migrate for various reasons but the fear of losing everything from material wealth to experiencing some form of retrogression in one’s life is reason for migrating.

Brain drain can have negative implications on the source country. For example, “it is argued that the economy suffers if the migrants’ contribution to that economy is greater than their marginal product, an effect that is compounded if the education of the skilled emigrants was partly funded by taxes on residents” (Fontaine, 2010, p. 11). Fontaine (2010) posits that brain drain leads to loss of productivity and taxes and can impact the country’s healthcare and education systems. According to Fontaine (2010), Dominica ranks among the world’s top twenty recipients of remittances relative to Gross Domestic Product, and also a major source of external financing. From an economic viewpoint, the flow of formal remittances from the Diaspora, which includes the French Caribbean and the U.S. Virgin Islands, to Dominica continues to exhibit an accelerating rate of growth (Fontaine, 2010).

Natural disasters like Hurricane Maria resulted in a form of mass migration according to the organization that represents the nurses on the island (Felix, 2018). According to Felix (2018), the Dominica Nurses’ Association expressed concern that inadequate remunerations, lack of respect by policy makers, among other factors contributed to a large number of nurses leaving the island. Fewer healthcare providers such as nurses means compromising the quality and level of care for patients. Morale can be impacted, and if conditions are not improved in an expedient manner the ripple effect can be devastating. The health of nurses can also be negatively impacted. Substandard conditions and few resources at the hospitals and health clinics can potentially put the nurses’ safety at risk.

Felix (2018) noted that the overall working conditions for nurses in Dominica deteriorated after the hurricane. Nurse migration from the island became a part of a greater Caribbean problem. Hurricane Maria exacerbated the problem and created a greater challenge for healthcare managers in Dominica (Schutt-Aine, 2018). Schutt-Aine (2018) posited the Region will soon face one of the most critical shortages in the labour market of health workers in its history if nothing is done to reverse the trend of low in-migration and high out­migration levels within the Anglo-Caribbean. The undersupply of health practitioners will impact negatively on both the quality and sustainability of health systems, especially in the smaller islands of the region (para. 10).

Da Camara and Jackson (2010) postulated that a nursing shortage in the English­speaking Caribbean will reduce their capacity to offer quality healthcare when the countries aim to attract businesses and retirees as an important pillar of growth. Migration serves a negative factor affecting the healthcare sector in source countries. The problem is further compounded by a mere 55 percent graduation rate for nurses and an inadequate number of tutors in the profession (da Camara & Jackson, 2010). While there are several macro-economic challenges like the fluctuating price of oil, and changing climatic conditions facing small island economies, some Caribbean countries have been reacting accordingly within their limited capacities. Countries like St. Vincent, Grenada, St. Kitts, Antigua, and Jamaica have all developed a migration program for their nurses (Salmon, Yan, Hewitt, & Guisinger, 2007). Dominica is not mentioned. Perhaps, policy makers missed out on collaborating with other island states in developing reciprocal arrangements since Dominica is not included.

The migration programs focus on bringing about a quid pro quo understanding between source and receiving countries to manage nurse migration. Bilateral proposals included incentives to return and disincentives to remain. Some receiving countries like the United Kingdom have agreed in principle to increase remittances to source countries (Salmon et al., 2007). There is also the question of ethics in nurse migration which is a burning topic. Ethics in nurse migration is a sensitive subject for source and receiving countries (McNeil- Walsh, 2010). Source countries like the Philippines, African nations like Nigeria and South Africa, and those of the English-speaking Caribbean are challenged every day because nurses are attracted by opportunities overseas for them and their families. Scholars like McElmurry, Solheim, Kishi, Coffia, Woith, & Janepanish, (2006) and McNeil-Walsh, (2010) raise the question of ethics in nurse migration. They contend that it is “potentially unethical for recipient countries to exploit the nursing workforce from abroad to relieve their own shortage when the source countries have greatly destabilized systems or when the source countries have invested in the healthcare education of the nurse” (p. 226). Other scholars have delved into the ethical perspective of the nurse recruiting. The United States and the United Kingdom as major “nurse importers” should engage in developing and following ethical recruiting guidelines (Brush, Sochalski, & Berger, 2004). The British National Health Service has issued guidelines in that regard (Brush et al., 2004). In times of crises, ethical considerations may take a back seat at least in the mind of the nurse who is thinking of improving his or her life. McNeil-Walsh (2010) referred to ‘portable skills’ and ‘deep moral motivation to the practice’ which nurses may have, and this allows them to transfer to help satisfy global demand (p. 190). The push factors in the source countries include dismal working conditions, wage compression, insufficient resources to provide affective care, limited professional or career options, and a desire for better education for their children and an improved lifestyle (McElmurry et al., 2006). A lack of policy intervention by source countries contribute to the tug of war which exists for healthcare workers (Hamilton & Yan (2004).

The outward migration trend of nurses from the developing to rich developed countries will continue if current recruitment practices persist in the developed world (Connell, 2007). In addition to an active recruitment program, other prevailing conditions such as low wages and dismal working conditions, the brain drain is being aided by natural disasters as seen with Hurricane Maria (Felix, 2018). Connell (2007) referred to the upsurge in nurse migration as a “reverse law of care and brain drain” (p. 68).

Pienkos (2006) in looking at ways to interrupt brain drain phenomenon stated that, although it may not be stopped entirely, “attempts at brain gain such as tertiary education are still better policy intention” (p. 23). Reducing the impact of brain drain through enhancements in education and occupational opportunity is therefore critical to overcoming mass migrations of skilled laborers. One reason why people migrate is for educational advancement. Caribbean nurse immigrants are not only attracted to other countries by better wages and working conditions but those pursuing nursing careers seek better educational opportunities (Lewis, 1991). Lewis (1991) revealed that “Caribbean students in higher education use self-directed approaches in the conceptual framework of the curriculum, but also most of them are more responsive to educational environments which employ social-centered learning techniques, imitation, and cooperation among students” (p. 101). They easily assimilate into the academic and social cultures of the foreign country.

One may argue that it is a natural or normal reaction for humans to run away and avoid disasters or confrontation. Therefore, hurricanes and other natural disasters create a means for outward migration which includes brain drain. Docquier, Lohest & Marfouk (2007) reckoned that "unsurprisingly, the brain drain is strong in small countries which are not too distant from the major Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) regions, which share colonial links with OECD countries, and which send most of their migrants to host countries where quality-selective immigration programs exist" (2007, p. 2). Dominica is no exception. The proximity of the United States (U.S.) to the Caribbean makes the U.S. a first- world country of choice for immigrants through legal and irregular migration. Dominica has the fifth highest rate of migration from the Caribbean of persons having a tertiary education after Antigua/Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados and Belize (Docquier et al., 2005). About 4 million people from the Caribbean call the United States their home as seen in Table 1, according to the U.S. Census Bureau (Zong & Batalova, 2014).

Table 1

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Source: MPI tabulation of data from U.S. Census Bureau 2014 American Community Survey

Dominicans have been migrating for a long time. During the second wave, the net migration rate was -32.7/1000 persons (Fontaine, 2010). The next significant wave, the third, began in 1996 to 2010. Fontaine (2010), estimates that Dominica’s population in 2005 was estimated to be at least 10 percent lower compared to its 1990 level. The net migration rate for 2017 (est.) was at -5.7 migrants /1000 population (CIA, 2018). It is important to note that this number increased dramatically after Hurricane Maria based on various numbers given. This author estimates that the rate may have risen to approximately -40/1000 population post Maria. Figure 3

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Sources, T. Fontaine, Central Statistics Office (Dominica) and CIA World Fact book

Gender drain. Gender drain is a potential impact on the society as particularly single parents make attempts to improve the lives of their children. According to an Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) 1998 report, “the absence of parents led to student discipline and negative attitudes towards academic achievement” (para. 6). An affiliated symptom of gender drain is gender dynamic where feminization of extra-regional migration might exist or become more apparent. According to Pienkos (2006), women’s work in tourism and hospitality sectors and in nursing would become more prevalent. Women migrate to other Caribbean islands such as the British Virgin Islands and Antigua to work in the hospitality industry, that is, mainly hotels (Thomas-Hope, 2002). Many more females leave to improve their standard of living as well as that of their families. The number of single-parent homes increases when one parent migrates. Studies found that for every 100 females who migrate to the United States from the Caribbean an accompanying 82 males also migrate (Pienkos, 2017). Thomas-Hope (2000) noted that over half the total number of migrants who move to the United States, Europe and Canada comprise women. Thomas-Hope (2000) further noted that these migrants are predominantly of productive and reproductive age with the exception of Cubans whose age is 45 and over. This clearly categorizes the labor potential that leaves the Caribbean and migrates to the developed world. In Caribbean society it is not uncommon for children to be raised by their grandparents when the parents are gone. In Dominica, like the rest of the English-speaking Caribbean, the word nurse is synonymous with women and not men (Campbell, 2018). Few men become nurses. Therefore, since more nurses are women, those who are parents would leave behind their children to be raised by their fathers, if they are present, or by the grandmother in many cases.

Migration acts as a safety valve because it is income security for the elderly, it provides remittances to help the unemployed in the poorer countries (Baker, 1997). Scholars like Schmid (2006) and Tse (2013), noted that some countries prefer remittances over human capital. Schmid (2006), posits that some governments seem to favor the exodus of their skilled in exchange for desired remittances to boost their economies, many countries suffer tremendous constraints in their capacities to provide equal, qualitative and affordable social services to their populations (p. 3). Reimbursement by destination countries to source countries through bilateral agreements should be set policy in order to facilitate reciprocity (Hamilton & Yau, 2004). Whether it is the migration of nurses or the migration of construction workers and the immediate push factor is a tropical storm like Irma in 2015 or hurricane Maria in 2017, the ramifications are obvious. Citizens of the island became desperate and migrated. Baker (1997) posited that “migration affects the labor market because a high proportion of the individuals who migrate are skilled workers” (p. 45). Baker (1997) further noted that, “This drain on skills has likely reduced the pace of economic growth, slowed the overall process of job creation” (p. 45). Scholars like Fontaine (2010) and Docquier et al. (2007) corroborate the impact that migration of skilled workers have on the source countries like Dominica as it relates to economic growth and job creation.

Construction sector. The passage of Hurricane Maria in September 2017 resulted in massive devastation to the island’s infrastructure (IMF Country Report, 2018). The human capital was also impacted so much so that construction workers had to be imported to complement the inadequate numbers that remained on the island (Skerrit, 2018). The International Organization for Migration explains that, “the Caribbean islands are especially vulnerable to extreme weather events and global climate change - events and processes that can cause internal displacement and set in motion emigration processes” (p. 11). Therefore, there is always the possibility of a perennial scare and concern for business owners, homeowners, and government for capable and available labor at all times. The push factors come into play and people migrate to minimize their losses, reduce stress and improve their standard of living. Another way of presenting this is to say labor moves from one place to another as long as the perceived benefits are greater than remaining on island. Skilled workers migrated and temporary labor in construction came in from countries such as Cuba, and St. Lucia, according to the country’s Prime Minister (Skerrit, 2018). Leblanc (2018) contended that policy and practices must be put in place to maximize labor output. Although exact data is as of yet unavailable, the local builders association lament that the shortage of skilled workers in the construction industry was exacerbated by Hurricane Maria (McKenzie, 2018).

Even the developed economy of the United States is subject to the perils of natural disasters and the subsequent impacts of a labor shortage in the construction industry. According to an Economic Impact Report commissioned by the Association of General Contractors, it is projected that for every five retiring skilled tradespersons, only one is entering the construction industry (Acuna, Mangan, & O’Brien, 2017). There is a parallel to islands in the Caribbean, particularly after major storms of Hurricane Harvey and Maria where labor in the construction industry became scarcer (O’Halloran, n.d).

The labor shortage in the construction industry is a regional challenge for the private and public sectors. Barbados, The Bahamas, and the Cayman Islands are in dire need for skilled construction workers for the local and tourism industry. Trinidad & Tobago needs construction workers because of a booming oil industry (O’Halloran, n.d). is greater to acquire skilled labor for rebuilding after a storm. situation after Hurricane Irma and Harvey (Pacquette, 2017). plumbers are in high demand and “immigrants flocked to the city for blue collar work” (Pacquette, 2017). When natural disasters strike, they immediately create a demand for more labor. In the case of Dominica, Hurricane Maria resulted in the migration of about 40 percent of the labor force (Turnbell, 2018). The local builders association in Dominica expressed grave concerns about the labor situation before and after the hurricane.

We are very concerned about the cost of construction to existing homeowners. In fact, our concern has been the supply chain, the supply chain not only dealing with material but labor, and our concern has been over the years that we do not have adequate skilled, trained competent persons out there. (LeBlanc, 2018, para. 4).

The local Business Forum expressed similar sentiments as it relates to the labor situation after the hurricane, Also there appears to be a serious problem with labour and when I say labour, I am talking about labour in the construction industry, skilled labour, various skills, carpenters, plumbers, joiners, a whole set of skills that are necessary to assist in the construction process in the reconstruction process and for that you find that homeowners are getting the bitter end of the stick as far as the cost of their reconstruction is concerned (Mckenzie, 2018, para. 5). Table 3 illustrates the export of skilled labor from Dominica. Although the quantity is small the percentage is high. Also, relative to the other countries the number per 1000 may be high for a small population. Dominica’s population is 71,000 (IMF 2018 figures). Twenty-five thousand immigrants from such a small country seems enormous. Also, at 23 percent, the percentage of the highly skilled immigrants is relatively high. Thomas-Hope (2002) contends that “as travel and means of communicating have become easy and inexpensive.. .opportunities for interaction and circulation of people have increased...” (p. 2). The current trends indicate that teachers, nurses, and students comprised the larger number of Caribbean migrants attracted by advertising to Canada and the United States (Thomas-Hope, 2002).

Table 2

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Source: OECD (2005) Trends in international migration. SOPEMI2005 edition

Population growth. A country’s population provides labor for the economy. Sometimes labor is imported to complement what is available locally when it is inadequate. When specific skills and competencies are in short supply they must be met. When people migrate or flee the economic and productive capacity of the country are impacted due to displacement or loss of labor or damaged infrastructure (Guha-Sapir, Hargitt, & Hoyois, 2004).

Population growth is one variable that affects the labor supply of any country (Guha-Sapir et al., 2004). The data show that 13 of the 17 Caribbean countries have negative net migration rates including Dominica (Stone, 2018; Fontaine, 2010). A weak population growth rate should be a concern for policy makers because it is getting worse. See figure 4 (Stone, 2018).

Figure 4

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Source, In a State of Migration, Ston

By 2050 the population growth rate for the Caribbean will be 0.3 percent (Saad, (2009). Pull factors include sudden job opportunities arising from neighbor countries will attract migrants. Therefore, source countries are at the mercy of short-term aspects of economic conjecture (Saad, 2009, p. 7).

The International Labour Organization (ILO), concludes that the Caribbean population is aging rapidly as migration continues incessantly (ILO, 2017). The ILO suggests that there are three main factors that influence this migration, Factors driving these trends include (i) labour shortages and population ageing in high- and middle-income countries, (ii) a culture of emigration and the export of labour from small and under-developed economies, and (iii) the feminization of migration and the growth of global care chains. (p. 3)

An ageing population is a global reality. The baby boomers require more nursing care and countries like the United States will continue to demand more healthcare services for its senior citizens. Gerber (2014), recognized that countries with a comfortable base of savings accumulated over years of high income can ameliorate the consequences of an ageing population (p. 423). Baby boomers will demand high quality healthcare because they can afford to pay for it. It follows, there is always going to be that pull for nurses to go to Organization for Economic Development Cooperation (OECD) countries because of their financial expediency and other attractions (McElmurry et al., 2006). Nurses from Dominica will migrate since the country is part of the equation.

Impact of Remittances. Remittances are funds that are sent or transferred to another party usually abroad (Kagan & Murphy, 2019). Migrants send remittances to their family back home to supplement basic and financial needs (Schmid, 2006). According to Messick (2016), families use remittances as a means to minimize the impact of natural disasters because of the dire needs of the family members who are left behind. Fontaine (2010) stated that “Dominica ranks among the world’s top twenty recipients of remittances relative to GDP, and it currently constitutes the major source of external financing” (p. 7). The remittances sent are in cash and kind. In 2004, the amount of money remitted to the developing countries was US$150 billion and in 2017 it was US$416 billion (World Bank, 2018). Fontaine (2010), provided an economic assessment of remittances on Dominica:

Remittances have helped improve Dominica’s development prospects, mitigated against adverse external shocks, and maintained macroeconomic stability. In that regard, a crucial and important development effect of the Diaspora on the country has been its direct impact on income and poverty levels. Families who would not otherwise have been able to achieve a given level of consumption have successfully maintained certain lifestyles based solely on the income received from remittances. The inflow of remittances has also served to mitigate the adverse effects of the country’s high rates of unemployment. In addition, there has been increased investment in physical and human capital as remittances have served to increase spending on education, health and nutrition (p. 8).

Thomas-Hope (2000) also highlighted the significance of remittances across the Caribbean over the years in terms of providing employment in other neighboring countries as well as the United States, Canada and Great Britain. While there are setbacks to migration Schmid (2006), suggested that some governments prefer remittances over human capital. Figure 5 provides a visual representation of remittances sent to the Caribbean from 1970 to 2018. Figure 5

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Source, Migration Policy Institute, Februar

Return Migration. There is no consensus on the definition of return migration because some migrants return for good, others for an extended period of time, and others in mid-career or at retirement (Battistella, 2018). There is no administrative structure to monitor or manage return migrants, especially in developing countries, according to Battistella, (2018). The International Organization for Migration (IOM) concluded that challenges exist for both return migrants and the receiving countries. These include reintegrating in an unfamiliar society, finding jobs to utilize acquired skills, compromising convenience, among other critical factors such as demand on health services and security (IOM, 2018).

Nonetheless, migrants return to their country of origin, including the “permanent migrants” (Battistella, 2018). They bring back financial resources, intellectual capacity, skills and training, and new ideas for development (IOM, 2018). The extent to which the returnees can integrate or reintegrate in the society will determine the benefits to the economy or demands made on the country’s resources.

Barrel Economy. A Caribbean feature which characterizes many economies in the region is the barrel economy. It has nothing to do with oil. This economic phenomenon is seen particularly during the holidays when migrants in the diaspora send barrels to their families back home. These 55-gallon blue plastic or cardboard barrels are generally filled with food, clothing, and other household items. There is a high level of dependency on these barrels among Dominicans (Fontaine, 2010), especially around Christmas time. One of the exciting aspects of this endeavor is the actual stocking up of items which usually takes months prior to shipping. Those who migrate make it a point of moral and economic duty to provide remittances to their families using this method. Sending barrels help to maintain family ties in spite of distance, but several West Indian natives described the barrels as a cornerstone of immigrant economics and culture (Taylor, 2015). Although family ties are maintained it is not uncommon for parents to be physically absent from the lives of their children for several years. Hence, the term “barrel children”. These children are the beneficiaries of the goods sent by their parents but a void build when the parent is absent for an unwarranted length of time.

Ross University School of Medicine. Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) is an American offshore medical school sanctioned by the United States Department of Education. The school was founded in 1978 on Dominica by the American Robert Ross serving students primarily from the United States and Canada (Ross, n.d.). After 40 years of existence on the island of Dominica the school relocated to neighboring Barbados in 2019.

The university’s campus was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017. The move to Barbados was considered a calamity for Dominica’s economy. According to Nixon (2018), Ross University’s contribution to the economy amounted to 19 percent or just over $109 million (2017). This is significant when economic ramifications are considered, that is, on the local regular staff, farmers, apartment owners, bus drivers, shop owners etc. It may be difficult to measure the overall economic shortfall because of this significant economic generator. Unemployment and outward migration are two possible outcomes that cannot be readily determined because of the lack of data. The university had employed about 450 individuals, and local students were given academic scholarships (Nixon, 2018).

The impact of the passage of Hurricane Maria and the subsequent exit of Ross University magnified the ramifications on the Dominica economy. A simple calculation shows that over a 10-year period this single economic generator can provide the local economy with over $1.09 billion ((EC$2.91 billion). This is mammoth for a small economy like Dominica’s. Because of the urgency of generating income for those families impacted the government has announced efforts at attracting other offshore universities and foreign investors to replace Ross University (Skerrit, 2018).

Chinese population in Dominica. Chinese migration started increasing in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) in the 1990’s. Chinese overseas investments concurrently accelerated when workforces accompanied these investors as part of Chinese agreements with contractors or banks. Whereas some of China’s labor or workforce-related migration to LAC is by high-skill workers or managers, low-skill workers have also traveled to the region to work primarily on Chinese construction projects (Mazza, 2016). There are a number of small Chinese- owned retail stores in the capital city, Roseau. The Chinese business owners also own/operate light manufacturing plants where doors and windows are assembled. The presence of low to mid-skilled Chinese workers in Latin America and the Caribbean has generated some controversy in recent years. This is centered on a perception that low-skill Chinese laborers are being employed instead of capable local labor. The lack of reliable data limits analysis of Chinese population including data relating to employment of locals and Chinese on the island (Mazza, 2016).


Small island states like Dominica in the Caribbean are vulnerable from natural disasters. This vulnerability was seen after hurricane Maria struck the island in September of 2017 as the worst storm in its history (IMF Country Report, 2018). According to the IMF Report, total damages amounted to 226 percent of Gross domestic Product (GDP), or US$1.3 billion (IMF, 2018). A noted result of the hurricane was the migration of a large portion of the local labor force. One source stated that about 40 percent of the population fled the country (Turnbell, 2018). Another source notes that about one-fifth of the population fled the island (Elie, 2018).

The shortage of labor has been felt more profoundly in the nursing and construction areas. LeBlanc (2018), emphasized that the labor shortage in the construction sector is dire and will be felt for years to come. This is more relevant in the health sector where targeted nurses are those with specialty skills in neonatal, surgical, and critical care nursing (Brush et al., 2004). We cannot by any measure minimize the magnitude of the impact of skilled labor in the construction sector. Nurse migration exacerbated after the hurricane, and the main reasons were insufficient remuneration, poor conditions, and lack of respect for nurses (Felix, 2018). Certain short-term measures were taken, such as the use of temporary skilled construction workers and nurses from Cuba to help alleviate the shortage on the island (Skerrit, 2018).

A review of the literature on natural disasters shows how vulnerable islands like Dominica are susceptible to natural disasters such as tropical storms and hurricanes. Also, how policy makers have to constantly develop and refine strategies to manage recovery efforts which includes managing and retaining the labor supply. New developmental strategies will have to be implemented in order to adapt to the new climatic dispensation.


Natural disasters are now commonplace and more frequent and potentially costly especially for small island states (Pelling & Uitto, 2001). Environmental factors can be detrimental to these small economies, including migration of skilled workers to more developed countries. Chapter 3 illustrates how the data was collected, the challenges faced, and the relevance of the methods used.


The purpose of the study is to determine the extent to which natural disasters and other factors have led to a labor shortage in both private and public sectors in Dominica and to make recommendations for minimizing brain drain, increasing incentives to maintain and grow the labor force, and ensuring the sustainability of the Dominican economy and long term economic and social development. Personal interest in this study arose after Hurricane Maria imposed devastation on the island in September 2017. While social media contributed to the dissemination of information about the hurricane, there has not been a comprehensive, academic based assessment of the impact of Hurricane Maria on the economies and societies of the Caribbean.

The methodology is an interesting aspect of any research study. In this chapter we will explain the research method and design appropriateness, the population sampling, data collection procedures and rationale used. Also, we will explain the internal and external validity as well as data analysis of the study.

Research Method and Design Appropriateness

The complex nature of the impact of national disasters in general and the lack of previous studies on Dominica specifically means that multiple data sets must be combined to make meaningful analysis possible. However, the chosen methodology for this project is the quantitative method approach. The quantitative approach is appropriate because it was more suitable for data collection. The survey/questionnaire was the main instrument utilized in this project. It is advantageous not to encounter over-reliance on any one method and for the researcher benefits from two approaches for data collection. From a practical viewpoint, the quantitative method is appropriate. The qualitative aspect allows for understanding how things work and function in the real world that is, how residents responded in time of disasters and what they considered priority (Bryman & Burgess, 1999). The quantitative aspect means that the researcher analyzes the relationship among variables (Creswell, 2014).

The study includes three independent variables: brain drain, natural disasters, and migration. The dependent variable in the study is labor shortage. After Hurricane Maria, the immediate reaction coming from the Caribbean country of Dominica, was one of panic. This panic turned into an exodus never seen before in Dominican history (Elie, 2017). While agencies like the IMF and ACAPS found it challenging to get reliable data from the local authorities, reporters provided estimates of this mass migration. Turnbell (2018) indicated that “about 40 percent of Dominica’s 74,000 residents fled the island after the storm” (para. 10). Elie (2017) provided a slightly smaller figure of one-fifth of the residents fleeing. Whatever the correct figure is, the impact of labor loss was tremendous for a small island with a fragile economy. According to Felix (2018) the nursing profession suffered from an accelerated departure of nurses from the island post Hurricane Maria. There seemed to have been pandemonium in the construction sector after the shortage of skilled craftsmen escalated and there was an abrupt increase in labor cost in addition to a shortage of building materials (McKenzie, 2018).

Data relating to a shortage of skilled laborers was retrieved from secondary sources such as newspapers as well as surveys conducted with individuals who migrated after the hurricane. The challenge obtaining data and other information existed throughout the study. The mixed approach would have been applicable to the study if the quantitative and qualitative approaches were sufficiently fused allowing one to extrapolate from the structure and unstructured methods of acquiring data and information. As in qualitative research there was minimal pre-tasking of the participants in the survey, but they were informed beforehand. The quantitative research aspect was important as it emphasized the opinions and attitudes of the individuals (Cooper & Schindler, 2014).

Population, Sampling, Data Collection Procedures and Rationale

A population is “the total collection of elements about which we wish to make some inferences” (Cooper & Schindler, 2014, p. 374). The population under study includes Dominican citizens who migrated after the storm, but who were principally part of the local labor force in Dominica. It also included some expatriates who subsequently returned back to Europe and North America. While some migrants returned to Dominica others remained abroad which makes the study even more essential. Some of the older persons opted to return after conditions had improved to a manageable level. The respondents’ display of affinity and natural preference for “home” may have taken preeminence in the decision-making process. Responses revealed that the younger persons opted to remain and some even transferred to other states within the U.S. Individuals left their homes that were destroyed and their family members behind in the hope of finding a better future after the storm (Elie, 2017).

Migrants typically settled in closed-knit areas in order to maintain a certain level of comfort and support for each other (Zong & Batalova, 2016). The top five metropolitan areas in the U.S. where Caribbean people settle are New York-Newark-Jersey City, Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, and Tampa-St. Petersburg, Clearwater (Zong & Batalova, 2016). In Canada, Toronto and Montreal serve the major metropolitan areas for Caribbean migration with sixty percent of Caribbean migrants relocating to Toronto and 20 percent residing in Montreal (Statistics Canada, 2007).

Confidentiality is critical when conducting research studies. Therefore, clarifying confidentiality measures with participants forms part of the data collection process. Participants were advised of the ethical responsibility in the research study process. Participants rights to privacy is taken seriously and researchers must respect that right. “The privacy guarantee is important not only to retain validity of the research but also to protect participants (Cooper & Schindler, 2014, p. 39). Personal information such as names, telephone numbers, and addresses were not requested. A copy of the consent form is in the Appendix B.

The questions were wide ranging and sought to determine the present and future state of the participants as professionals in their own right and as workers (see Appendix A). The data collected included the number of individuals who migrated, those principally of working age, intentions to return, intentions not to return, time frame involved, if applicable, reason(s) for leaving, among others. The relevance and importance of this data help to determine whether or not there is a relationship between the independent variables like natural disasters, brain drain, and migration and labor shortage as the dependent variable. Did they leave because of the hurricane, or for some other reason? Among those who left, what type of skill did they possess? Do they intend to migrate permanently to another country within the Caribbean region or to one of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries? Was migration optional or an opportunity to improve their standard of living? These questions relate directly to the study topic.

To collect meaningful data, a questionnaire was utilized. The questionnaire was useful in the sense that it provided a wide scope in the project design. Multiple choice questions were used as part of the questionnaire. Also, dichotomous questions, rating questions, and ranking questions formed part of the instrument utilized in an effort to source as much information as possible from the participants. It was more feasible to use the questionnaire. It was less costly to get the questionnaire to participants and less time consuming. According to Cooper & Schindler (2014) one advantage of self-administered questionnaires is that participants were more relaxed when presenting their responses because they have time so they can think about the questions. Another advantage is, self-administered questionnaires allow contact with otherwise inaccessible participants. They were located over the U.S and elsewhere. Individual interviews or group interviews would also have been costly Cooper & Schindler, 2014). One brief interview was conducted with Rosie Felix. The questionnaire helps solve some of these problems a researcher faces when conducting his or her studies because questions of opinions and those of a sensitive nature are addressed (Cooper & Schindler, 2014).

Internal and External Validity

Validity is defined as “a characteristic of measurement concerned with the extent that a test measures what the researcher actually wishes to measure” (Cooper & Schindler, 2014, p. 714). Validity is vital in a study because differences can exist among the participants in a population. Threats to internal and external validity can present themselves when research studies are undertaken. According to Creswell (2014), treatments or experiences faced by the participants can threaten internal validity which can affect the researcher’s ability to draw correct inferences from the data about the population. A possible threat to validity in a research study is that of participants being treated unfairly. The participants could be affected by anxiety attacks because of the hurricane, or lack of monetary compensation and these could possibly influence their responses. These threats can be minimized or eliminated when they are addressed head-on. Participant selection can affect internal validity, but the researcher can select participants randomly to minimize the threat (Creswell, 2014). If there is a change in the instrument used during the pre-test and post-test this could also affect the validity of the study. The use of the same instrument eliminates the occurrence of this particular threat (Creswell, 2014). For these reasons, the questionnaire was the only instrument used during the research study.

External validity questions whether “an observed causal relationship generalize across persons, settings, and times?” (Cooper & Schindler, 2014, p. 253). A researcher may choose to compare or draw inferences from experiences from past storms to the current situation which the participants just experienced with Hurricane Maria. When researchers generalize situations, the practice may be inappropriate and therefore could influence validity (Creswell, 2014). If the researcher is cognizant of his sample population, he will minimize the occurrence of external threats to validity. Familiarity brings awareness and more control along with better decision­making processes.

Data Analysis

Data analysis is defined as “the process of editing and reducing accumulated data to a manageable size, developing summaries, looking for patterns, and applying statistical techniques” (Cooper & Schindler, 2014, p. 702). This involved working with the data, organizing them, breaking them into manageable units, coding them, synthesizing them, and searching for patterns (Creswell, 2009). The questionnaire offers the distinct opportunity for the researcher to develop summaries and see if any patterns exist from the data collected. The researcher collected the data and did the analysis simultaneously in order to maintain control of the process and to have a clearer understanding of what participants were saying. “Data collection and analysis typically go hand in hand to build a coherent interpretation” (Marshall & Rossman, 2011, p. 209). Applying statistical techniques will help determine the veracity of the instrument used in the research study.

To conduct the data analysis this researcher used first univariate analysis to determine frequency, means, percentages, and standard deviations. The multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) assesses the relationship between two or more dependent variables and classificatory variables or factors (Cooper & Schindler, 2014).


It is important to note that the participants, who comprised the sample group, were all individuals who migrated from Dominica after Hurricane Maria. They all voluntarily consented to participate in the survey exercise. It was a challenge to obtain a larger number of participants but in the spirit of support they were grateful to be part of this academic study. They were able to relate to the questions on the questionnaire since their experience was real and genuine. The relatedness of the questions was significant to them and this will be explained in Chapter 4. Care was taken in order to reduce the chances of bias by addressing threats to internal and external validity. For example, none of the participants were paid and they were made aware of this fact.

The methodology section included the research method, the population, sampling, and the data collection procedures used. It also included an explanation of internal and external validity. Additionally, it looked at the data analysis process used in the study.


Since no specific research has been done on this topic this study was conducted as a pilot study. A pilot study is a research study conducted before the intended study. Pilot studies are usually executed as planned for the intended study, but on a smaller scale. Pilot studies reduce systematic errors and unexpected problems (pilot study, n.d.). Researchers will now be able to develop their studies from the initial work done. Validated questionnaires were limited in what this pilot project accomplished. The results, analysis, and findings are based on this study.

Dominica’s vulnerability to exogenous shocks from global economic conditions and natural disasters makes the small island state potentially susceptible to loss of its skilled labor to other countries. These drivers enable an avenue for the migration of the country’s human resource when the inviting environment is conducive. The average human wants comfort, a reasonable income, and will also move away from areas that provide too many unwanted challenges to their survival. Studies indicate that the typical migrant is financially capable of moving from his or her country to another in order to maintain and perhaps improve their standard of living (Mbaye, 2017). The impecunious majority is unable to emigrate even when they would like to. They are grossly impacted by economic conditions such as higher oil prices at the pump and the challenges of rebuilding their homes or even moving. Several factors come into play including insurance concerns, temporary homelessness, jobs, and perhaps the cost associated with starting anew in another country (Geffner, 2017).

Chapter 4 summarizes the data collected for the research project from various Dominicans credited with varying skills and abilities, and from other sources. The survey instrument used was the self-administered questionnaire. It was the most practical instrument which provided the flexibility needed for effective distribution to the participants and retrieving their responses in a timely manner. In terms of its validity, the questionnaire measures various aspects of the immigrants’ concerns, and the extent to which they affect their choices. The questionnaire therefore comprised rank order scaling questions, multiple choice questions, text slider questions, and Likert scale questions. The chapter also described the statistical treatment used and data analysis performed.

The descriptive results, analysis and findings are presented in various forms to include tables, pie charts, and bar graphs. The various themes encapsulated areas such as the participants’ areas of expertise, the level of influence Hurricane Maria had on migrating, return migration, primary reasons for leaving the island, and their perception of the management style of local Dominican businesses and institutions.

Data Collection and Screening

The persons who participated in the research exercise were migrants who fled Dominica weeks and months after Hurricane Maria. These participants comprised men, women, and children but mainly those who were part of the local active labor force. They came from the accounting, construction, medical, banking, Information Technology (IT), and academic fields. Because of the information gap and data limitation there was “a lack of information about the actual number of Dominicans who fled the country after the hurricane, as well as trends of return” (ACAPS, p. 10). Although observers noted that about one-fifth of the population migrated after the hurricane (Elie, 2017), it was a challenge to engage many more participants in the survey. The sample size was sixteen. The survey was sent to 56 potential participants but only a small number of responses was received, hence the small sample size of 16. Perhaps the timing was not conducive because all Dominicans have been in recovery mode since 2017 after that major storm. These individuals moved primarily to the United States, and through social media and friends it was possible to request their indulgence and assistance for the pilot study.

There were some exclusions from the sample. This included individuals whose departure was brief and returned to Dominica a few weeks or months after the hurricane. Their short travel expedition did not meet the definition of migrants. The study did not investigate this particular aspect of this dynamic topic but could be an area for future research. Dominicans who migrated to other Caribbean islands were also excluded from this study because it was difficult to contact. Their opinions and the islands they migrated to probably would have modified the outcome and interpretation of the data. Although some children accompanied their parents they were also excluded from the study.

The self-administered questionnaire was used to conduct the survey of the participants. Individuals were identified who had specifically left Dominica after Hurricane Maria and decided to migrate for one or more reasons. Participants were assured of their right to privacy and personal information such as names and telephone numbers were not requested. After consent was established, the questionnaire was sent to the participants via email, survey monkey, and WhatsApp. Copies of the consent form and questionnaire are included in the Appendices. The survey identified certain areas that were pertinent to those persons who chose to migrate after the hurricane.

Primary reason for living

The data collected indicated that most participants viewed the passage of this major hurricane as an opportunistic time and their primary reason for leaving the island. Caribbean people, especially those who admire metropolitan living and yearn to improve their lifestyle, always look for an opportunity to migrate (Hope-Thomas, 2002). During the new wave, after World War II, Caribbean nationals moved in droves to the United States from Dominica, Puerto Rico, Barbados, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Cuba, and Guyana just to name a few countries, after there was a precipitous decline in the price of sugar and bananas (inmotion, n.d.). Chain migration expanded and the connection between families was never severed as the proximity to the US mainland and its economic growth provided a solid socio-economic safety value for Caribbean immigrants (inmotion, n.d.). This statistic accounted for 70 % of the participants. Twenty-five 25% of the sample group left in search of better economic opportunity, and only over 6 % fled because of the opportunity presented for educational advancement. Table 3 illustrates the reasons for their departure. The next focus was on the level of influence, if any, that the hurricane had on making the decision to migrate.

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Hurricane Maria influence

In Figure 5 there is a clear description of the stated level of influence that Hurricane Maria had on the survey participants. While there were 2 respondents who thought that the impact was insignificant, 11 thought that it was strong. Therefore, 14 out of 16, or 88% of respondents, indicated that the relationship between the hurricane and their leaving was average or above. That level of confidence among the majority of respondents was apparently sufficient to consequently result in them migrating.

Figure 5

How much influence did the hurricane have in your decision to leave Dominica?

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Most persons (88%) were impacted by the hurricane to flee the island. The next related question placed some focus returning to Dominica.

Return to Dominica question

When asked if they will eventually return to Dominica, 60 % said that they will return but not in the near future. One-third (1/3) said they will return when they retire. This is important but the intricacies of this particular response are beyond the scope of this research exercise. This result is further clarified in Table 4 provided below.

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The responses were restricted to returning after retirement and returning in the distant future. The following question investigated why respondents left their jobs in Dominica.

Reasons why migrants left job

Participants were also asked about the possible reasons why they left the labor force to migrate, that is, if they were gainfully employed prior to the hurricane. The respondents had to rank the reasons in order of importance which included wages, working conditions, training, under-employment, promotion, migration because of family connections, taking advantage of an opportune time, and any other reason. The respondents ranked the reasons in the following order as seen in Figure 6 with low wages ranking as No.1, family (chain) migration No. 2, under­employment as No.3, opportune time as No.4, lack of promotion as No. 5, poor working conditions as No. 6, any other reason at No. 7, and lastly lack of training occupied the No. 8 position. There were high responses for low wages, family chain migration, and under employment. Yang and Mahajan (2017) noted that between 1980 and 2004 non-immigrant visas into the US increased noticeably after storms during the 3-decade period. Prior migrants helped family members figure out how to enter the US by mainly obtaining tourist visas or non­immigrant visas (Yang & Mahajan, 2017).

Figure 6

If you left the labor force prior to migrating, please rank the reasons in order of importance - 1 most important and 8 least important. (Rankings are cumulative results).

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There were several reasons why participants left their jobs with the majority based on low wages and chain migration. The participants were then asked about their views on staff retention at their workplaces.

How migrants viewed management-staff retention

Respondents were also asked their opinion of management practices/efforts in relation to staff retention and 100 % said ‘average’ as shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7

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All participants graded management’s efforts in relation to staff retention as average. A question closely tied to staff retention is their view on human resources department.

How participants viewed their HR

The participants were asked to rate their Human Resource Department by ranking certain characteristic features. Thirty-eight 38% of the participants ranked knowledge as a favorable characteristics of their HR departments. Another 38 % also ranked engagement as favorable. Of the 16 participants, 18 % saw HR as supportive, and another 5 % did not score them on any issue. The results are displayed in Figure 8.

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The human resource department received scores for 3 out of the 6 highlighted areas. The following question inquired about the views on immigrant labor.

Participant’s view on immigrant labor

The participants were also asked about immigrant labor as it relates to Dominica. This was a fringe question asked to broaden the survey as a means of encouraging participation. Dominica is a receiving country for migrants as well. The immigrants mainly come from Haiti and a smaller percentage from the Dominican Republic. Culturally, Haitians are like Dominicans because citizens from both countries speak a French Kwéyol. Both countries were both colonized by the French in the colonial era. Several Haitians who move to Dominica settle there and work in the construction and the agricultural field, but others use the island as a transshipment point to illegally enter the French Departments of Guadeloupe, St Martin, and Martinique primarily (Charles, 2007). A few Dominicans have been furious about both issues: taking jobs from locals and the alleged illegal migration to other islands via Dominica. In 2007 there were over 4000 Haitians on the island (Charles, 2007). It was difficult to get data on their current population status. The respondents were presented with four areas to consider where immigrant labor may impact the economy. Eleven of the respondents, that is, 69 % thought that immigrants add value to the local economy, while 5 respondents or 31 % thought that government should have an expansion policy on immigration. The participants did not think that immigration takes away jobs from locals, or private sector businesses would reject the idea of immigration. Their opinions are expressed in Table 5.

Table 5

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What do you think of immigrant labor as it relates to Dominica? Check all that apply.

Data Analysis

The exploration of the data collected in the analysis phase was aimed at discovering trends and common themes. When patterns or trends are determined a particular perspective is seen (Spiggle, 1994). The study sought to determine the impact of natural disasters like hurricanes on migration and brain drain affecting labor shortage in Dominica. The Caribbean experiences impactful storms annually during the hurricane season. Other regions like the Philippines and Indonesia experience similar effects from natural disasters like typhoons where similar trends and patterns are observed (Asrianti, 2011).

Frequency and percentages provided the responses from the data provided using univariate. The above tables and graphs depict the frequency and percentages from the responses given by the respondents in relation to the questions posed to them. Researchers use univariate analysis of variance when they require data on an independent variable and continuous information on the dependent variable (Creswell, J.D & Creswell, J.W, 2018). Univariate analysis is descriptive and easy so the reader can rapidly visualize the results. It is therefore appropriate for this pilot study exercise where a relationship test was determined.

The relationship between dependable variables such as natural disasters and brain drain was demonstrated. Migrants had expertise in education, construction, the hospitality industry, the medical field (all nurses), Information Technology (IT), and agriculture. Twenty-five 25% of the respondents came from the medical field which made up the highest number in the sample. The second highest were construction and hospitality workers who accounted for 18.75 % of the sample population. These fields of work are all critical to the survival and growth of any economy. Healthcare is important for everyone. A sick or unhealthy or inadequate workforce is deemed unproductive. The agricultural sector requires employees with various backgrounds such as agronomy, machine and equipment operators, laborers, and accountants, among others to be viable. The data is illustrated in Figure 9 below. The literature review illustrated similar findings where nurses fled the island and the migration pattern was disconcerting for local medical professionals similarly in South Africa, the Philippines, and the Caribbean (Brush et al. 2004). Only one successful interview conducted with a local representative in the medical field in Dominica and it was revealed that it was difficult to obtain relevant data from official government sources. The only available numbers for Dominica at the time conducting this research was 28 nurse professionals who migrated after Hurricane Maria (Felix, 2018). Actual nursing stock numbers were difficult to obtain.

Figure 9

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In chapter 1 we explored the independent and dependent variables, namely, natural disasters, brain drain, and migration and labor shortage along with the research questions and hypotheses. These defined the scope and purpose of the research project. A more detailed look follows below.

Natural disasters are a perennial concern of magnanimous proportions to residents of Caribbean islands like Dominica. Because of global warming, the potential consequences are exacerbated because of the increased damage that the islands can suffer from (Guha-Sapir et al (2004; Melillo et al, 2014). Residents who possess the ability to migrate do. Some flee to neighboring islands while others flee to other countries like the United States after storms (Yang & Mahajan, 2017). Those who migrate are generally the more educated ones taking with them knowledge and skills from the countries that need them most (McElmurry et al, 2006; Schmid, 2006; Melbourne, 2016). This results in the dreaded brain drain facilitated by the migration which subsequently follows. According to Foad (2005) as long as the benefits supersede the costs and risks migration will occur.

Hypothesis 1 states that natural disasters led to an increase in the loss of skilled labor in Dominica. In Dominica, there was a surge in nurse migration after the hurricane (Felix, 2018). There was an instantaneous need for skilled construction workers, unprecedented in the history of the island (McKenzie, 2018). Dominica forms part of the global trend where nurse migration has become a major concern particularly for source countries (McElmurry et al., 2006). In relation to hypothesis 1, scholars identified clear correlations between natural disasters and migration within the medical field (Connell, 2007).

Hypothesis 2 states that an increase in brain drain led to an increase in socio-economic and health challenges in Dominica. Human capital is fundamental for the production of goods of services. This factor of production is essential as a catalyst for productivity, growth, and the development of any nation. Even more critical is its importance in developing countries such as Dominica. According to Connell (2007), when there is health care brain drain the local skills transfer to global markets and the source country is deprived of this resource. Whenever skill gaps occur it takes years to correct because of the complexity of the issue as in the case of brain drain (Land, 2018). Baker (1997) contends that “a high proportion of individuals who migrate are skilled workers. This drain on skills has likely reduced the pace of economic growth, slowed the overall process of job creation...” (p. 45). As it relates to hypothesis 2, there is consensus among scholars that brain drain increases that socio-economic challenges in small economies like Dominica’s, although others contend that a benefit is remittances sent to families back home (Connell, 2007; Baker, 1997; Melbourne, 2016).

The literature showed that there is a shortage of nurses and recruiting foreign nurses is a global business. The major recruiting countries are the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada (Brush et al., 2004). With such skills in demand, qualified nurses are sought after by various receiving countries alluded to above (Brush et al., 2004). Gerber (2014) postulated that this trend will continue as the global population ages. The more developed countries are able to attract skilled personnel because of their economic capacity and the lack of such ability on the part of developing countries (Melbourne, 2016). Therefore, a labor shortage (dependent variable) is created by the migration of skilled labor brought about by circumstances like natural disasters and other causes.

Felix (2018) serves as the President of the Dominica Nurses’ Association and has ceaselessly advocated on behalf of Dominican nurses. Felix noted that the issue of wages comprised 50 percent of the challenges nurses face in Dominica. As a motivating factor, high wages would minimize outward migration from the island (Pienkos, 2006). Every household prides itself of having sufficient disposable income to improve its standard of living. The absence of this security can cause heightened stress and create a search for better opportunities. This can be categorized as a basic need under Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory which states that people are motivated by five basic categories of needs. These are, physiological, safety, love, esteem, and self-actualization. According to the theory, higher needs emerge in the hierarchy when previous needs are satisfied (Hopper, 2019).

Based on an analysis of the data, all the null hypotheses were rejected. The trends and patterns indicate that brain drain depreciates the socio-economic status of Dominica when medical personnel flee the country creating a shortage of labor at hospitals and health clinics. Natural disasters cause people to flee because it affords them the opportunity to search for places that they can avoid disasters and earn a better standard of living.

From the data collected for the current project, it was determined that there is a clear correlation between migration and natural disasters. Participants left Dominica because of the hurricane. The hurricane served as a motivating and deciding factor which was one of the independent variables. The participants came from various areas of expertise, but the highest concentration came from the medical field at 25 %. The construction and hospitality industries were also well represented at 18.75 % respectively.

There was also a correlation between natural disasters, migration, and brain drain. When immigrants fled the island some of them were already qualified and were part of the category of those in short supply, but high in demand, that is, nurses and construction workers in particular (McKenzie, 2018; Felix, 2018). Other categories included workers in the hospitality industry and IT field.

Based on the research done in Dominica and other countries and regions, there is a correlation between natural disasters which lead to migration and can cause brain drain on local economies as alluded to above. As long as there is that “pull” and “push” effect individuals are going to participate in this dynamic movement called migration (Groschl & Steinbachs, 2017). Circumstances are going to continue to attract individuals to other countries and others will push them away from their current situations, like natural disasters. The study demonstrated that people migrate for various reasons which include, to find refuge after being displaced due to environmental factors such as natural disasters; to escape conflict or violence; to escape past and future persecution based on race, religion or membership in a particular social group, among others (Munez, C., Sepehr, J., Sanchez, E., 2014). Should we expect a continuation of same? Perhaps yes, but it can be managed to the extent that source countries like Dominica benefit from migration of human capital just like the receiving countries benefit from them. Practical steps can be taken to minimize the impacts from the catastrophes which manifest themselves in various forms like hurricanes, tropical storms, and floods. Certain recommendations are made in Chapter 5 which address this aspect of the research study which, if implemented, can help minimize and control labor shortage in Dominica.


The findings highlighted the reasons why the participants migrated after the storm. These reasons were mainly opportunities which were opened because of the storm’s passage, economic conditions, and educational advancement opportunities. The main areas of expertise were in the construction, hospitality and medical fields. The trends also point to a delay by migrants to return to Dominica, and an increase in the demand for skilled professionals in receiving countries. The brain drain phenomenon means that labor shortage is a challenge for government policy makers and private sector business owners. In this chapter we examined findings of the research, the results, and the analysis conducted. This research project served as a pilot project but there were correlations that were determined based on the relationships found between natural disasters and migration. This migration also resulted in brain drain of skilled workers from the country. Because of the complexity involved, the labor shortage leaves a gap that will take some time to fill since it requires multifaceted solutions within private sector organizations and government institutions alike (Land, 2018). In chapter 5, the conclusions made will be expounded upon. The recommendations provided will focus on mitigating labor shortages and alleviating experiences and managing after natural disasters.


The purpose of this study was to determine the extent to which natural disasters and other factors have led to a labor shortage in both private and public sectors in Dominica and to make recommendations for minimizing brain drain, increasing incentives to maintain and grow the labor force, and ensuring the sustainability of the Dominican economy and long term economic and social development. In order to make such determination the research method was administered via questionnaire. The participants were migrants who fled Dominica after the passage of Hurricane Maria in September 2017.

Participants were skilled and experienced in the various fields including medical, construction, Information Technology, Accounting, and agriculture, among others. The hurricane served as a springboard from which they migrated to other countries namely the United States and other Caribbean islands. There was a nexus among the independent factors, namely natural disasters, brain drain, and migration. The finding of the study indicated that, like other countries in Indonesia, Central America and the Caribbean, people migrated after natural disasters struck and some of those who were able to do so were more highly educated and possessed the financial wherewithal to leave their home nations in search of personal and professional gain (Pienkos, 2006). As climate change continues to contribute to extreme weather patterns, Dominica along with other Caribbean islands, will be impacted by increasingly severe storms (Pelling & Uitto, 2001). As these storms become more frequent and more dangerous, migration patterns will continue to lead to movement of skilled workers from less developed countries to more developed countries (Messick, 2016). As the world’s population continues to age the need for healthcare workers, like caretakers will increase, particularly in metropolitan countries like Canada and the United States (Gerber, 2014). The resulting impact on small island developing states like Dominica is a labor shortage, particularly of skilled professionals.

In Chapter 5, conclusions and recommendations are addressed. This section of the study provides detailed recommendations on how to mitigate labor shortage in island economies like Dominica and improve on post natural disaster management. The discussion of the findings will add new perspectives to the government, business, and academic communities. No research was found that investigated the impact of the loss of labor on Dominica after disastrous weather events like Hurricane Maria.

Some of the areas included in the recommendation section are, investing in employee training, investing in modern equipment, developing a regional approach to address the nurse migration, addressing remuneration, developing or reviewing bilateral agreements between source and receiving countries, and strengthening data collection, quality and availability, working strategically with donor countries and relief agencies, vocational training, among others.

Discussion of Findings

The study investigated whether natural disasters, migration, and brain drain impacted the shortage of labor on the island. While the study was focused on Dominica, there were other countries which experienced similar natural catastrophes because of their geographical locations. Other Caribbean islands, the Indonesian islands and the Philippines, for example, share similar potential perennial onslaught of climatic challenges (Julca & Paddinson, 2010; Pelling & Uitto, 2001). Similar to the natural disasters experienced in these locales, Hurricane Maria proved to be a devastating storm of epic proportions for Dominica where the local economy and infrastructure were decimated. According to the IMF in its 2018 Country Report, the island suffered $1.6 billion or 226 percent of GDP in damages due to the hurricane (IMF, 2018).

As climate change becomes progressively imminent, storms become more and more devastating, particularly in vulnerable areas like the Caribbean (Pelling & Uitto, 2001). In an attempt to minimize the impact from such natural disaster occurrences some families engage in outward migration from the islands (Messick, 2016). With such migration taking place individuals who flee are sometimes those with the skills, training, and education, creating what is called a brain drain scenario in developing economies (Melbourne, 2016). Mbaye (2017) posited that there is a positive link between natural disasters and migration. Other scholars agreed that people tend to move away from affected areas to more environmentally stable areas in order to maintain their way of life (Messick, 2016). Of course, not everyone migrates when disasters occur. Tse (2013) postulated that some individuals will remain because they see this as a time for strengthening social bonds and mutual insurance (social capital). Also, because of lack of financial resources to pay for migration others will not flee, and there might also be an increase in marginal product of labor after the natural disaster as a result of this non movement (Tse, 2013).

One of the research questions was, to what extent migration affects the loss of skilled labor supply in Dominica? The research study shows that 87.5 % of those who participated in the survey were skilled in various fields of occupation, with the medical, construction and hospitality professions in the top three positions (see Figure 6). These are individuals who left the island after the major storm. According to Felix (2018), nurses were already aggrieved because of poor working conditions, dismal remuneration levels, and lack of promotional opportunities so Hurricane Maria was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back”. Subsequently, there was the upsurge in migration to countries that are considered more advanced than Dominica that could possibly provide opportunities to improve their standard of living and provide remittances to family members back home. Felix (2018) lamented that 28 nurses left after the storm. These were 28 fewer nurses in a small country where a shortage already exists and although there is a Cuban nurse recruitment program, it is still inadequate to satisfy the nurse-patient ratio recommended by the International Council of Nurses (Felix, 2019).

There has also been a shortage of construction workers in the Caribbean and the United States (O’Halloran, n.d.). Additionally, there has been a twofold challenge for Dominica: some of the construction workers want to flee for better pay overseas, and some want to flee because of the annual occurrence of natural disasters. Employment in the construction industry in the receiving countries has been informal in nature for migrants especially those who are not regularized (Slowey, 2018). Despite the challenge of not always being regularized a foreign or migrant construction worker prefers the US dollar over a peso, a Jamaican dollar, or an East Caribbean dollar. The US dollar is worth more because of the exchange rates. There is more to send as remittances to the family back home. North American building contractors have been aware that the number of native-born construction workers has been declining since the 2008 housing slump (Megan, 2017). Reliance on African and Caribbean construction workers seem practical for them in order to maintain their own labor force.

The other research question was, how does brain drain affect the socio-economic and health status of Dominica? As alluded to previously, brain drain refers to a situation where all or the majority of intelligent, skilled or capable resources within a given field or geographic region leave the area (brain drain, n.d.). After a natural disaster, apart from the direct losses such as damaged or destroyed buildings, there are indirect losses from decreased productive capacity due to displacement or loss of labor. People migrate for several reasons including disruptive political climate, gangs, natural disasters or environmental factors, family reasons, among others (McConville, 2018). The debate over brain drain has been around for a while. While it can be argued that the small developing country like Dominica would lose if the trained and educated citizens migrate there are others who think that the country will gain in spite of it. Schmid (2006) noted that some countries prefer remittances over human capital. In other words, the ability to send hard currency to the source country is sufficient as the net benefits are greater than no migration at all. However, when healthcare professionals migrate for better wages and improved standards of living a void is created. This is particularly true when the net rate of migration is greater than the rate of nurse graduation (da Camara & Jackson, 2010). The healthcare system becomes destabilized when insufficient resources are being directed to nurse training and healthcare education (Auerbach et al., 2007). Another setback of brain drain is, a skill gap problem that is created when there are insufficient service professionals to meet the demands of the nation. The quality of the services is compromised when the nurses are trained for ‘export’ at the expense of the poor developing country (da Camara & Jackson, 2010).

As it pertains to the socio-economic aspect of the developing country the productive capacity can be impacted negatively. When a community or country is deprived of its skills and knowledge the pace of economic growth is retarded (Baker, 1997). Dominica is no exception to this dreadful economic reality. The source country suffers whenever migration occurs whether it takes place after a natural disaster or not. Saad (2009) contends that whenever opportunities arise in neighboring countries the source country loses some of its human capital which can include some of the brightest minds. If the net population growth is diminishing the economic multiplier effect for local industry and production capacity diminishes concurrently because there is less output creating an output gap (Jahan & Mahmud, 2013). The output gap is an economic measure of the difference between the actual output of an economy and its potential output. An output gap suggests that an economy is running at an inefficient rate—either overworking or underworking its resources (Jahan & Mahmud, 2013). Over the years Dominica has experienced a steady decline in population growth with a rate of natural increase from 7.3 percent in 2006 to 4.7 percent in 2010 (PAHO, 2012). This overall population trend in the Caribbean and Latin America is corroborated by Saad (2009).


The purpose of the study was to investigate the extent to which natural disasters and other factors have led to a labor shortage in both private and public sectors in Dominica and to make recommendations for minimizing brain drain, increasing incentives to maintain and grow the labor force, and ensuring the sustainability of the Dominican economy and long term economic and social development. To that end, the research questions were: To what extent does migration affect loss of skilled labor supply in Dominica? How does brain drain affect the socio­economic and health status of Dominica? The data collected indicated that Dominicans who fled the island after Hurricane Maria left because they saw opportunities outside the country. These opportunities were for jobs, and a chance to get away from the destructive storms. That was the view of 70 percent of those of participated in the survey exercise. Another 25 percent of the migrants left for economic reasons which meant a chance to improve their standard of living, better jobs, and increased remuneration. Another 6 percent for educational advancement purposes as shown in Table 3.

The findings from the survey revealed the various areas of expertise that the survey participants possessed, hence the concern for brain drain. Twenty five percent of the respondents had a medical background, 19 % from construction, 19 % also came from the hospitality sector, education 12 % and IT and agriculture made up 6 % respectively. Others amounted to 13 %.

Other studies have been done on small island states as it relates to natural disasters such an example is the Indonesian islands (Asrianti, 2011). The focus, however, has been on damage caused, building back and resilience, lives lost, and reasons for migrating. In other Caribbean islands, Latin America and the Pacific well documented studies provide data and information on rural to urban migration, migration to neighboring countries and even to the industrial countries like Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and France. In this study the emphasis was on the impact that natural disasters have on the labor shortage. Brain drain results, migration increases, and the country loses some of its human capital thus leaving a shortage of skilled labor. The study indicated that the health sector saw an acceleration in the migration of nurses after Hurricane Maria, and construction workers sought after higher pay. International relief organizations like the IOM, USAID, and UNICEF focused their attention on relief measures after the storm. Some emphasized mitigation measures but resilience in terms of restoring the labor force has not been given special attention which is something left to government. In the case of Dominica, building hurricane resistant houses, repairing roads, schools and restoring boats to fishermen seem to be the guided and deliberate focus. The critical aspects of labor retention, training, increased remuneration are all given minimal attention. Socio-economic development is predicated on a holistic approach to national development. The fact that storms are increasing in intensity because of global warming, a modified approach to preparation and response is needed to minimize labor loss, particularly that of skilled labor. Those who can migrate are generally those who can afford to do so and also tend to be more educated (Tse, 2013). The apprehension created for both private sector and government is a skills gap that takes time to be filled with trained and experienced workers (da Camara & Jackson, 2010).

This research study on natural disasters and the impact on the labor shortage in Dominica is critical for private sector businesses and public sector decision makers. A qualified labor force not only creates value but also adds value to the local economy in terms of efficiency and output. When the quality of the workforce is compromised because of a shortage, or insufficient training, or inadequate pay, efficiency and productivity are subsequently distressed. To this end, further research is needed to establish whether or not natural disasters contribute to the development of economies where migration leads to brain drain and brain drain leads to a shortage of adequate numbers of qualified skilled labor. It is important therefore, that research supersedes mere data collected on damage caused to infrastructure, storm wind speed, earthquake intensity, length of drought, or the amount of flooding experienced in a country or location. The impact on the labor force in the source countries is essential for recovery and resilience purposes after a disaster. Natural disasters can amplify and exacerbate underlying issues which exist in developing countries like Dominica. For example, pay disparity for construction workers in Dominica is $28 per day and nearby Antigua is approximately $75 per day (Salaryexplorer, 2019). Similarly, the starting pay for a registered nurse in another Caribbean island is $1872 per month, but this is the pay for the head nurse in Dominica (Felix, 2018). Hurricane Maria created an opportunity for nurses to migrate for better pay.


Based on the study conducted and the data collected there are some recommendations that are pertinent towards mitigating the labor shortage issue in Dominica particularly after a natural disaster. Additionally, managing after the disaster requires organization, tenacity, collaborative effort and support from all stakeholders. These recommendations can be taken on board by decision makers in the private and public sectors.

As a result of the recent disasters and subsequent brain drain, the local economy has to be rebuilt. In order for this to be effectively done, reconstruction efforts must be prompt and efficient with an adequate number of skilled workers. The health sector must be adequately facilitated with primary as well as tertiary healthcare professionals. The recommendations for minimizing brain drain and outward migration, increasing incentives to maintain and grow the labor force, and ensuring the sustainability of the Dominican economy and long term economic and social development must be implemented in a structured manner. They are as follows:


There must be increased and continuous training for employees. Employers must invest in their human resource. When employers develop and organize training programs for all employees and the trained employees are duly rewarded their level of commitment and loyalty increase and sometimes create an emotional bond between the worker and the organization (Jones, 2010). When management understands the employee’s need for training and gets them involved the employees develop a greater sense of belonging to the organization even when challenging times surface like natural and man-made disasters. The workers reward management by ‘sticking around’ (Aguinis, 2014). Issues of under-employment and lack of promotion can be corrected when employers not only train their employees but reward them accordingly. In challenging periods, such as times of natural disasters employees may be more inclined to remain. Under­employment and lack of promotion were areas of concern for migrants. Increased training capacity should never be compromised.

Recommendation 2

Adequate pay. The labor force is the heart of any organization whether it be public or private. Therefore, adequate remuneration be must paid to employees in order to remain competitive and satisfied. Inadequate pay ranked as the number one reason why migrants chose to leave after the hurricane. This should be viewed from a local as well as a regional perspective. Remuneration levels drive retention levels in part, and employers must attempt to present the best reward system in place for their staff (Aguinis, 2014). The work culture must be reviewed periodically to determine if traditional or contingent pay plans are suitable for the organization. In traditional systems, the type of position and seniority are the determinants of salary and salary increases, not performance. With contingent pay, the employees are rewarded based on how well they perform on the job (Aguinis, 2014). While pay is not all, it is the ultimate reason why people go to work because they want to secure their financial wellbeing (Lui, n.d.).

Recommendation 3

Improve work environments. Constant audits must be undertaken in order to satisfy job demands. This will minimize the tragedy of “square pegs in round holes”, thus reducing inefficiency in business and service protocols. This practice assists in managing costs especially cost overruns when projects are time and budget sensitive. When employees are part of the audit process, they will assist management in recovery processes after storms when the source of their livelihood is affected (Aguinis, 2014). Audit programs will help identify when training is required for the right employees. This approach will minimize training the wrong persons and having the right persons in the right jobs with the right job descriptions. A poor working environment is a despicable place for an employee to spend most of his or her day/night. Some migrants noted that this was an area of concern for them. Employees will feel a greater commitment to remain as part of an organization that they are part of than part within hard times.

Recommendation 4

Strengthen data collection practices, quality and availability (da Camara & Johnson, 2010). Government must immediately address the collection and dispensing of relevant data for all stakeholders concerned. Data and other relevant information help decision makers do the right things and act expeditiously especially in times of crisis. The IMF finds government entities grossly lacking in this area (IMF, 2018). Professionals make decisions quickly but in a calculated manner and want to appropriate resources in the areas most needed after a disaster. Skilled persons generally work strategically and in organized formats. Two striking traits which are conspicuous are, endurance and perseverance according to Data and relevant information assist management in effective and cost-saving decisions.

Recommendation 5

Dominican citizens who live in the diaspora possess a wealth of knowledge, experience, and expertise that should be leveraged to assist in ways to develop and maintain an adequate labor force for the private and public sectors a like. Social media can complement efforts at sharing skills including assistance via remote technological channels. Civic organizations like the Lion’s Rotary Club, and business organizations like the Dominica Association of Industry & Commerce (DAIC) can partner with sister organizations in the region to assist with labor issues after a natural disaster to minimize the losses and departure of members of the local labor force. A direct and active approach would ensure that even retirees can assist to conjure up practical ways of minimizing the loss of labor through migration.

Recommendation 6

For the nursing sector, government must adopt and engage a regional approach to nurse migration because it is not going to stop. Dominica publicly subsidizes it nursing program at the Dominica State College. However, unlike other Caribbean islands like Grenada, St. Kitts, Jamaica, and St. Vincent Dominica does not have a managed migration program for its nurses (Salmon, M, E., Yan, J., Hewitt, H., and Guisinger, V., 2007). If individual islands join forces, they can have a bigger voice and potentially be a formidable group to reckon with.

Recommendation 7

Government and private sector business owners should invest in modern equipment so that trained personnel will continue to utilize the technology they were trained in overseas. Because of the economic standards which exists in many of these small island states, adequate modern equipment may be lacking. Recent graduates who return to their home countries face the challenge of not being able to utilize their newly acquired expertise and training on equipment that is sometimes obsolete. Although improvisation has its benefits, governments and private sector businesses must strategically invest in modern equipment that can cut costs in the long run and increase productivity simultaneously. This approach can help retain those skilled workers before and after a storm. A certified mechanical or civil engineer wants to be as productive and creative as possible to add value to his or her professional work life. Underemployment could possibly serve as a cause for migrating especially when an opportunity arises under any ethically sound circumstance like moving after a storm or being invited to the United States through chain migration.

Recommendation 8

Bilateral agreements can be secured between countries promoting health worker flows - taxing employers, training, investing in local projects, etc. (Hamilton, Yau, 2004). While a regional approach can be beneficial for the country, each country can negotiate for its own rewards. Employers in the receiving countries can remit taxes, for example, to the source country directly to the nursing school to assist in training and to improve curriculums to increase graduation rates which hover around 55 % (da Camara & Jackson, 2010). Instructor assistance is required because of their inadequate numbers. Instructors migrate as well (da Camara & Jackson, 2010).

Recommendation 9

Vocational training. Students who are not academically inclined must be afforded the opportunity for vocational training in various skills including carpentry, plumbing, masonry, electrical engineering, and brick laying, among others. The education system should place equal or adequate emphasis on vocational training through a revised curriculum structure, adequate financing, and teacher training. Work programs can be established between the colleges, high schools and construction, electrical, and other companies for on-the-job training. Internships can further lead to students gaining real-life job experiences. When the employee supply base expands with qualified workers the chance of losing all at once to migration is minimized.

Recommendation 10

Incentives and perks. Equally important is the respect and pay scales required to attract students to build careers in vocational training where a shortage of trained skilled labor exists. Employers in the construction industry must seek to be competitive with their regional counterparts in order to attract and retain those workers. All incentives should not be financial. Employers can provide tuition reimbursement, transportation reimbursement, and flexible schedules, time off to their workers (McKelvey, 2018). Inadequate pay was the number one reason why migrants left the Dominica after the hurricane.

Recommendation 11

Strategically implement the CREAD program in order to benefit the farmers, homeowners, local natural attractions, vis-a-vis the entire Nature Island of the Caribbean. Minimizing the impact of natural disasters and reducing Dominica’s carbon footprint on the world is a determined goal of the Government of Dominica. A secure physical infrastructure like one’s home can provide some level of comfort and minimize the need to migrate because that may be an issue to manage and not necessarily worry about after a storm. A fragile home is more cause for concern. The worker can focus on other things like helping neighbors recover instead.

The study highlighted and emphasized the importance of developing reciprocal agreements for nurses with receiving countries such as Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Studies show that nurses leave Dominica mainly for the United States of America and other countries because of low remuneration, poor working conditions, and lack of respect (Felix, 2018).

As a result of the recent disasters and subsequent brain drain, the local economy has to be rebuilt. In order for this to be effectively done, reconstruction efforts must be prompt and efficient with an adequate number of skilled workers. The health sector must be adequately facilitated with primary as well as tertiary healthcare professionals.

Governments welcome aid and assistance after storms in an effort to recover and rebuild. The mindset has to change to incorporate new strategies to mitigate not just the physical effects from storms, but also the social and economic impact of the potential exodus of labor. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is one such organization that provides assistance and aid. Aid encompasses relief supplies such as food and temporary shelter for housing. Training in the use amateur radio and job creation programs have longer lasting impacts which governments should implore. The wrong focus can result in minimal success and a grueling cycle when another storm strikes. In order to minimize the occurrence of bottlenecks and other challenges in the recovery process after a storm, policy makers must seek to expand training and exposure to tested and tried best practices (Wegdam, 2019). Non-profit disaster relief organizations like the IOM and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) contribute tremendously to small island states like Dominica after disasters. However, unless these countries position themselves to maximize from the benefits that these organizations offer, they will continue to be disadvantaged in areas such as disaster management and skilled labor retention (Baker, 1997).

As part of the response management program after a storm, policymakers must ensure that processes are in place to reduce frustration and anxiety among citizens. Disaster managers can use effective management tools to boost much needed support and communication between themselves and those affected by the disaster. In a practical sense, this will only be effective if pre-planning was done and everyone was prepared.

Recommendations for future research

The study investigated the impact that natural disasters, brain drain, and migration have on the labor shortage in Dominica. The investigation indicated clear correlation between natural disaster and migration affecting the labor force. Skilled labor in the medical, construction, IT, and hospitality fields were impacted the most. There are areas which need attention for future research.

Economic/social cost of migration. While migrants provide remittances to their families back home, studies must be done of the net benefits or losses to the local economy. While studies have been done on the effects of migration on children in the Eastern Caribbean it would be interesting to investigate the impact on spouses and other loved ones (Pienkos, 2006).

The role of government. Are governments in Small Island Developing States helpless in the migration fight or have they surrendered by accepting remittances as fair game? Are there set strict policies in place for students who have been assisted with scholarships to study overseas? Should they be bonded to augment the professional and skilled local labor force?

Limiting and delimiting factors. Some delimiting factors that were excluded from the study include the question of poor working conditions and the increasing Chinese population in Dominica. Limiting factors include obtaining data on Chinese migration and its potential effect on the socio-economic culture of the island. Also, the lack of up-to-date and adequate data for research. The number of respondents was undoubtedly minuscule. Out of the 56 individuals contacted only 16 provided a favorable response for participation in the study.

The role of Chinese community in Dominica. There has been an influx of small Chinese retail and light manufacturing businesses in Dominica. What contributions do these businesses make towards the local economy, specifically as it relates to job creation?

Migrants who left briefly. It would be interesting to study why those who left Dominica and returned after a brief stay at their overseas destination. Some temporary migrants may have preferred to return to rebuild instead a starting a new life in another country. Perhaps the financial resources were depleted, and arrangements were questionable.

The children. This refers to the children who migrated with their parents and caretakers and those who remained in Dominica while their parents migrated. Further research will provide data on each group’s perspectives of their experiences and propensity to move to another country or remain in Dominica. The experience of the hurricane and the experience of living in a foreign land can shape a child’s thoughts in more than one way depending on the child’s development stage (Noel, 2017). Would there be any “barrel children” as a result of the hurricane and subsequent migration of parents? It would be beneficial to study this particular aspect in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on Dominica. Further research will answer the question of child support systems if established to address the “barrel children” phenomenon. Please note that children were not part of this study.

The residents who did not migrate. Research shows that the majority of migrants are those who are more educated and possess the financial wherewithal to do so (Tse, 2013). Further research can be done to ascertain why the residents who stayed back in Dominica did not migrate. Researchers would seek responses to questions such as, was it merely out of choice, or was it because the residents did not have the financial means to do so. Were they not affected severely by the hurricane and had the means to carry through during the recovery stage? Or perhaps, they had no one or family ties overseas. Further research will assist in answering such questions.


The study investigated the impact of natural disasters on labor shortage in Dominica after Hurricane Maria and revealed certain realities. Natural disasters are a real growing menace for small island states like Dominica. According to the experts, they will continue to become progressively potent and perilous as climate change takes its toll on the Caribbean region (Pelling & Uitto, 2001). Because of their vulnerability to extreme weather conditions and global climate change, these events and processes can cause internal displacement and set in motion emigration processes in these islands (IOM, 2017).

One of the many reasons why people migrate to other countries is to find refuge after being displaced due to environmental factors (McConville, 2018). This desperation takes with it skilled labor in various fields like what happened in Dominica after Hurricane Maria. These included personnel from the medical, IT, construction, and hospitality fields. While the study did not show a direct cause and effect, but it showed that the hurricane served as an impetus which resulted in the decision by many to flee the island which reflected a positive link. When qualified professionals migrate the human capital of the country is depleted. Resources have to come from overseas in the form of construction workers and medical personnel. This skills gap takes time to replenish especially when there is an ageing population (ILO, 2017).

Therefore, the private sector and public sector stakeholders must accentuate and activate on the recommendations provided in the most urgent and efficient manner possible. For example, policy makers must augment incentives to employees, engage in up-to-date and continuous training, and provide competitive remuneration packages in order to retain qualified employees, among others. From the disaster aspect, there must be adequately trained personnel to effectively manage pre and post disaster events. Physical planning, social workers, government ministries to include Environment and Disaster Management, Disaster Coordinating Unit, Non-governmental organizations like the Red Cross and IOM should collaborate to enhance efficiency before and after the crisis unfolds.

This study highlighted and emphasized the critical look at the loss of skilled labor after the storm. Studies show that there is little emphasis on managing this aspect of brain drain particularly in Dominica. The colloquial Caribbean term the Barrel Economy and continued remittances seem sufficient for economic sustenance, but studies need to be done to determine the real impact and consequences of lost labor through migration from small island developing states like Dominica.

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1. What is your area of expertise?

(a) Agriculture
(b) Information Technology
(c) Medical
(d) Hospitality
(e) Construction
(f) Education
(g) Other

2. How much influence did the hurricane have on your decision to leave Dominica?

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

3. What was your primary reason for leaving the island after the hurricane?

(a) Economic

(b) Always wanted to migrate
(c) Opportunities
(d) Educational
(e) Political climate

4. Will you return to Dominica if and when the economy improves, and the country is ‘back to normal’?

(a) No
(b) Yes, but not in the near future
(c) Yes, but when I retire
(d) If I am able to invest in a viable business

5. If you left the labor force, or was employed, please rank the reasons in order of importance - 1 most important, 8 least important:



Working condition

Family/chain migration



Opportune time

Any other reason

6. What do you think of immigrant labor as it relates to Dominica? Check all that apply. Adds value to the local economy

Takes away jobs from locals

Government should have an expansion policy in relation to immigration

Private sector business owners benefit from immigrant workers.

7. What is your opinion of management’s style in respect to staff retention?

Very positive Positive Average Mediocre

8. How would you rate HR at your previous place(s) of employment? Check all that apply. Knowledgeable



Fair in decision-making

Proactive and aware of issues like market trends, training, etc.

None of the above





My name is Wilbert Connor and I am a student at the Apollos University working on a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) degree. I am doing a research study entitled “The impact of natural disasters on labor shortage in Dominica”. The purpose of the research study is to determine the extent to which natural disasters like Hurricane Maria and other factors have led to a labor shortage in both the private and public sectors and make recommendations to improve the socio-economic wellbeing of the country.

Your participation will involve answering a few questions on a prepared questionnaire. It will be sent to you via email or WhatsApp messaging and you will be required to send it back when completed. You can decide to be a part of this study or not. Once you start, you can withdraw from the study at any time without any penalty or loss of benefits. The results of the research study may be published but your identity will remain confidential and your name will not be made known to any outside party.

In this research, there are no foreseeable risks to you.

Although there may be no direct benefit to you, a possible benefit from your being part of this study is to contribute to the development of Dominica's economy and its safe and resilient recovery through the recommendations that I will provide.

If you have any questions about the research study, please call me at 804-332-7121 or email me at For questions about your rights as a study participant, or any concerns or complaints, please contact the Apollos University via email at

As a participant in this study, you should understand the following:

1. You may decide not to be part of this study or you may want to withdraw from the study at any time. If you want to withdraw, you can do so without any problems.
2. Your identity will be kept confidential.
3. Wilbert Connor, the researcher, has fully explained the nature of the research study and has answered all of your questions and concerns.
4. If interviews are done, they may be recorded. If they are recorded, you must give permission for the researcher, Wilbert Connor, to record the interviews. You understand that the information from the recorded interviews may be transcribed. The researcher will develop a way to code the data to assure that your name is protected.
5. Data will be kept in a secure and locked area. The data will be kept for three years, and then destroyed.
6. The results of this study may be published.

"By signing this form, you agree that you understand the nature of the study, the possible risks to you as a participant, and how your identity will be kept confidential. When you sign this form, this means that you are 18 years old or older and that you give your permission to volunteer as a participant in the study that is described here.” ( ) I accept the above terms ( ) I do not accept the above terms (CHECK ONE) Signature of the interviewee Date Signature of the researcher Date Current version 032012


1. Nurse Felix, why do you think that there was an increase in the number of nurses who migrated after Hurricane Maria?

Nurse Felix: “I can already say that nurses who migrated did not leave because of (Hurricane) Maria. Working conditions were already bad so many (of them) hastened their migration plans. Maria was the straw that broke the camel’s back. But I can also say that having lost property due to Maria many could not repair because of the lack of insurance. So yes, migration is related though not a direct cause”.

2. Is the nurse population adequate for the population?

Nurse Felix: “Even with the recruitment of Cuban nurses it is inadequate since we do not satisfy the nurse: patient ratio recommended by the International Council of Nurses”.

3. Are you able to provide actual numbers?

Nurse Felix: “I have been trying but to no avail”.


119 of 119 pages


The Impact of Natural Disasters on Labor Shortage in Dominica
Catalog Number
ISBN (Book)
impact, natural, disasters, labor, shortage, dominica
Quote paper
Wilbert Connor (Author), 2019, The Impact of Natural Disasters on Labor Shortage in Dominica, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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