Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Election Issues: 1.Immigration

Election Issues: 1. Immigration

Immigration will almost certainly been an election issue. After the end of an interim population policy, statistics have shown the floodgates open to what are clearly unsustainable levels of net inward migration.

In response to this as an election issue, a new proposed population policy has just been rushed out by the Council of Ministers. Kevin Keen is one who has criticisms of the haphazard way this seems to have been put together without enough background work done on the matter. It seems very much that this is to defuse the accusation that the Council of Ministers is not aware of concerns and is not tackling the issue.

However, after 3 years in power, to come up with this at the 11th hour smacks of blatant electioneering. There can be little doubt that the laissez faire policy of the previous two years is the responsibility of the Council of Ministers, not least the Assistant Minister who has until now had responsibility for population, Senator Paul Routier.

Immigration is a complex subject. The Island needs skilled workers, and these may be in short supply in different industries. Buying in expertise can be a more efficient way than training up staff. In that respect, George Osborne’s apprenticeship levy was a good attempt in the UK to put training and buying on a level playing field. 

Companies who wish to buy expertise rather than train enough staff can do so, but have to pay a premium, which funds those who will train staff. It is not a perfect solution, but at least it is attempting to address the business case for inward migration and provide a level playing field between those who invest in training local people and those who do not.

Many groups—such as business owners and middle-class consumers - benefit immediately from the proceeds generated by immigration, but the costs - especially of the long-term impacts of unskilled and undocumented migrants on society - are deferred to the future. They do not go away.

As we see already by the clamour from the business community,  more restrictionist policies collide with private sector business interests in maintaining the quality life styles that are made possible by the cheaper services of buying in expertise.But there is also genuine concern: sometimes the time taken to train up people means that it is not possible in the short term to get requisite staff. The States has not always been good at leading with this, and it is only recently that we have begun to see recruitment and training within the public sector as well. The important thing is that it should be short term in public or private sector, and not seen as an excuse for avoiding training up local staff.

The main thrust of the argument that used to be given by Paul Routier was a Ponzi style argument. We need more migrants to pay for an ageing demographic. As a number of statisticians have pointed out, this increases the number of ageing population in the long term, necessitating even more migration. It is a never ending scheme when there can be no limit to growth, and the scheme is essentially placing the burden of an increased population on the future.

The age structure of immigrants can have significant impacts on the levels of living of the receiving society. An analysis of age is critical to the potential impact on the school population, on manpower supply, and importantly, on the voting population.

An increase in the number of immigrant employees in the working ages can push the dependency ratio downwards, but the Island will need to reckon with this delayed effect on the impact of all elderly services later on.

An increased population has dependencies in terms of infrastructure, some which, such as the water supply, have limits to growth which may be even more challenging in an era of climate change in which periods of extreme wet weather oscillate with longer periods of drought.

There is also an impact on public education. Education’s infrastructure- schools and teachers should be considered to be a part of the cost of the immigration process, as well as an investment in the future of its human resource.

There are no panaceas and we should suspect politicians who provide ones, especially simplistic models. What is needed if anything is a complex mathematical model into which variables can be adjusted to examine different outcomes and find the best or least worst strategy. Don't expect that of politicians.

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