'Crisis' needs to recognise unsung heroes

THE Chamber of Commerce probably rightly titled this week’s lunchtime debate as the ‘Recruitment Crisis’, facing areas of the Guernsey economy over the past year or so. Just how broad this crisis is, and how nuanced, is illuminating.

The typical perspective, as outlined over the summer, has been that Guernsey industries – especially, but not exclusively, those at the lower end of the income bracket – have not been able to find the staff who usually service sectors including hospitality, retail, and even cleaning.

Some of their original staff may have left the island over the lockdowns, and recruitment – complicated by both Covid and extra administrative hurdles imposed by Brexit – has now become a real challenge. Hotels are using agencies, with associated expense, where previously they had ready-made supply lines. The States has helped over immigration and retention, but the problem is far from solved.

Retail’s challenge seems slightly different. It rarely imports trained people on licences, instead it benefits from those people who are prepared to take on two jobs, and work late or early shifts. Guernsey seems to have lost many of these islanders – almost certainly from a combination of Covid and Brexit.

The financial services sector – a beacon of success through Covid – now finds itself on the verge of over-heating, as firms who would like to expand are constrained in recruitment.

The construction and wider services sector also faces difficulties. Its own battle for talent will fuel inflation as wages go up and costs rise. And, it has been identified, is it not time that Guernsey embraced this sector a little more warmly, and thought more about why we want people to live and work here, who we want, and how we should treat them? Many today have choices – poor-quality and expensive accommodation, long hours and a high cost of living are not making Guernsey attractive.

Much of the debate on the island’s housing and population issues has centred around the ability to buy a home. But these ‘unsung heroes’ of the island economy do much to keep island life afloat, and it is another recruitment challenge that the States must not be blind to.

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