Increasing productivity is now a priority, says minister
REVERSING the trend of declining productivity in the Island’s workforce will help control population growth and is now a government priority, the Economic Economic Development Minister has said.
Figures published this week by Statistics Jersey revealed that the Island has lagged behind Guernsey and the UK in improving the ‘economic standard of living’ for its residents over the past few years.
Gross Domestic Product per head – the statistical measure of economic standard of living – has grown by just two per cent in real terms in Jersey since 2012, compared to eight per cent in Guernsey and seven per cent in the UK.
Meanwhile, productivity [the economic output per worker measured in goods and services produced] has dropped by almost a quarter over the past decade.
During a public hearing with the Economic Affairs Scrutiny Panel, Senator Lyndon Farnham said that boosting productivity was a ‘priority’ and his department was putting together a new policy framework to tackle the issue.
The minister said that if productivity improved, then the Island would be less reliant on immigration to grow its economy.
‘Productivity is connected to population and to improving the standard of living for Islanders and has to be at the heart of everything we do,’ he said.
‘For the department it is a high-level priority. We will be addressing it with a new economic framework, which my department will be leading on.’
The minister also said, however, that Jersey’s productivity figures had been disproportionately affected by low interest rates, which had eaten into the profits of banks based in the Island.
Dan Houseago, the States group director for economy, said that improving worker productivity was the ‘main challenge’ for the department.
‘The productivity figures weren’t all bad. We have had four years of sustained growth,’ he said.
‘Having said that, we suffer from some problems in the economy. The main one is the productivity challenge and we need to address it.
‘One of the big issues has been that there has been no overarching framework in place.’
Mr Houseago said that it was unlikely that sustainable productivity improvements could be achieved within one political term.
‘We are looking for a framework which is medium to long-term politically,’ he said.
‘It is important to improve productivity across all sectors and not just finance.’
The hearing was also attended by assistant minister Deputy Montfort Tadier, as well as panel members Deputies Kirsten Morel, David Johnson and Scott Wickenden.