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Quality of life in Jersey has dropped, OECD index shows

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ISLANDERS’ quality of life has taken a tumble over the past six years according to an OECD ranking which looks at wellbeing markers including health, work-life balance and civic engagement.

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The index shows the cost of housing is crushing disposable income, despite an overall high employment level.

Jersey was ranked 19 out of 39 OECD countries surveyed for the Better Life Index, falling behind the UK, France, US, Ireland and Belgium among others and sliding four places down the ranking since the index was last released in 2013.

The Island’s index score of 6.8 out of 10 put it marginally above the OECD average, as well as Spain and Israel. In 2013 the Island’s index score was 7.5.

The index considered 11 markers for quality of life including health, environment, unemployment and income disparity to achieve the quality of life ranking.

Jersey ranked high on the indicator for health, with 81% of adults reporting they were in either excellent or good health compared with the OECD average of 69%.

But Jersey was bottom of the table on civic engagement, with the lowest voter turnouts of the 39 nations included.

And the disposable income available to Islanders falls considerably below the OECD average – at $25,300 compared to an average of $30,600.

In this measure, the Island has fallen from third out of 37 countries in 2013 to 21out of 39 in the most recent index.

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While Jersey has one of the lowest unemployment rates (3/39) it is in the top third on an index looking at income inequality.

Chief Statistician Duncan Gibault said the Better Life index was created to give a ‘richer’ picture of quality of life than the more simplistic measure of GDP per capita.

Yet both measures are showing the same trend, he said, quality of life and income are sliding in Jersey while other countries – notably France and the UK – are pulling away.

‘GDP per capita has been falling for ten years,’ Dr Gibaut said.

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The Island’s sky-high housing costs are now the second worst among the the OECD (38/39), with only New Zealanders seeing more of their disposable income gobbled up by rent or mortgage payments.

In 2013, Jersey’s ranking was 11/37 on that measure.

However, Islanders have one of the highest life expectancies in the OECD – 82.6 years – ranking fourth out of the 39 nations.

Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farmham said it was ‘disappointing’ that the index showed such a decline in quality of life.

‘But quality of life in Jersey is still very good and there are some areas where we score very well,’ he said.

He added that the findings of the index could be an important tool for policy development as the Island tries to move forward.

‘Perhaps in the past we have been too focused on fiscal aspects of economic growth. While important, we must remember why we strive to be economically successful and that is to improve the quality of life of Islanders.’

Senator Farnham suggested that the Island’s economy was harder hit following the financial crisis in 2008 due its size and the importance of the banking industry locally.

Tania Targett

By Tania Targett
Journalist

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