COMMENT: Let's have straight talking

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ANOTHER month has passed without any sight of the long-awaited population policy. Statistics recently released do, however, cast an interesting light on the attitude of ministers to this seemingly intractable problem.

The Assistant Chief Minister has been very keen to demonstrate his enthusiasm to crack down on rampant immigration by quoting the number of permissions that have been revoked.

We are informed that 283 permanent registered permissions have been removed since the beginning of the year, but he failed to mention the 193 extra permissions in the same category. A closer look at the statistics is revealing. For registered workers – less-qualified migrants who have lived in Jersey for under five years – there are a total of 9,806 permissions available in June 2017. In December 2016, 5,090 jobs were recorded in the manpower survey in this category.

That leaves 4,716 unused permissions. For licensed workers – recent migrants with key skills – there are 2,780 permissions available, with 1,870 actual jobs counted in December 2016, leaving 910 spare. Altogether, there appear to be roughly 6,000 extra permissions slopping around in the system that businesses do not need.

As such, a net reduction of just 90 does not suggest that the problem is being addressed seriously. After five years, a registered or licensed worker gains entitled-to-work status and the job permission can be recycled.

This creates a never-ending supply of registered job opportunities and we all know that it is job growth that fuels population growth. The latest population estimate was 104,200. If businesses took up these permissions, this would soar above 110,000 before dependants are taken into account.

The Council of Ministers is running out of time to engage the public in a debate on a new policy that will create effective controls in this area. There are strong views on both sides of the argument – many businesses complain that they do not have enough permissions, but on the other hand, there are significant concerns that continued net increases of 1,500 to 1,700 a year will place an unbearable strain on the Island's environment and services and create inflationary demand for limited housing resources.

The choices made in this area will influence every aspect of local life in the coming decades. Ministers need to be straight with the public and provide all the relevant information.

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