A proposition detailing a new population policy is due to be debated by the States in September and former Assistant Chief Minister Paul Routier, who worked on the Future Jersey proposals which will be considered, said changing population trends would require co-operation.
‘In the past couple of years we have refused half of the applications that have been made and we push people back and say “no, there are still people who are unemployed in the Island”,’ he said.
‘It’s a two-way thing, I know, but we have got to get the skills of those people up to meet the needs of business.
‘So there is a big piece of work to be done not only by the States but by the business community as well, to ensure that they are training people up and being prepared to train people up.’
He added: ‘There seems to be a mood from some in business to identify they’ve got a job vacancy and then they want somebody with those skills, up to speed, immediately.
‘They don’t seem to be prepared to prepare and train people to meet those skills. But everybody needs to work together on this.’
The Future Jersey project contains proposals for the introduction of work permits, which would allow people to move to Jersey for work but without accruing residential rights.
But Mr Routier – whose interview is the third of six with senior States Members who left politics last month featuring in the JEP this week – denied that the number of people coming into Jersey had got out of control, even in 2015 when the population grew by 1,500, the highest for 15 years. At the time, the States planning figure used a target for net inward migration of 325 people.
‘I would not want to see it keep increasing at the same sort of level [of 1,500],’ he said. ‘But, if you look back over the past ten years, there have been peaks and troughs. About six or seven years ago it was as high as it is now. Then it went down and it’s crept up again.’
Getting the population balance right is critical to meet the needs of an ageing population, he added. ‘As our population gets older we really need to ensure that we can afford to provide services. We need a business community that makes money to pay taxes for the services our population requires,’ he said.
‘You’ve got to balance all this up. If we had a closed-door policy, our population would be getting older, there would be fewer people in the work place and we would be in a downward spiral. We need to balance that up and find a middle path through it all.’