The Barbadian economy stems from a diverse population, which is one of the world's most highly educated, with a literacy rate very close to 100 percent. The currency is the Barbados dollar, which is linked to the U.S. dollar at a rate of BDS$2.00 to U.S.$1.00. Excellent public and private bus and taxi services take advantage of nearly 1,300 kilometers of roads and make it possible to move easily and quickly, and relatively cheaply, from any spot on the island to any other. Barbados supports one of the three campuses of the University of the West Indies (the others are in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago). The local campus (Cave Hill) offers degrees in the physical, biological, and social sciences, in the humanities, and in law and medicine. Barbados Community College was modeled along lines originally established by the California community-college system; it offers a wide variety of courses in technical fields and the liberal arts. Advanced education is also available through a teacher-training college, a polytechnic college, the Extra Mural Centre of the University of the West Indies (which has branch campuses on all eastern Caribbean islands), and a hotel school. A large number of private and public primary and secondary schools offer educational programs modeled on those in the United Kingdom.
The year 1960 initiated a structural change in the Barbadian economy marked by decline in sugar production and the growth of industrial manufacturing and tourism. By 1980, the sugar industry contributed only about 6 percent of domestic output and accounted for less than 10 percent of employment and 10 percent of foreign-exchange earnings. At the same time, manufacturing and tourism contributed respectively about 11 percent and 12 percent of domestic output and about 18 percent and 41 percent of foreign-exchange earnings. These proportions remained about the same a decade later. Sugar plantations were turned into manufacturing sites, subdivided for new housing sites or small agricultural plots, or converted to the production of vegetables for a growing domestic market for food. Manufactured goods include garments, furniture, ceramics, pharmaceuticals, phonograph records and tapes, processed wood, paints, structural components for construction, industrial gases, refined petroleum, paper products, and solar-energy units. Data processing and assembly of electronics components also figure in the ecconomic array. Barbados served as a tourist destination as early as the 1600s; it advertises that George Washington was one of its more illustrious early visitors. The growth of tourism on Barbados, however, as throughout the world, depended on the rise of cheap, global transportation and rising proportions of discretionary income. Small numbers of tourists come from South America and other islands in the Caribbean. A significant stream of tourists come from northwestern Europe, primarily the U.K. Most tourists, however, come from the United States and Canada, which send many flights to the island daily, and, during the height of the tourist season, cruise ships call almost daily. Long known in the Caribbean as "Little England," many Barbadians now claim that the island's increasingly important ties to the United States have transformed it into "Little America."