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‘Leave the population policy alone’

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FURTHER calls for the government to leave Jersey’s immigration rules alone until Brexit is complete and keep the Island ‘open for business’ have been made by the Institute of Directors.

The Institute of Directors has argued that the States should wait until Brexit has finished before debating changes to the Island's immigration policy

Last week the JEP revealed that the Chamber of Commerce is lobbying the States to introduce greater incentives for foreign workers to come to the Island, rather than introduce stricter immigration controls as planned, with an increasing number of businesses facing staffing difficulties.

In a letter written to the Population Office, the Chamber of Commerce called for the debate on the proposed population policy, which includes plans for four-year work permits and tougher criminal checks, to be postponed until the UK’s post-Brexit position on the immigration of EU nationals is known.

The body, which represents Jersey business interests, also raised concerns that reliance on local workers could drive wages up and increase staff turnover for firms.

Chris Clark, the chairman of the Jersey Institute of Directors, said that he ‘absolutely’ agreed with the Chamber of Commerce’s position on postponing the population policy debate, which Chief Minister Ian Gorst had hoped would take place in March.

‘The Island already has in place robust controls and measures to assess and validate migrant workers,’ he said.

‘These measures have been in place for several years and at a time of such upheaval beyond our shores, should not be tinkered with for political benefit in the short term when they could have a catastrophic impact on the economy in the near to long term.

‘While the Island is flourishing and enjoying a period of incredibly low unemployment, should Brexit have a negative impact on the Island’s ability to operate internationally, this could have a significant impact on the Island.

‘Therefore, the current demand for workers will naturally reduce without the need for a shift in policy, which would send a negative statement to people considering investing in the Island.’

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Mr Clark added that the IoD believed that ‘all sectors’ of industry in Jersey – including hospitality, agriculture, digital, financial services and the public sector – were suffering recruitment issues when it came to finding local staff.

‘Presently, all sectors are seeing the challenges of recruitment and retention first hand, with churn [turnover], wage inflation [increased salaries] and a constraint on access to skills,’ he said.

‘Our education system, while excellent, cannot react to market needs or market opportunity – therefore industry needs access to talented individuals who can support colleagues in many sectors to support rather than constrain the Island’s continued prosperity.

‘In conclusion, we acknowledge that it is critical that Jersey has in place a coherent population policy; one that is well considered and implemented to support the island’s essential service and diverse ecosystem. We strongly disagree with the introduction of short-term licences as they will do nothing to demonstrate an Island that is “open for business” – far from it. We also must move away from language about high and low-value migration. We need a balanced and joined-up approach that creates a diverse, sustainable economy and ecosystem.’

The Institute is inviting Islanders who ‘wish to challenge’ the proposed immigration policies to their mid-year review on 6 March at the Pomme d’Or Hotel. Tickets are available at iod.je and Eventbrite.com.

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
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