By International standards, minerals most valuable on the international market are found in: Cuba, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. Several nations of the Caribbean are rich in natural resources; including Trinidad's natural gas reserves, Jamaican bauxite and most recently the discovery of a large oil field in Guyana. The resources that make significant contributions to domestic economies and regional job sectors include, but are not limited to: fisheries, agriculture, forestry, mining and oil and gas bauxite, iron, nickel, petroleum and timber. It has been noted by some that the Caribbean’s most important resources are its tropical island setting, which has generated a unique tourism sector. The attention by regional governments towards economic diversification in the early 1990s is often associated with increased production in tourism, oil, and nickel, spurred by foreign investment in these primary industries.
Along with contributing to the Caribbean’s GDP, agriculture also contributes to domestic food supply, and provides employment. While agriculture is the major economic land-use activity in many Caribbean countries, agriculture accounts for a declining number of most islands' GDP. However, unlike many developed countries, this trend may be accounted for by a growing tertiary sector, as opposed to industrial growth except for Trinidad and Tobago and Mexico. Some of the associations representing the agricultural industry in the region are: the Caribbean Food Crop Society (CFCS); the Windward Islands Farmers Association (WINFA), with some in Saint Vincent, representing the interests of FairTrade certified producers in Saint Vincent, Saint Lucia, Dominica and Grenada.
While globalization in its modern context undoubtedly has changed the dynamic of Caribbean economics, it is worth noting that “the countries of the commonwealth have been passively integrated into the international economy for all of their modern history”. From foundations built on the plantation economy, the Caribbean economy has always involved reliance on one or several export sectors. While numerous attempts at market diversification have been made, the struggle to develop the political and economic infrastructure necessary to successfully respond to market fluctuations, and loss of competitiveness, in key export sectors remains a struggle. A recent example includes the dismantling of the Lome Convention, which provided Caribbean Banana exports preferential treatment from the EU, by the WTO in 1999.
In 2010 the labor force participation rate in the Caribbean was 77% and in 2011 it was recorded that GDP per capita in the Caribbean communities average near $10,000. Due to the lack of economic opportunity and low GDP per capita levels, Caribbean people are travelling in large numbers to developed countries. Globally, Grenada has the third highest percentage of emigrate at 67.3%, St. Kitts and Nevis is fourth at 61.0% and Guyana is fifth at 56.8%. Most of these Caribbean emigrants are women.
Historically, the Caribbean’s banana industry has been the one of the biggest exports; however, agriculture is beginning to decline in the world economy. Now, it is the exportation of labor that is on the rise in the Caribbean. Caribbean women are migrating to developed countries for the opportunity to study particularly in nursing programs. Women in the Caribbean migrate in large numbers to developed countries such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and France. These host countries have better education and resources that provide better health care knowledge and health care training. In these developed regions of the word, Caribbean women receive more on and off the job training as well. Educational opportunities for health care allow women in the Caribbean to receive advanced knowledge on nursing and their degrees are recognized in their host countries.
With advanced education come more career opportunities. In the host countries, there is a lot of demand for healthcare workers, which means more job opportunities for the women. Caribbean women also emigrate in such large numbers to developed countries to earn higher pay. Income earned in host countries is usually enough for a female immigrant from the Caribbean to live off of and still send remittances back home. Additionally, the currencies from host countries have more purchasing power than the domestic currency in the Caribbean. Money being sent back to Caribbean countries allows for individuals to set up for retirement accounts and provide financial support to the families that the Caribbean women left behind.
The labor exportation from the Caribbean to the host countries is offering education and employment opportunities to women, but is also limiting the opportunities for the Caribbean. The educated women who want to learn advanced skills and have the potential to make a difference in and on their home countries are travelling abroad, and in large part are staying abroad to take full advantage of the education and the economic prospects. The health care education systems and quality of health care declines because the participants are leaving. Guyana is one of the top 10 countries that export labor. In the rural areas, 80% of their health care is provided by nurses. Lately, however, there been serious deficiencies and neglect in the health care market due to Caribbean nurses staying abroad after pursuing their education. Guyana’s economy is also heavily dependent of remittances. Guyana is one of the top countries to benefit from remittances from nursing labor. The country’s largest source of foreign exchange is remittances with there being approximately $218 million United States dollars counted in 2006 from remittances, money that did not include transfers from the informal sectors. This dependence on the developed foreign economy leaves Guyana vulnerable to any changes or crashes that the developed country may face. The remittances that Guyana is receiving are helping to sustain the economy but also have the potential effect of really crippling it, if nurses lose their jobs or receive pay cuts and can no longer send back a hefty amount of remittances.
The Caribbean governments are increasingly looking at the need for digital communications networks to help economic growth.