Jersey’s government has published its long-awaited plan for controlling the island’s growing population while meeting the needs of industry, including a shortage of skilled workers.
It proposes to cap net migration to no more than 700 people a year, to introduce short-term 10-month work permits for unskilled seasonal workers, with four-year work permits for skilled staff, both linked to specific jobs with specific employers.
Seasonal workers could return after leaving the island for two-month, while the four-year licences for skilled workers could be extended if there was evidence from an employer that somebody with those skills didn’t exist on-island.
Once somebody has lived in Jersey for five years, they would then be granted ‘entitled to work’ status, meaning they could remain resident and work where they wish.
The Council of Ministers acknowledge coming up with a population policy had both upsides and downsides: “If immigration remains as high as it has been in recent years, the housing and extra infrastructure needed will fundamentally change the character of our Island. This will not be the Jersey we know and love.”
“However, if immigration is too low, our businesses will not be able to find enough suitably skilled staff and we will not have enough front line public servants. This will damage our economy and will mean that we will not be able to support our ageing population. This will risk our prosperity and standard of living.”
Also announced today, migrants will face criminal checks and be issued with photo ID cards.
At the same time, the government will also carry out a review of the island’s infrastructure in 2019, to ensure there are enough homes and school places, a road network that can cope with more rush-hour traffic, and an electricity supply that is future proofed.
A new Immigration Office will also be considered, so those moving to the island only need to visit one place to make all their tax and social security arrangements, find out about education and healthcare, and be signposted to other groups and organisations to make them feel welcome and integrated into island life.
The aim is for the new population policy to be debated in the States next March. Beyond that, there are many knock-on effects of the plan. Here’s the timescale of what the government hopes to do:
- February, 2018: New Regulations to introduce photographs on registration cards lodged au Greffe
- February, 2018: ‘Future Jersey’ published, including economic, social and community ambitions
- March, 2018: Updated population modelling by Statistics Unit (based on a work permit regime for registered workers)
- June, 2018: New Economic and Fiscal model produced by Economics Unit
- July, 2018: Strategic Housing Market Report produced by Strategic Housing Unit
- September, 2018: New Infrastructure Capacity Assessment produced, based on new population projections
- October, 2018: New Strategic Plan lodged au Greffe
- November, 2018: New policy guidance for the Housing and Work Advisory Group presented, having been developed in consultation with industry
- November, 2018: Review of public policies relating to the treatment of new migrants and their access to services published
- December, 2018: Legislative amendments to introduce work permits and criminal records checks lodged au Greffe
- July, 2019: New Integration Strategy presented
The Council of Ministers, with States approval, want to spend £680,000 to fund the plan. You can read the full report, called Migration Policy Achieving The Right Balance, here.