Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Immigration: Three Considerations

bbcjersey: Jersey business leaders have called for a debate on immigration claiming limits on hiring overseas staff is stopping growth.(Twitter)

Kevin Keen was saying an aging population needs "new blood". It is worth pointing out that while part of the population is ageing, it is a "hump" not permanent - there's something of a baby boom at the moment, and I expect primary schools are going to be pushed regarding classes soon.

Meanwhile, Nick Le Cornu was playing the "Jersey people are xenophobic" card on his Facebook comments. And Philip Ozouf was talking about how these debates can get "toxic".

The three things no one seems to consider are:

1) Sustainability

The Island has limited water, electric, sewage disposal etc and no one looks at the impact of increasing population on those. Toxic is a good case in point, as an increased population means more of that to get rid of.

The fantasies of "Hong Kong" Jersey just ignores those issues - Hong Kong, for instance, pipes its fresh water from neighbouring China. We can't do that. Over here, as the population grows, the demands on infrastructure - such as water supply - get greater every year.

See http://tonymusings.blogspot.com/2012/03/dangerous-visions.html for more details.

There was a time when the original (and now unused) first cable to France supplied all the electricity needs - now we need 2 cables both of which carry more power, or we have to generate expensive power here.

Sewage is still persistently dumped in the sea after heavy rainfalls, and the treatment plant dates from the 1970s with a few tweaks. The pipes from the West of the Island have limited carrying capacity, and get bloated with rainfall. And the same happens in the East:, for example:


It should also be noted that food imports have been cut to about 3 days supply on island. We don't have the same level of food security, as is easily noted after heavy winds and cancellation of vessels lead to empty supermarket shelves.

2) A False Demographic Model

You may think that bringing more people to Jersey helps take the pressure off the ageing demographic peak, but you would be wrong. In fact all that happens with importing people is that it moves the demographic hump - it makes it higher and more drawn out. This should be obvious because the new people will age in turn, and there will be more people of that age - but this seems to be forgotten.

Unless you get people under 25, the ageing demographic won't go away - I've done some computer models on this in Excel using population stats from the Census. The only model that would work on ageing would be like the Australian immigration "Ten Pound Pommes" which specifically targetted people under an age. But no one is suggesting that.

See also http://tonymusings.blogspot.com/2008/10/demographic-time-bomb-or-tunnel.html

3) Recruitment without Resonsibility

If a business or the States imports people for jobs, this means that less effort has to be put into training and recruiting staff locally. Why put time and money into training up people to jobs when you can just buy the expertise? What plan for the long term ladder of promotion, when you can just pluck people to put in at the upper rungs? So it encourages a very lazy mentality which may have been fine in the past, but really is not needed now.

And let's face it, the two areas complaining most about immigration are the Finance Industry, which needs to take training even more responsibly than it does (I know some work training exists, but "could do better" as the report card said), and the States of Jersey themselves who have again spent decades avoiding having to tackle the issue because they could always look to the UK for recruitment; it has become a mindless reflex, and the new laws making it harder hurt because breaking a habit can be difficult and painful.

That's not to say that some very specialist professions, like the medical profession, need a level of expertise which may not be available. But that is a very special niche, with the kind of knowledge that it may be difficult to train and recruit to locally. Working in the finance industry, and Chief Officers, are not the same kind of profession. There are local degree courses which cater for that specifically.

On the States side, it is good to see that there has recently been more "in house" promotion. That improves the self-esteem of those further down, because they can see a proper structure and training for the job. Recent examples include John Richardson, Lee Henry, and the heads of one Primary and one Secondary school.

This is surely better than when a respected Acting Head of a Primary School doing a good job, respected by fellow staff and parents alike, was brushed aside. It makes you wonder how much the States Employment Board actually goes out and takes soundings, rather than just looking at CVs and how people perform in interview. That they overlooked the obvious candidate was not just a snub to him, but also an indication of an introspective ivory tower approach to recruitment which does not look at the local picture.

I think the mantra that "the best person for the job" will invariably be an outsider is looking worn - the golden handshakes of Bill Ogley and Mike Pollard, and the almost Presidential salary of Steven Izzat are a refutation of that strategy. They were supposed to be "the best people" but proved to be expensive mistakes.

In conclusion, by all means let's have a debate on immigration, but let us hope that calls for "a debate on immigration" does not mean we ignore these considerations.


James said...

The mere use of the word immigration is what makes things toxic.

Let us remember this: Jersey remains part of the UK Common Travel Area, and any British citizen is entitled to come and live here. Local rules may only discourage people from doing so, rather than prevent - so to talk about controlling immigration is a falsehood. Jersey can no more control immigration than (say) Cornwall can stop people buying second homes.

Of course, Jersey could have an immigration policy were it fully independent. But that's a mad Bailhache pipe-dream, nothing more - as you rightly point out it could never hope to be sustainable.

TonyTheProf said...

Nonsense, immigration is a perfectly good word. We can also reflect that Langlois, for instance, an old Jersey name - is actually a corruption of L'Anglais, an English Immigrant.

There need be no contradiction between immigration from the past, and reduced immigration now, because in the past issues like sustainability did not matter nearly so much - the pressure on infrastructure was less.

Basically, there are limits to growth and policy must be adjusted to accomodate that.