Population policy panel’s diversity is questioned

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During a public Scrutiny hearing, Jersey Business chief executive Graeme Smith and Lorie Rault, of the Jersey Retail Association, outlined concerns that the Migration Policy Board contained no young members and that businesses in the Polish and Portuguese communities would not feel represented by the group.

The board, which is chaired by Assistant Chief Minister Chris Taylor, is due to lodge initial proposals for the long-awaited population policy this autumn, with its final findings to be published in April 2020.

Its members include Deputy Judy Martin, Environment Minister John Young, Senator Sarah Ferguson, Deputy Rowland Huelin, Dr Michael Oliver, Chamber of Commerce chief executive Murray Norton and John Shenton, of the Institute of Directors.

During the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel hearing, Deputy Jess Perchard, who is chairing a review of the board’s work, asked whether the JRA and Jersey Business felt they were adequately represented on the board.

Ms Rault said that it was ‘welcome’ to see Chamber and the IOD sitting on the board and that good ‘information flow back’ to businesses would be needed from the two representatives.

However, she added: ‘There’s not many younger people, it didn’t seem that diverse a representation of our community – there are some concerns,’ she said.

Mr Smith added that he would like to see a young person on the board and that he was concerned the Island’s Polish and Portuguese communities, who run many businesses in Jersey, might not feel represented.

‘I think it’s a good panel, but for diversity and age demographics it’s not there and I think it needs to be,’ he said.

‘I would actually be quite brave and get someone who has left school or university and is relatively new into business – with some experience of the real world – and I think that would be quite refreshing.

‘I also don’t think that it represents our full range of communities. I don’t know whether that is an issue or not, but it would be good if there could be some representatives.

‘There’s a lot of Polish and Portuguese businesses and they probably would not see the panel as something which could represent their views. You’re never going to satisfy every group but I think perhaps there could be a couple of additions.’

Mr Smith added that the main challenge most businesses faced in Jersey was finding the right staff for their business rather than working out how to grow their company.

He said that opportunities to grow Jersey’s economy were being missed because businesses were not confident they would be able to find the right staff to expand.

‘We are potentially missing a massive uplift in our GVA [Gross Value Added, Jersey’s economic output] because businesses won’t invest – their biggest concern is not the business model, it’s how can I get the skilled resources,’ he said.

‘It doesn’t mean there’s an easy answer but businesses will take the view that “I’m not going to take that risk because I won’t get the skilled resources”.

‘So, the levels of investment in tourism and other areas so that we can improve our productivity are not as likely.’

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