The battle lines are being drawn for the first big political fight of 2017, with business leaders slamming Ministerial plans to tighten some immigration controls.
The IoD have described the proposals as sending out the "worst message at the worst time," and of "...putting our island at risk economically and socially and losing the elements of island life that make Jersey the place we love working and living in.”
Yesterday, the Population Office announced moves to tighten existing controls on how many employees larger businesses are allowed to bring in - with permissions focussed on "...delivering the greatest social and economic value."
They say they are going to focus on businesses employing 30 staff or more, and make comparisons to other companies in the same sector: those who employ more “registered” workers than other businesses in the same sector will find it more difficult to get what they want.
These companies will be put into what the Population Office is terming a “step down” programme to reduce the number of registered staff they employ; or they could be placed into a work permit-type scheme requiring them to demonstrate the value of each new registered worker before they are permitted to recruit them.
But in response, Chris Clark, Chair, IoD Jersey, said:
“These measures announced by Ministers send out the worst message at the worst of times for local businesses and demonstrate a distinct lack of joined-up thinking. At a time when businesses in Jersey are working through a period of productivity and when the government has invested heavily in infrastructure to ensure Jersey’s future success, including the Esplanade quarter, these measures appear confusing, ill-thought through and likely to have a direct, detrimental impact on Jersey’s potential to prosper, across all industry sectors. Particularly with populist politics sweeping across the Western world and in light of Brexit, there is a real need to champion stability in policy. These measures fly in the face of that and suggest to any aspirational business that Jersey is not open for business.
“At our Debate three years ago which examined population, the clear message was that Jersey needs to relax immigration policy and at the same time address the skills shortage, look at our education system and encourage businesses to focus on training. If we don’t do all of this in a coherent way, we are in real danger of putting our island at risk economically and socially and losing the elements of island life that make Jersey the place we love working and living in.”
The States say the tightening of existing controls..."...is designed to ensure that migration is more focussed on delivering the greatest social and economic value, while also creating a fairer allocation of permissions across businesses," and "... The Council of Ministers wants to see more productive businesses making more profits and paying higher wages, with migration targeted toward delivering the greatest benefit for islanders."
An analysis of the permissions granted / refused in 2015 shows that out of 1,653 applications to employ staff without local qualifications, 606 were turned down - but just 27 of those refusals were in the financial services or legal sectors, and more than half, 316, were in construction and hospitality.
The Finance and Legal sectors made 262 applications, with just over 10% being turned down - conversely, the hospitality sector made 352 applications, and 53% were refused.
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