Access to childcare could be improved to boost productivity
INCREASING access to childcare will almost certainly feature on the States’ list of future priorities, following the adoption of an amendment by Deputy Peter Roffey yesterday to population and immigration policy.
His amendment added a new proposition – which will still have to be approved at the conclusion of debate today – to instruct Policy & Resources to investigate various measures to increase the productivity of the existing workforce, thus negating some of the need to encourage population increase through migration.
The work, which will be carried out in collaboration with all relevant committees, would look into incentivising older people to work for longer, enabling parents to work longer hours, investing in robotics and artificial intelligence, and changes to training in order to facilitate more economic participation.
Deputy Roffey stressed that none of this was intended to force people to work more but he highlighted the benefits of reducing Guernsey’s dependence on new immigration as a solution to its demographic challenges.
‘If we can get a thousand more people working – or working more – in our community,’ he said, ‘that’s a thousand new homes that won’t have to be built. That’s vergee after vergee after vergee of land that won’t have to be developed, with the outrage that we know that always causes.’
Chief Minister Peter Ferbrache voted against the amendment, arguing that encouraging economic participation was already adequately covered within the existing policy letter, rendering the amendment unnecessary.
Home Affairs member Deputy Andrew Taylor supported it, saying a society with better access to childcare might even encourage an increase in the fertility rate, which would bring its own economic advantages.
Deputy John Gollop mooted the possibility of investigating training grants for those in later life and the idea of an enhanced pension for those who choose to go on making social security contributions beyond pensionable age.
Economic Development president Neil Inder supported the amendment but warned against the danger of engaging consultants to investigate something that then did not bear fruit.
Deputies Chris Blin and Bob Murray abstained, having both argued that the added proposition would not go far enough in addressing the need for increased economic participation.
Another abstention came from Deputy Victoria Oliver, who questioned where the money was going to come from to carry out the work.
In his concluding speech on the amendment, Deputy Roffey countered that the work would save considerably more money in the long run that it could possibly cost.
The amendment was approved by 19 votes to 8, with seven abstentions and six members absent.