Like I keep saying, it will be a decade or more before Puerto Rico seriously recovers. The damage is too great and the local government is too corrupt. Anyone with marketable skills flees as soon as they can:
To job-seekers in a place that has double-digit unemployment, severe damage from two punishing, back-to-back hurricanes, and an ongoing fiscal crisis, the advertised jobs look awfully appealing. There’s “competitive compensation,” health insurance, life insurance, tuition assistance, a 401(k), free meals and a $1,000 bonus, in two installments, if you stick with it a year. But the jobs aren’t on what locals proudly call “La Isla Del Encanto” (Isle of Enchantment). They’re in Cincinnati, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and other faraway locales. And while the jobs themselves – working in food service at U.S. airports and in highway rest stops – might not be glamorous, they are still a step up for Puerto Ricans desperate for reliable work and worried that their battered island home might not recover enough, or in enough time, to provide a future for themselves and their children.
The problem, experts here say, is that Puerto Rico is in danger of losing one of its most critical assets, its skilled workforce, at a time when the island is in dire need of rebuilding. Teachers are leaving for more secure jobs on the mainland, a predictable outcome after the cash-strapped government announced it would close some 200 schools. Police, thousands of whom called in sick daily last year because they were not being paid overtime, are finding brighter futures in cities eager to find trained, bilingual officers.
Medical personnel, who were complaining about not getting paid for services long before Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit last year, have been moving to the mainland. And people in the hospitality field, a key labor sector for the Caribbean island’s tourism industry, are looking for new work as Puerto Rico strains to recover. Across the street from the Verdanza Hotel, where HMSHost was recruiting, major tourist hotels were largely empty and offering just basic accommodations, the clean, white-sand beaches of the Isla Verde neighborhood bereft of the usual throngs of sunbathers and the hotel workers who bring them drinks and towels.