By SANCHESKA BROWN Tribune News Reporter email@example.com BECAUSE of the high level of unemployment, the Department of Immigration decreased the number of work permits issued in 2011 by 24 per cent, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Immigration Brent Symonette said yesterday. From January 1 to December 31, 2011, the Department of Immigration issued 7,091 work permits, 2,299 less than the 9,390 issued in 2010 and 1,025 less than 2009. Mr Symonette revealed these statistics while answering questions posed to him by Opposition members in the House of Assembly. "We are putting Bahamians first," Mr Symonette said. "We are not issuing permits to foreigners for jobs Bahamians can do. The department has tightened its level of scrutiny on work permit applications and as a consequence 2,299 fewer permits were issued in 2011 than in 2010. Another reason for the decrease is a lot of the companies that were in the Bahamas are no longer here so their employees went with them. To say the economic downturn is the only reason is not entirely correct but it is one of the main reasons." Of the 7,091 work permits issued last year 53 per cent or 3,793 were given to housekeepers and handymen - 1,671 and 2,122 respectively. Mr Symonette said the reason for the high numbers is because Bahamians simply "don't want the jobs." "More than half of the work permits went to non-skilled labour. Bahamians complain about the number of work permits we issue and the unemployment rate however they refuse to do the jobs. They think its menial and beneath them and they just won't do it. Well, you can't have your cake and eat it too," he said. "A lot of Bahamian households have Jamaican maids and because Bahamian women rather apply to work in the hotel as housekeepers than in a home. Then you have a large category of Peruvian and Filipino live ins. These people require work permits. You have a large number of Haitian gardeners. I know one man who has had his work permit renewed 20 times because Bahamians just won't do the work." Work permits for construction workers decreased by 53 per cent, from 565 in 2010 to 291 in 2011. Farm labourers also decreased significantly from 549 to 441. In fact, of the 24 categories of jobs that foreigners were granted work permits in 2011 all but eight saw decreases compared to the same period in 2010. The categories where increases were seen are listed as follows: * Cooks: 141 - 145 * Consultants: 51 - 89 * Guest Organisers: 49 - 64 * Maintenance Men: 49 - 59 * Presidents: 0 - 3 * Projects Mangers: 43 - 57 * Surveyors: 25-31 * Attorneys: 0 - 4 Mr Symonette said the government expects more declines in the issuance of voters cards with the introduction of the new training programme, which is designed to provide more Bahamians with skills for jobs now being done by non Bahamians. Of the 7,091 work permits issued last year. 5,958 were issued on new tamper proof, electronic cards.