The States’ senior committee – Policy & Resources – has declined the chance to back far-reaching proposals to change the island’s population policy.
Deputies will soon be asked to vote on encouraging higher levels of inward migration by making it easier for people to move to the island for work.
Under the proposals put forward by the Committee for Home Affairs, the States’ strategic population policy would be changed to assume that “net inward migration will average up to +300 per year over the next 30 years” – three times higher than the average over the past 12 years. This is forecast to maintain the working-age population at around 31,000 and increase the total size of the population to around 68,000 by the year 2051.
Reviewing population policies is one of the States’ top 10 priorities, but Policy & Resources has declined to take a committee position on the proposed changes or advise the Assembly whether to support them.
Pictured: This chart, published by the States, forecasts the size of the island's population overall in future years as adjustments are made to net migration (the number of people coming to the island minus the number leaving).
Pictured: This chart, published by the States, forecasts the size of the working population in future years as adjustments are made to net migration (the number of people coming to the island minus the number leaving).
The President of the Policy & Resources Committee, Deputy Peter Ferbrache, said the Committee accepted that “an increase in the working population is necessary to sustain the island’s economic competitiveness in the long-term”.
“However,…there are myriad additional factors caused by a growing population – not least the impact on infrastructure and public services – that must be managed, cutting across multiple workstreams of government,” he said.
“Notwithstanding the evidence-based work that fed into the revised strategic population objective, the Committee has not considered nor agreed a position on the proposed objective.
“Rather, it maintains that its members should vote as they individually believe appropriate when the matter is debated by the States in October, having listened to the arguments presented in both the policy letter and during debate.”
Pictured: The Policy & Resources Committee has a mandate to advise the States on strategic policies but has said it will not be taking a single Committee view on proposals to encourage net inward migration to increase from around 100 per year to around 300 per year.
The island’s system of employment permits will see significant change if the States’ Assembly backs the proposals.
More jobs would attract short-term employment permits for workers from around the world. And five-year employment permits would be scrapped in favour of issuing more long-term employment permits which allow people to remain the island indefinitely.
The Committee for Economic Development has come out offering more support for the proposed reforms.
“The Committee is supportive of the work being undertaken in order to set out clearly that +300 net migration is needed over the next 30 years. There are clear benefits to the economy and tax take in terms of the numbers of active workers,” said the President of the Committee for Economic Development, Deputy Neil Inder.
“Further work will be needed on the composition of the 300 and the Committee would welcome the opportunity to have direct input into that work should the States agree that proposition.
“The Committee agrees with the point made in the Policy Letter that it will take a States-wide approach to resolve the demographic challenge that is posed to our economic future. This Policy Letter is an important, constructive and significant step, but there is much work for this Assembly to do in order to meet that challenge.”
Pictured: The Committee for Economic Development backs population growth to help prevent the sun setting on the island's relative economic prosperity.
The Committee for Employment & Social Security said it “noted that population and immigration are challenging policy topics [and] wished to recognise that, overall, the draft Policy Letter successfully pulls together many different strands of work and complex information”.
However, it has raised multiple concerns and objections about the proposals on which deputies will vote, including that the headline proposal to assume net inward migration of an average of up to 300 per year over the next 30 years is too vague.
“For the planning of housing and other essential infrastructure, the Committee is of the view that the figure for average net migration needs to be expressed as a fixed number rather than a range. The use of a range leaves the objective open to differential interpretation and the Committee believes that it would be prudent for the Committee for Home Affairs to provide more specificity in this respect,” said the Vice-President of the Committee for Employment & Social Security, Deputy Lindsay de Sausmarez.
The Committee was also critical of “inadequate” information provided about land requirements for additional housing needed to accommodate a higher number of immigrants.
Pictured: The Committee for Employment & Social Security has concerns about the pressure on land if the States encourage higher levels of inward migration and an increase in overall population close to 70,000.
The Committee for Health & Social Care said it was “broadly supportive of the strategic population objective and the need to address some of the longer-term related challenges as a means to enable key workers to come to the island”.
However, the President of the Committee for Health & Social Care, Deputy Al Brouard, said the benefits of changes proposed to encourage more skilled workers to migrate to the island “will likely only be realised if there is sufficient key worker accommodation for them to live in” and if recent delays issuing immigration documents are resolved.
Pictured: The Committee for Health & Social Care broadly supports proposals to relax inward migration rules but warns that doing so will not necessarily encourage more key workers into the island unless there is adequate housing to accommodate them.
The Committee for Education, Sport & Culture expressed no view on the proposal to aim for net inward migration of 300 people per year but said its expenditure could be affected by relaxing immigration controls.
“The removal of the medium-term employment permit and consequential increase in long-term employment permits is likely to result in more family groups relocating to Guernsey as it removes uncertainty surrounding the potential need to relocate at key stages of a child’s education. Given this, the proportion of pre- and school-aged children arriving in the island for whom English is an additional language (EAL) might well increase,” said the President of the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture, Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen.
“Whilst, in the longer term, EAL is seen as an educational advantage, in the short term any significant increase in EAL students would have resource implications for schools which would be unlikely to be met from within the Committee’s existing budget.”
Pictured (top, clockwise from left): Deputies Peter Ferbrache, Neil Inder, Lindsay de Sausmarez, Andrea Dudley-Owen and Al Brouard.
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