And continuing restrictions as a result of the pandemic could see unprecedented levels of debt among Islanders, the chief executive of Citizens Advice Malcolm Ferey has warned.
Last year Islanders seeking help from CAB owed more than £4 million, the highest recorded figure since the 2008 recession but Mr Ferey warned that the situation could become worse.
‘Covid was not the whole of last year so I have genuine concerns about what lies ahead with the challenges that so many of our traditional industries face this year. People are contacting us in great levels of distress either because they’ve lost jobs, expect to lose jobs or, at the very least, have lost overtime or additional hours that they would do at weekends in the hospitality industry. The longer it goes on, the greater the challenges for personal finances,’ he said.
Mr Ferey’s comments come as Numbeo, an online cost-of-living index, produced figures which purported to show that the cost of living in Jersey was among the highest in the world.
The website, which collects and compares a range of prices submitted by members of the public throughout the world, suggests that Jersey is more expensive than Monaco and New York, and almost twice as expensive as London, excluding rental costs.
However, while many of the prices listed for St Helier would appear to be in tune with what Islanders may expect, there are some discrepancies.
Since the figures are based on unverified information submitted by members of the public, they are open to rogue data which, in the case of Jersey, includes a 1.5 litre bottle of water listed at £79.33. The figures are also based on only 372 entries in the past 12 months by 42 individuals.
But while Daniel Edmunds, from Statistics Jersey, said that the website ‘had its limitations’ and that he would not use crowd-sourced information of this kind to form a judgment, he added that he would not be surprised if Jersey was high in international comparisons for cost of living.
Statistics Jersey produces periodic data to benchmark the Island with the UK, with the body’s most recent figures showing that the Island’s cost of living was roughly 20% higher than that of the UK.
‘Jersey is an expensive jurisdiction and, if you are comparing Jersey with other countries, you will find that it has a higher cost of living than most of them. We know we are more expensive than the UK and we know we are more expensive than most European countries,’ he said.
Mr Ferey agreed, describing Jersey as having been ‘notoriously an expensive place to live’ with the cost of housing, food and clothing weighing heavily on many household budgets.
‘The internet has been a great leveller which is why more and more people are tending to do their shopping online but, of course, there is a delicate balance between supporting your local economy and being able to buy goods and services which are within your budget.
‘The flip side is that Jersey is a safe and pleasant place to live but there is a large and growing number of people for whom day-to-day budgeting is a real struggle and, of course, Covid has highlighted these inequalities,’ Mr Ferey said.