Manifestos part 10: Population

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IN the space available we have not had the opportunity to discuss in detail every issue of public interest, including, importantly, the acute housing shortage, population and our heritage. We are encouraged by Andium Homes’ purchase of brown field sites and consider the Environment department should be supportive of their ambitions to provide much-needed homes. Population growth is unavoidable and government should turn attention away from appeasing those who mistakenly believe it’s possible to set realistic population targets and towards minimising the need for immigration by reforming the education programme so as to encourage local people to fill local posts in hospitality, agriculture, retail and construction, as well as the finance sector. Advance Jersey wants our Island always to be a great place to live, work and play, and it is difficult to overestimate how big a part our heritage plays in that challenge; our culture is difficult to define, but Jersey people understand that it is different in a positive way and a source of pride.



MANAGING the Island’s population is one of the toughest challenges we face. And anyone who tells you differently simply hasn’t grasped the key issues.

Most important of these are two factors, one demographic, the other economic. Firstly, our population is ageing, as birth rates and death rates both fall. Over time the ratio between ‘active’ and ‘inactive’ Island residents – roughly those below and above retirement age – is deteriorating, meaning that a diminishing working population has to support a rising number of the retired.

The second problem is productivity. Thanks to a buoyant offshore banking industry in the 1980s and 90s revenue per head kept rising, so the economy was able to keep growing even with tight restrictions on immigration. Unfortunately, since the turn of the century this trend has reversed and output per head has fallen. That is good news for employment, with more people required to maintain a given output, but not so good for population control.

Unfortunately, this is another ball that the government has badly fumbled. Instead of levelling with us about the tough choices that are needed, the whole debate was swept under the carpet while numbers rose. Understandably people became angry and resentful about this hands-off approach.

Controlling population growth (which essentially means slowing immigration) in a small, prosperous island with limited resources is a tall order. We will take a firmer line on issuing work permits while seeking to raise indigenous skill levels, encouraging employment beyond 65 and reversing the fall in productivity.

In fairness, and very late in the day, we do now have a proposal for a new immigration policy – in effect, a population policy – that looks like a sensible way forward, with tougher restrictions on those applying to live and work here and more emphasis on developing home-grown talent to fill the jobs Islanders aren’t currently trained to do. We will back this new plan while devoting more attention to the two headline issues identified above. We will seek ways of encouraging those over 65 to continue working if they wish to do so, thus relieving some of the skills shortages. And we will develop economic policies designed to reverse the productivity decline. Both will help relieve the pressure on numbers.



FOR more years than one would wish to remember, the population issue has been the subject of concern and dissatisfaction. With over 100,000 residents and projections of up to 180,000, Jersey is well above its ‘carrying capacity’ – the number of people that could be supported from our own natural resources. Environmentally, the logical solution would be to reduce the population to a sustainable level. But, from a practical point of view, this option would be very disruptive in the short term and is unlikely to be adopted voluntarily.

Today, the UK Brexit negotiations bring added complexity and Jersey may not have a complete free hand in its future immigration policy.

A recent ministerial report suggests restricting the rate of immigration by introducing work permits. This is a divisive and discriminatory social policy that should be resisted. Migrants that come to work in Jersey should be accepted as equal members of our society. For many years we have accepted laws that create second-class citizens and this has led to significant inequalities in living standards and opportunities. This should not continue.

Accepting population growth means that we need to find ways to address the accompanying problems. Jersey is rightly proud of its natural environment. The green zone areas of the countryside and the coastal areas must be protected from further development. We are keen to grow the tourism industry but this will only be successful if Jersey remains a green and pleasant land. Using old greenhouse sites for housing will result in estates being peppered around the countryside. These sites should be properly rehabilitated and returned to full agricultural use, wherever possible.

Attempts to provide new homes in existing built-up areas has met with significant opposition. Refurbishing and replacing low-quality dwellings is refreshing the town and improving living conditions but it seems unlikely that parish authorities and existing residents will agree to a meaningful increase in the overall number of units.

One innovative option that should be seriously considered is creating an area of reclaimed land to use for extra housing. This could easily be achieved in St Aubin’s Bay, extending the coastline southwards or establishing an island inside the bay. This is a sheltered position close to built-up areas with good access to electricity and other services. A well-designed layout could provide environmentally friendly homes for as many families as needed. Using modern building techniques could keep the prices of these properties in the affordable region, allowing more local families to become owner-occupiers. A new reclamation site would be a significant investment opportunity and wealthy residents could be encouraged to help fund the project.

Reclamation has been used to good effect around the world and this could be marketed as a high-quality venture to raise Jersey’s profile internationally.

Jersey should be taking whatever steps it can to reduce population growth but if growth is inevitable, it must not be at the expense of further encroachments into rural and coastal areas.



THE insistence of recent States leaders that no target limit for population can be set is nonsense. Every organisation sets budgets and works within them, constantly finding new and creative ways to make more of their finite resources, and the principle holds good for headcount as well as for money.

To focus attention on this issue of fundamental importance to a place of only 45 square miles and to help counter the fantasy that unlimited economic growth is possible, Big Plough will propose a population target of 100,000 by 2040.

By their own admission, over the past 30 years or so politicians have failed to take effective action to prevent a population explosion, mainly fuelled by economic immigration and States recruitment, which has tended to make Jersey feel uncomfortably crowded, stressfully busy, worryingly expensive and less distinctive in character. They have also failed until recently to make the necessary investment in infrastructure, housing and public services to mitigate the societal damage caused by their laissez-faire population policy.

Future policies should strike a new balance between economic activity and quality of life, a once familiar political watchword rarely heard in recent decades. There are many good examples already well established to help inspire this renewal, such as the successes of the Genuine Jersey movement, the Liberty Bus social enterprise, the resurgent tourism industry, new educational initiatives and digital creativity.

In the spirit of Jersey’s traditional Big Plough neighbourliness at planting time, a new partnership should be fostered between the parishes, Island businesses, philanthropic sponsors and the flourishing Third Sector of charitable and non-profit organisations to further develop community services and activities for all ages at revitalised parish hall hubs. This will take pressure off the States in terms of both manpower and public spending, as well as relieving loneliness and spotting individual needs in a renewed version of the true Jersey Way, tailored to the modern world.

It will also provide opportunities to channel the talents and experience of Jersey’s ageing baby boomers, helping to make their lives fulfilling and useful to society as well as being an obvious demographic challenge.

To further promote social cohesion and restrict population growth, all States departments, NGOs and businesses should be pressured through the tougher

application of work and housing permits to finally get serious about career

progression to the top levels for established residents.



IT is appropriate that this should be the final section of our manifesto, because for Jersey Together our population policy is at the very heart of the new deal we offer the Island.

The Council of Ministers has presided over a shambles of a population policy.

*They failed to keep to the previous target of allowing population to rise by around 325 a year.

*When that policy lapsed they failed to replace it, so the population rocketed by more than a thousand a year.

*Now they propose an annual increase of around 700 – more than double the previous level.

Ministers are under the influence of an extreme growth business lobby, who see no problem with increasing Jersey’s population to 150,000. Their policy would require ten thousand new homes in less than 20 years.

Jersey simply cannot sustain immigration at this level without fundamentally changing the Island’s rural character, and imposing multiple additional costs on the island.

Jersey Together’s policy

Our population policy is simple. We will stabilise Jersey’s population at around its current level.

How? By matching emigration with immigration (births and deaths roughly cancel each other out). Approximately 1,500 people leave Jersey every year. We will match the numbers leaving with the numbers arriving. One in, one out.

We also support the introduction of short-term work visas to allow people to work in Jersey without accruing residence rights. This is a system that is widely used around the world.

The benefits of a stable population

A stable population would change many things for the better. It would mean:

*A tireless focus on getting the very best out of everyone in the Island, continuously training and improving the skills of the workforce.

*We could finally get on top of our housing crisis and build enough houses for everyone.

*Less need for new infrastructure such as schools, water supply, healthcare and transport facilities.

*Our countryside would be protected from over-development.

*Rising living standards will be driven by increases in investment and productivity. This is the only sustainable way to increase the wealth of everyone in the Island. By instituting a Singapore-style social insurance scheme we remove one of the main arguments for population to keep growing: the need to pay pensions and social care in the future.

This is not a policy of pulling up the bridges. We would still be welcoming around 1,500 immigrants to the Island every year. Jersey has always welcomed immigrants, and it always will.

Jersey Together’s new deal

Our population policy is about more than just numbers. It is about a commitment to our community.

We need to accept that Jersey cannot keep on increasing its population forever. We need a new plan.

By putting people first and protecting Jersey’s precious environment we can build a better society.

Our policies will create a sustainable future, living within our means, raising living standards for everyone.

Let’s do it together.

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