Horace Camp: Let’s stay together
Horace Camp looks at latest census results which show that older islanders are leaving Guernsey more than ever before, takes a spin on the newspaper’s editorial opinion, and crafts a plan to keep their kids and grandkids in the island...
You could have knocked me down with a feather when I read this in Tuesday’s opinion column, ‘but when the people who built the Guernsey we know today are being “priced out” of their own island and desire to be closer to their families, it doesn’t bode well for traditional Guernsey life’.
Don’t get me wrong, I do agree with the sentiment, but I never expected it to be expressed in the opinion column of this paper.
I somehow had the view that the Press was not a supporter of ‘the Guernsey Way’ or the designation ‘local’. Although it is possible that some of our exiting more senior citizens, you know, the ones who built the Guernsey of today, are not local and therefore wouldn’t necessarily be living a traditional Guernsey life?
If so the tragedy is that their island-born and/or raised local children have thought prospects look better elsewhere and have been forced to abandon their homeland.
The Boomers who are following their children are probably the last generation that embraced the nuclear family, which is now a discredited and fast-disappearing way of life.
In the future it is more likely that we will not so easily see a way of ridding the island of economically-dependent, healthcare-hogging old people, because they probably won’t have children to follow. I’m not sure exactly what is replacing the nuclear family, but it will probably all revolve around the individual who comforts their self (gender specific pronouns will most likely be banned in the future) by reliving the experiences of their younger days in some sort of virtual world.
The very thought of a ‘traditional Guernsey way of life’ smacks of right-wing nationalism to modern ways of thinking, especially among the young, ‘liberal’ elite who espouse globalism and a world without borders. Although I have been somewhat perplexed how that very demographic have taken to the streets of Europe to support the Hamas Way and the traditional Palestinian way of life. I digress.
Back to Guernsey.
Pragmatically there is no advantage in keeping old people in Guernsey. They are likely to take more out of the pot than they put in and they tie up properties which could house young workers slaving away to support the States of Guernsey.
However, because they follow the people we do want to keep, it is a problem worth investigating and solving. I have no facts or figures to back up my next chain of thought. But such lack of evidence has never stopped me before and nor will it stop me today.
It seems to me that our working population is made up of two categories, workers, and key workers. There is no agreed definition of key workers, but it is generally accepted that they aren’t local and they are, in the main, employed by the States of Guernsey.
In general they are well educated, professionally-qualified and with a sound track record. An elite workforce attracted by good pay, good pension and possibly good housing benefits. In fact the States is bending over backwards to build good, modern housing to entice them here.
On the other hand the workers are a much more diverse group. But for my purpose I will focus on what I perceive to be the majority of them, which are the people born and or raised on-island.
They will mostly be States school-educated, probably without degrees or professional qualifications, and earning below the average wage. Half of those educated in the States sector will not have a minimum acceptable level of GCSE maths, which will preclude them from applying for many jobs, particularly in the civil service. I don’t want to over-egg this comparison because there are plenty of local top flyers in both the private and public sectors, but for the purpose of bringing clarity to my argument, because I’ve a history of being so obscure that often I confuse the reader, I am going to compare the elite key worker to the run-of-the-mill local worker.
We have created a two-tier society. Somehow we have become totally dependent on imported professionals when once we were much more self-proficient in breeding and educating our own. Because we can pick the best from the rest of the world, or at least those qualified for the job, we are bringing in people for the generally better-paid jobs. Which means that to fill the generally lower paid jobs in construction, retail, hospitality and trades we turn to our own. In fact we encourage our own to pursue such prospects.
That of course does not include our academic high flyers, who we encourage to leave as soon as they reach 18 because they can spread their wings more off-island. A perverse system when other equally gifted folk come here just for that very purpose. If we are not to condemn those born and or raised here into a lifetime of lower wages, fewer prospects and smaller homes, then we need to break the vicious cycle that has developed. And there is a way it can in some part be done.
Get ready to hiss and boo.
We are lucky to have a finance industry which should be the answer to inequality within our island. Our part of finance business is the bit no one else wants to do. We are the book-keepers. Good, solid, honest work which doesn’t require the brains of rocket scientists to perform.
Here in Guernsey we built the industry with local people made available by the failure of growing, tourism and just about everything else.
When growing was king, the States secondary schools, certainly St Peter Port, made an effort to teach children about the cultivation of tomatoes. I wonder how much effort the high schools put in to encourage their pupils to enter the finance industry?
Is it even pushed as an option?
How much will a 16-year-old know about what finance work is like?
It is even more important now that we have comprehensive schools to push the message that if you want to stay, work and prosper in Guernsey, finance is the best option and that entry requirements are not as high as required by the public sector.
We seriously need a plan to ensure that being born and or raised on-island doesn’t mean you are likely to be a second class citizen.