Raising pension age in Jersey ‘not my first port of call’, says minister

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THERE are no plans to raise the pension age to address problems associated with the Island’s ageing population, the Social Security Minister has said.

Deputy Elaine Millar said that ‘no one wants the pension age any higher’, adding that it was ‘already quite high compared to other jurisdictions like France’.

Her comments come as national media reports in the UK claim that the state pension age there could rise to 68 in the 2030s.

The 2021 Island census found that the dependency ratio had risen to 52%, meaning there were fewer people working than the number dependent on public services paid for by taxes.

This has risen by 6% in the past decade, while the number of Islanders aged 65 and over has risen 29% during the same period.

A population policy document published in the same year said that the dependency ratio could rise to 81% by 2065, if the government pursued a net-zero migration policy.

As the ratio approached 81%, it would have wide-ranging implications for the ability of the Island to pay for health and social care for its ageing population, with fewer taxpayers, and would ultimately lead to the fund which pays for this running dry.

Early last year, the former minister responsible for population, Rowland Huelin, described Jersey’s increasing dependency ratio as one of the ‘biggest problems we face’.

Deputy Millar said: ‘Raising the pension age would not be my first port of call and people aren’t always able to work past the age of 67.’

Deputy Elaine Millar Picture: ROB CURRIE. (35104787)

She continued: ‘We may at some point have to think about putting up contributions but there is no current plan to do so.

‘We don’t want to have to put them up and it would be far down the list of actions as it has long-term impacts.’

Deputy Millar added: ‘The dependency ratio is a concern of ours and we will keep a close eye on it as we need to think about its impact if it increases further.’

Addressing the issue of younger people leaving Jersey owing to the high cost of living, Deputy Millar said: ‘There are so many aspects involved with keeping people on the Island. We need affordable housing and well-paid jobs so people want to stay.

‘The government are already working to ease recruitment issues in both the health and education sectors and have a clear focus on recruitment and retention issues as well as increasing availability of affordable housing.’

A Scrutiny panel chaired by Deputy Catherine Curtis in December found that recruitment and retention of education staff was a key concern, with unions blaming Island-wide staff shortages.

Simon Soar, head of hospitality and tourism at Jersey Business, also last year identified recruitment and retention issues as the ‘industry’s biggest concern’.

And in November, Health Minister Karen Wilson faced scrutiny over the number of locum doctors employed in the Island at higher wages than permanent staff. She said that this was down to staff shortages and an inability to keep staff in Jersey.

Chief Minister Kristina Moore addressed the issue of staffing at the States Chamber lunch earlier this month, where she also spoke about increasing affordable housing by looking into converting abandoned glasshouses to homes.

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