With the government’s long-awaited population policy finally delivered this week along with a PwC report on the impact of the ageing population, ministers have been called on to take swift action.
A key issue raised has been the old-age ‘dependency ratio’, with the number of working people in the Island compared to the number of elderly people who need support increasing from 21% to almost 26% in 2019.
JEP columnist Jonathan Renouf, a former BBC executive producer and long-term critic of the Island’s population strategy, said that recommendations to address the rising ratio, such as in 2008’s Imagine Jersey 2035 report, had not been delivered.
‘The proposed strategy to address the issue was to increase worker productivity, grow the economy and encourage better participation in the workforce. But none of these have happened,’ he said.
‘All they have done is paper over the cracks by bringing in more and more people. Years ago people were saying this strategy would not work because those people would end up getting to retirement age themselves and the dependency ratio would not improve. That’s exactly what’s happened. The economy is doing far worse than it was 20 years ago and ministers have been asleep on the job and not done anything about it.’
Meanwhile, Senator Kristina Moore said that a population issue that needed to be addressed urgently was the staff shortages that many businesses in the Island faced now, which is believed to be due to an exodus of many migrant workers over the past two years.
‘We have moved from the stage where concerns people have been flagging have turned from amber to red and they need to be addressed with urgency and determination,’ she said.
‘Deputy Steve Luce and I raised the issue of depopulation being a concern during the population in-committee debate and we were both laughed at.
‘I think that both Brexit and Covid-19 has forced this change and that perhaps has taken people by surprise. Unfortunately, anecdotally, the sense that we get is even more people will return to the European nations next year.’
Deputy Luce, a former Environment Minister, said that the Ageing Population report made it clear that Jersey needed continued immigration, adding that he felt that it needed to be well controlled.
‘We need people coming in to do all the jobs that we need done and to pay for the healthcare and pensions as the population gets increasingly older,’ he said.
‘I have long said that there is no good answer to the population question but the least worst option is to have slow and controlled population growth.’
He added that the Progress Party, of which he is a member, advocated the introduction of a ‘points system’ based on the needs of the economy and different sectors.