Ocho Rios grows as St Ann's Bay slows
Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
Despite being the capital of St Ann, St Ann's Bay continues to lag behind the resort town of Ocho Rios in several areas of development, including job creation, business, and maybe superfluously, population growth.
Figures from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN ) paint an interesting picture of how the populations of the respective towns have shifted over the years.
For the period 1982 to 1991, St Ann's Bay recorded a 19.8 per cent population growth, moving from 7,496 to 8,983.
For the same period, Ocho Rios' growth was sluggish, moving just 3.95 per cent, from 6,618 to 6,880.
However, during the following decade, there was a dramatic change in growth pattern that saw Ocho Rios' population outstripping that of the capital.
Figures for 2001 show that while the population of St Ann's Bay grew by 16.2 per cent to 10,441, Ocho Rios' population went into overdrive, spiralling by 129 per cent to stand at 15,769.
This is an increase of 8,889 over 10 years, or an average of 2.4 persons moving to Ocho Rios daily for 10 years straight.
And while Ocho Rios recorded growth in all age groups for the 1991-2001 period, St Ann's Bay showed decline in all age groups below 35 years.
The figures also indicate that nearly 10 per cent of the total population of St Ann now lives in Ocho Rios.
The largest growth rate took place in the 35-44 age group where males recorded a 164 per cent increase, and females, 143 per cent. In real terms, the figure grew from 896 to 2,270, an increase of 1,374.
The largest increase in numbers was in the 0-14 age group where the figure jumped by 2,211, moving from 2,626 to 4,837. This is an increase of 84 per cent.
The increase in the 35-44 age group could be an indication of skilled/experienced workers moving into the Ocho Rios suburb to access jobs, especially in the tourism and construction industry.
Immediate past president of the St Ann Chamber of Commerce, Horace Wildes, although surprised at the steep rise in the population of Ocho Rios, said the resort town has taken over as the commercial centre of not just St Ann, but the northern region of Jamaica. As a result, more opportunities are opening up in Ocho Rios, he said.
The 1990s, he said, was also when the Ocho Rios cruise sector really developed.
But according to Wildes, the population increase was not due only to a shift from St Ann's Bay.
"We also need to take into consideration the informal settlers, and also the Indian community," Wildes said.
He added: "Additionally, St Ann's Bay doesn't have the scope to develop, and what you find is that some persons in St Ann's Bay would rather do business in Ocho Rios. So it's a number of factors that impact the relocation."
There are numerous employment opportunities in the Ocho Rios area, especially in the tourism sector, as there are several hotels, attractions, shopping plazas, restaurants, and other establishments.
In St Ann's Bay, which is not a resort town, the opposite prevails.
However, St Ann's Bay as capital is home to most government offices and agencies, including the Registrar General's Department, the Inland Revenue Department, the National Water Commission and the Jamaica Public Service. However, the National Housing Trust was relocated to Ocho Rios some years ago.
Did you know?
A population and housing census is taken every 10 years.
Population of Jamaica for 2001 was 2,548,047, and for 2009, the estimated population was 2,698,810 (males 1,329,341, and females 1,369,469).
Jamaicans are living longer, and for the period 2002-2004, life expectancy at age zero was 74 years (71 years for males and 77 years for females) compared to 69 years in 1976-1978 (68 years for males and 70 years for females).
Between 1991 and 2001, the male population grew slightly faster (9.9 per cent) than the female population (9.1 per cent).