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Record number of migrant workers

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THE number of migrant workers in Jersey increased to its highest ever level this year, despite States pledges to restrict the number of work licences issued to businesses.

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The latest Labour Market report, produced by Statistics Jersey, showed that the number of registered workers increased by 400 between June 2017 and 2018 to stand at 6,380 – a record number. But the number of registered staff in the hospitality industry, which employs the most migrant workers, fell by ten to 2,460 workers.

Registered workers are migrants who have lived in the Island for less than five years. Businesses require a licence to employ them. Last year the States committed to reducing the number of licences issued to firms in an attempt to help control immigration.

Sectors where there was a substantial increase in registered staff this year included construction and quarrying, wholesale and retail, education and health.

A number of hospitality businesses have complained in recent months that they have had difficulties in recruiting staff due to the government’s stricter approach to issuing work licences.

Justin Saunders, head chef at Ruby’s bistro, in New Street, said that it was ‘completely unfair’ that hospitality had been allowed fewer registered staff while other sectors were issued more licences.

‘All the people in construction, retail, education and health need places to eat, drink and socialise, so they need us,’ he said. ‘Unless something is done a lot of businesses are going to become untenable. Other sectors like health and education are not income-generating for the Island but hospitality is.’

Mr Saunders, who is concerned that under-staffing in his fledgling business may force it to close, said that he believed that some businesses are holding on to excess work licences.

‘We have been refused licences and the local people do not want to work in the sector. We are coming up to our busiest period of the year and we won’t have the staff we need,’ he said. ‘Businesses are being forced to employ staff off the books and face a £5,000 fine for doing so, but they are being backed into a corner by the States. The States need to explain what they are going to do about it. I have heard that that there are restaurants which have three or four spare licences and are just sitting on them. I think all of the licences need to be withdrawn and reissued.’

A States spokeswoman said that the number of registered workers was growing in certain sectors due to the ‘essential’ work that they carry out. ‘Increases in registered workers have arisen in the construction, education and health sectors. This reflects the need to provide more homes and to maintain essential infrastructure,’ she said. ‘And as our society ages the Island needs more people working in areas like the care industry.’

She added: ‘The hospitality industry has the largest number of permissions of any sector, and employs an essentially unchanged number of registered workers [compared to last year]. Employment in the sector remains at the highest level for the last five years. Government will continue to support the sector to remain buoyant, while also managing immigration into Jersey.’

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