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Island’s ‘negative’ population laws ‘driving skilled to Jersey’

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SKILLED islanders and their families are moving to Jersey because of Guernsey’s ‘negative’ population laws, it was claimed yesterday.

Panel discussion on population management laws at the Human Capital Summit: The Future of Work as part of the Bright Futures conference. (Picture by Steve Sarre, 24134203)

Entrepreneur Zef Eisenberg also said Jersey was ‘winning’ and ‘must be rubbing their hands with glee’ as people moved as a result of controversial changes to Guernsey’s population management regime introduced in 2017.

He spoke out as private and public sector leaders discussed the issue during a panel discussion at a skills conference organised by the Bright Future organisation.

Policy & Resources president Gavin St Pier also confirmed that a review of the system would be published soon in his opening address at the conference held at St James.

The discussion on population was kicked off when panel moderator Yuri Bender, a Financial Times journalist, raised the issue and said: ‘We hear about families now moving from Guernsey to Jersey. It’s like going from Arsenal to Tottenham. Why is this happening?’

Panellist Zef Eisenberg said that before changes 2017, it was possible to attract staff who could live in open market accommodation indefinitely.

However, they could only stay for up to five years unless they could afford to buy an open market property or go through the ‘complicated’ process of securing a local licence.

‘Why are they going to come over to Guernsey not knowing if it is going to be extended beyond five years?’ said Mr Eisenberg.

It was a ‘major, major negative’ that those people might live here for several years only to discover that they could not get an extension.

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He added: ‘I go to Jersey. I go to the restaurants where I see some of the managers there, the chefs and go: “You were in Guernsey weren’t you recently”. “Oh yes”. “Well, why have you left?” “Well, because the five-year limit was coming up and I had no choice but to leave”. We’re training people here and Jersey are winning.

‘They must be rubbing their hands in glee at all the trained staff that we are getting from all the different sectors because of some strange obsession within the States that if we don’t have this five-year limit, everybody will stay here and claim dole.’

Fellow panellist Paul Whitfield, chief executive officer of the States of Guernsey, was asked if there was a global issue around jurisdictions closing their doors.

‘There are distinct areas where things are being closed down and being made harder,’ he said.

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‘I do think the grass is always greener.’

However, he said he agreed with Mr Eisenberg in many respects. The population regime had resolved issues in core industries such as finance but difficulties remained in other sectors.

There was a ‘real struggle’ within the island’s political structure in ‘a danger, almost a risk averse nature, to the fear of an increase and flow of population’.

‘I do think we need something that unblocks that particular challenge,’ said Mr Whitfield.

He also warned against being complacent about how attractive Guernsey was, highlighting government initiatives to develop new attractions on the seafront and eastern seaboard.

Will Green

By Will Green
Business Editor

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