Published 13th September 1999 by Robert Weston (Tel 1534 766366)
Island of Jersey Population and Immigration Control
"Capping the Growth in Population"
A DISCUSSION PAPER
2 The major point of contention
3 Some historical background
4 Summary of the solution proposed
5 How to achieve the solution
6 Some of the counter-arguments
7 An outline Immigration Permit scheme
1.1 For three decades or more, Jersey
has been seeking a politically acceptable way of "capping"
the growth in an ageing and naturally increasing population, whilst
simultaneously maintaining (or indeed expanding) the buoyant economy
to which Islanders have, for some two generations now, become
accustomed. Despite Governments imposition of various
restraining controls since the end of the Second World War, the price
of prosperity has been a continual increase in our population. This
increase has been 50% since 1961 (ie about 800 per year on average),
which clearly shows that, although the various controls have worked
to a moderate degree, the dual objective, of capping population
growth whilst maintaining a buoyant economy, has not proved at all
easy to achieve.
1.2 Excessive growth in the Islands population (or indeed any further growth at all, as far as some people are concerned) is generally perceived to be undesirable. It is seen as enormously inflationary as regards property values and thus responsible for Jersey families being split up when children leave the Island to find a home elsewhere. The utilisation of more and more land is also seen to be detrimental to our environment and our future quality of life.
1.3 Jersey has so many political lobbying groups, it is almost impossible to count them. Whilst a serious number of these are concerned to see population growth controlled, there appears to be an over-riding desire, for the most part, to achieve this without harming the long-term buoyancy and diversity of our economy. Each group has its own views on the subject and, consequently, its own agenda to follow. Regrettably, these views and agendas are frequently out of alignment, though they do mostly appear to agree on at least two points; firstly that the Island cannot be expected to support a growing population indefinitely and, secondly, that the actual problem lies in finding a practical and workable solution, with which a majority of Islanders can feel comfortable.
1.4 Perhaps the real question for consideration is not "whether to set a population cap"; for it does appear that quite a large majority of Islanders, politically speaking, are in favour of having one. The real questions then are:
WHEN would it be practical to set any cap?
This Paper seeks to answer the last of these four questions as the first three become academic if the last one cannot be resolved satisfactorily.
1.5 Although presented today as a personal paper, a preliminary draft of this Discussion Paper was circulated in May this year to a wide spectrum of interested parties, in order to gather views. This included labour groupings, rights and housing groupings and business groupings. It received a good measure of support IN PRINCIPLE from the majority of those to whom it was circulated. Due to time constraints, it may not be convenient to discuss the Paper in depth, at the meeting convened by Policy and Resources Committee for the afternoon of 13th September 1999. However, some representatives of the aforesaid groupings, who attend, may wish to express a view on the document in principle or propose amendments and, hopefully, the several recently-appointed officers of the P & R Committee will be permitted to take the Paper away for critical appraisal and subsequent report-back.
2 The major point of
2.1 In July this year, the P & R Department published an "Issues" Document on Population and Immigration. It was a useful exercise as it highlights where a major point of contention will lie between that Document and this Discussion Paper.
On page 11, at paragraph 18A, bullet-point 7 of that Document, it says (paraphrased): There is no support, from the members of important States Committees, for the proposition that population growth would become acceptable merely because that growth were made up of several thousand persons on short-term permits".
By way of explanation, the Issues Document offers simply (and only) the indisputable fact that it is the total number of people, in the Island at any one time, that gives rise to the multitude of pressures on our society. Regrettably, it goes on to imply that those who would lend support to any such proposition would be rather naively ignoring this indisputable fact.
Nowhere, though, does it say that the possibility of adopting such a proposition has ever been seriously explored. Nor does it attempt to explain why such a proposition could not actually provide the long-term solution that the Island requires and has now been seeking for some thirty years or more.
2.2 The failure, to explore fully every possible solution, would be ignoring:
3 Some historical background
3.1 In 1979, our politicians decided
that growth in the Islands population would be best controlled
by an amendment to the Housing Regulations. The States agreed that,
from 1st January 1980, no
"ORDINARY" new immigrant would ever be
permitted to acquire permanent residential status
(ie "housing quallies"). Whilst the underlying
philosophy appeared, in theory, to be likely to have the desired
long-term effect, in practice it has failed to achieve that
objective. We must ask ourselves why.
This philosophy, in 1979, recognised that the population would continue to grow for several years after 1st January 1980. But it also assumed that, eventually, the total number of immigrants, in the Island at any one time, would reach a plateau and tail off as newcomers accepted that they would never be able to put down roots or set up a permanent home in Jersey. It was felt that they would, in due course, resign themselves to returning whence they came.
The policy worked as intended, to some degree, and most who came here did eventually leave again. But the policy has failed in the longer term because it generated feelings of frustration in ordinary, hard-working, well-meaning people who felt that their service had been exploited and that their rights had been abused. Contrary to expectations, a great many decided to take up the political cudgels and battle for the right to stay. Many of those who came here to work felt strongly (and indeed justifiably) that they had made a major contribution to the success of our economy. They had paid their taxes and made meaningful contributions to the Islands social life generally and even to the honorary system.
Those who arrived in Jersey after 1st January 1980 claimed that they did NOT know the rules when they came despite much political insistence that they did. After ten or fifteen years, they understandably began to feel that Jersey was their home and they had a right to stay.
3.2 In October 1995, the States acknowledged the alleged unfairness and those who have had the determination to stick to their guns for 20 years will, from 1st January 2000, be granted full housing qualifications. It is anticipated that this will permit about 100 families (about 250 people) per year to enter the local housing market.
3.3 Furthermore, Jersey has now agreed to enshrine the European Convention on Human Rights into local law. The legislation has already been drafted and is presently going through its consultation stage. The terms of that legislation are clear. The possibility of the Island ever again being able to deny a person, who has lived here for twenty years or more, the right to call Jersey his home, is simply out of the question.
4 Summary of
the solution proposed in this Paper
4.1 So, there is just one solution left to us, which is:
maximum period is probably between five and eight years, depending on
the immigrants age and circumstances. If, for example, you
arrive in Jersey aged 16, then by the time you are 32, you have lived
here half your life (ie as long as, or perhaps longer than, you have
lived anywhere else). You would be entitled to think of the Island as
your home. Whilst many are older than 16 on arrival in Jersey, many
others are younger.
4.2 Fundamentally, Jerseys door is presently open to 300 million Europeans, all of whom are entirely free to arrive in the Island tomorrow, find a job and a place to live and, after 20 years (possibly less), they will become entitled to full residential status. So our first important task is:
to shut this open door
5 How to achieve these things
5.1 Firstly, we must adopt a similar philosophy, regarding timescale, as did our politicians back in 1979. In other words, we must recognise that the proposals in this Paper are not an instant panacea for producing an immediate reduction in the population level. This is a fifteen to twenty-five year project, during which population will inevitably rise before it begins to fall. On this occasion, however, hopefully having learned some lessons, we shall have incorporated the all-important add-on of truly ensuring that people DO know the rules on or before arrival in the Island and therefore cannot subsequently take exception to them. If only our predecessors had done this twenty or more years ago!
5.2 Secondly, we must follow Guernseys initiative on immigration control, though we shall need to put our own "spin" on it by quickly developing and evolving the principles. Guernseys philosophy, since 1990, has essentially been that newcomers generally should NOT be allowed to set down roots. Although an element of flexibility is built into their system, they are quite tough about following this principle. For example, a private householder in Guernsey can only take a live-in lover if that lover has a licence to reside in Guernsey. Whilst few people, at present, are denied a residential licence, mostly the licences granted are limited in their period of validity to between nine months and seven years. Guernsey has also accepted that the overall timescale for achieving the major objective of a stable population is fifteen to twenty-five years (a full generation in fact).Although Guernseys Housing Laws and their Right-to-Work legislation are separate laws, passed many years apart, they are inextricably intertwined as though they were a single immigration law. The holder of a housing licence is automatically granted a R-T-W permit, as are all members of his/her household. Similarly, any person granted a R-T-W permit is also granted the right to live in the Island for the period of the R-T-W permit.
5.3 Accordingly, we must prepare and pass comprehensive legislation that enables us to require any NEW immigrant of ANY nationality to apply for and obtain an Immigration Permit before being allowed to work or reside in the Island. The Permit will recite the terms and conditions of immigration and thus ensure that every immigrant not only knows the rules but can be obliged, in law, to comply with them. Whilst immigrants, who are already resident in the Island but have not yet earned their housing qualifications, will require a Permit, the terms and conditions relating to that Permit will be no different from the terms that already apply to that person. After twenty years residence, they will acquire full status.
6 Dealing with some counter-arguments (not exhaustively)
6.1 P & Rs summary
rejection of this Papers underlying proposition, on the grounds
of "total numbers, present in the Island at any one time, are
what matters", ignores the tourism industry related events of
the last decade. Since 1989, the number of registered tourism beds
has fallen from 25,500 to around 17,500 and is still falling. This
means that, on any one night in peak season, there are now at least
8,000 fewer visitors in the Island than there used to be. There are
also some 1,200 fewer tourism industry workers.
6.2 The additional administrative resources required to apply full housing controls to the occupancy of ALL lodging accommodation in the Island (as per para 18, bullet 5 of the P & R Issues Document) hardly bears thinking about. There are over 5,000 registered lodging house beds plus an estimated 7,000 or more lodging beds in private houses and flats plus at least 2,000 employees accommodated in staff quarters on farms and in hotels. An average of only one movement per lodger per year would require 14,000 housing applications per year and the issue of 28,000 permits per year (one to the lodger & one to the landlord) and 28,000 amendments of records per year. This takes no account of the appeals from any refusals of consent and the relatively higher speed at which housing applications from lodgers would have to be handled. An average of two or three movements per lodger per year could easily double or treble this paperwork.
On the other hand, the issuing of perhaps 10,000 immigration permits per year (some of which would be valid for up to, say, 8 years) would be a far less onerous task. Policing would be "by default"; in just the same way that nobody knows you are driving a car without a licence and insurance until you are caught in the act. Recording and monitoring all private homes, that take in lodgers, would also ensure a decline in the availability of such lodging accommodation because some householders would not wish to declare the existence of their lodgers. In Guernsey, all homeowners now know that they will be committing a serious offence if they take in a lodger, who has failed to produce the relevant permit to them.
6.3 It has been suggested that the Regulation of Undertakings Law, having been "tightened up" from June 1998, is all that is needed to control future population growth. Many would disagree. The Island is certainly suffering the promised "pain" but, as yet, there has been pitifully little sign of any "gain". Wage inflation has rocketed (reportedly 20% in one year in the construction industry). Tourism Industry cannot find adequate staff, not even seasonal staff. Small businesses are losing their "five-year" qualified staff to poachers and cannot find replacements with even two years residence in hand. The employment of new immigrants by small businesses is reported to be rife, just to enable such businesses to survive at all. Many small businesses fear asking for consent to employ an immigrant replacement, lest they draw attention to themselves as potential prosecution fodder when that application is refused (often after some delay). The demand for "quality" lodging accommodation has not tailed off at all and there has been little sign of falling demand for lodgings even at the lower end of the market.
6.4 It has often been mooted: "how would you deport an immigrant who originates from the UK (being British soil and bearing in mind our constitutional relationship with the UK) if he is found to be working or living illegally in Jersey?" The answer is twofold. Firstly an immigration permit could include a condition that immigrants, convicted of an offence, render themselves liable to deportation whence they came.
Secondly, though, Guernseys experience is that deportation is irrelevant because offending immigrants deport themselves. The reason is that both local employers and local homeowners (as well as employees) are subject to conviction and punishment for breaking Guernseys Right-to-Work and Housing Laws respectively. As a result, it appears that, since 1990, a phone call from the local Authorities to the employer and the landlord has generally been sufficient to ensure that an illegal worker immediately becomes unemployed and that an illegal lodger promptly becomes homeless. A handful of prosecutions, over 9 years, has provided an adequate deterrent factor. In any event, without a job or a place to live, no illegal immigrant can continue to reside in the Island for very long. Hotels provide no loophole either, as staying in tourism accommodation also entails registration with the Housing Department if a guest is not on holiday or short-stay business.
6.5 Some observers contend that the extremist views on population control in Jersey are held by CONCERN on the one hand and by the Institute of Directors on the other. The former says (paraphrased) "Cap the population rigorously at 85,000 now, even if we are already at almost 90,000, and never mind the economic consequences, which will simply have to be borne if we are to protect our environment for future generations". The latter says (paraphrased) "Simply let market forces prevail and both the economy and the environment will, in due course, look after themselves". In considering either of these extremes, it is essential that Islanders are made fully aware of all the possible consequences.
For example, in the case of an urgent "population capping", there are likely to be serious economic consequences. Where a naturally growing and ageing population (such as we have) has to be supported financially by a proportionately diminishing workforce, something has to give. Also, in order to drive the population back down to 85,000, some 4,000 jobs will have to go. Whose jobs would these be? Whilst the cost of dwelling properties would probably drop if the population were to fall, a loss of workers could well precipitate a major tumble in the economy and any such recession would mean a major loss of jobs. The result would be cheap houses that nobody could afford because so many would be out of work.
Regarding the IOD proposal for unrestricted market forces, one might observe that we have continued to see population growth despite the existence of a number of controls. Therefore the exponents of the proposition that "population would eventually fall if all controls were removed" will certainly need to provide a convincing explanation in support of their view for it to become acceptable to States Members and Islanders generally.
6.6 It is argued by others that the proposal, in this Paper, for the issue of Immigration Permits, coupled with the Regulation of Undertakings Law, will not be any less "painful" economically to the business community than using the Regulation of Undertakings Law alone and that it will also increase the Islands administrative costs. Indeed, nobody seeks to pretend to the contrary. However, Immigration Permits will certainly be better understood by prospective immigrants and will thus be fairer to them as they will know where they stand from the first day they consider moving to Jersey. It is anticipated, for the several reasons outlined elsewhere in this Paper, that the proposal is a more practical means of controlling population growth and, accordingly, should have a much better chance of achieving the objective in the long-term. It will also provide continuous statistics as to current population levels.
6.7 Both the Chief Officers Policy Group, in March 1994, and the Boleat Report, in July 1996, observed that a "residence" type of permit (even if it incorporated control over the right to work) would be inappropriate for Jersey. However, the PRIMARY conclusion, in the respective reports of both of these bodies, was that the Islands population was actually set to remain relatively stable for the foreseeable future at around 84,000 to 85,000. The Chief Officers said until at least 2005 and Boleat merely stated "while the economy continues to prosper", though warning also against complacency. As their respective forecasts, of "no material population growth in the early foreseeable future", both proved, within three years, to be quite wrong, the validity of their secondary conclusions, dismissing the value of residence permits etc, has inevitably and effectively been thrown into serious doubt.
6.8 Other reasons have been given for not favouring an itinerant work force (eg there will be a tendency to employ poorly trained staff or those with no real commitment to the Island). This view is frankly illogical. When choosing immigrant staff from the 300 million Europeans available, employers will invariably select the best they can find, not the worst. It would be an insult to their intelligence to suggest otherwise. There are downsides to be sure. Many good prospects for employment will have doubts about accepting work on a five or seven year contract basis and may decline the opportunity. But, in most cases, we can afford to pay well and many prospective employees will be attracted by the money.
6.9 It is recognised that Jersey employers will not like the principle of having to employ almost all new staff on short-term or medium-term contracts. Guernsey employers did not like it either. However, in private conversations, when faced with the option of no additional staff for expansion at all or the alternative of a small number of extra staff on period delimited contracts, both Jersey and Guernsey employers appear to prefer the latter alternative. Despite the downside, it is considered to be much better than total stagnation.
6.10 There can be no objection, in principle, to the Island having in place suitable work-permit legislation for use only in the event of future chronic unemployment. However, the proposals in this Paper, if adopted, would, as a by-product, provide the same protection as work-permits in times of high unemployment. So the duplication of effort would seem to be unwarranted.
6.11 Where will everyone live? The Island has built around 13,000 homes since 1960. Had the immigration policy, proposed in this Paper, been adopted back in those days, everyone entitled to live in Jersey would have been housed by now and the population would be stable. Today is the start of the next 40 years. Ideally, our children will not be looking back, in 40 years from now, and asking why a formal immigration policy was not implemented when we had the chance.
6.12 What we have to be careful to avoid is first choosing the solution to our over-population problem that we perceive to be the best and then trying to make our reasoning fit that choice. As with every practical decision we make, we must list all the pros and all the cons and then make our choice based on the facts rather than emotive perceptions.
7 A possible Immigration Visa or Permit Scheme
7.1 A new immigration policy
for the Island should be based on the possession of a personal,
currently dated "Smart-Card ", doubling also as a Social
Security card. The concept of using a "Smart " ID card, for
some purposes, has already been tentatively approved by the Policy
and Resources Committee. Ideally, it should contain and deliver
sufficiently comprehensive information to ensure that, amongst other
things, the Island constantly has maximum practicable data on the
current population level
7.2 No person should be permitted to reside or work in the Island without such a card; though there would naturally be a proviso, exempting visitors to the Island for up to say 3 months, when staying in registered tourism accommodation or with relatives or friends. Such visitors would not be permitted to work here during their stay of course.
7.3 If the "Smart-Card " proposal were law, the following persons would be guilty of a criminal offence:
a) anybody, living or working in the Island without a valid card or who is found with more than one card
b) anybody who works in an industry or accepts a type of work for which their card is not valid
c) any person who obtains a card by fraud, deception or theft or uses a card so obtained
d) any employer, who employs a person not in possession of such a card
e) any person, who rents or sells dwelling accommodation to a person not in possession of a valid card
7.4 ALL persons, applying for a card, would be required to:
a) complete an application form and identify themselves beyond reasonable doubt
b) provide a current photograph (and possibly a thumb (or fingerprint)
c) sign the card
d) produce it, within a given time-period, on the proper request of any duly authorised person
newcomers to the Island (ie those who arrive in Jersey
AFTER this proposed new law has come into effect),
wishing to apply for a card, would also be required to comply with
a) to declare that they had never lived or worked in Jersey before OR that a minimum period of "x" months had passed since they last lived or worked here. "x" would be not less than, say, one-third of the period length of their last Permit.
b) to provide the name and signature of a sponsoring employer, from whom a job offer has been received and for whom work is to be undertaken. This proviso would help to ensure that only "reasonable quality" employees are permitted to remain in the Island for the purpose of working here.
c) to sign an undertaking to leave the Island on or before a given date (generally, say, nine months or one year after arrival) and not to return for a given minimum period thereafter, without consent. The period of permitted stay in Jersey would be variable, commensurate with the value to the Island of the job to be undertaken. The maximum acceptable limit may be fixed, in due course, somewhere between 7 and 10 years. It should, however, be short enough to prevent immigrants from"setting down roots". Continuous unemployment in the Island (for say 2 months or more) should oblige early departure.
d) to acknowledge the penalties for breaking the Immigration Law and to agree that, if convicted of any offence, they will, if so required, submit to deportation to their country of origin at their own expense.
e) to remain working in the same industry (and possibly in the same type of work), whilst living in the Island, unless otherwise authorised. This should stem wage inflation presently caused by "poaching" between industries. Transfer between industries should necessitate further sponsorship of a new employer. Secondary "casual " jobs should be permitted if such work is available.
f) to refrain from starting or buying a business in the Island.
g)to keep the Immigration Department notified of their current address &, perhaps, live only in accommodation provided by, or rented on their behalf by, their employer. The Department could be asked for consent to live elsewhere. Small businesses should probably be exempted from having to provide accommodation.
h) to undertake not to bring to the Island (except on holiday as previously defined) any family member, partner or friend, save those who shall have FIRST been approved by the Immigration Dept.
i) to pay a modest refundable deposit when applying for the card in order to ensure proper care of the card and its due surrender on permanent departure from the Island.
j) to accept such other restrictions as may reasonably be included in any such permit application.
7.6 Those with full (a) (h) Residential Qualifications would be entitled to a "Permanent " card. A person with less than twenty years residence, on the date the proposed new law came into effect, would receive a "Temporary " card but one that specified no due date for departure from the Island. Upon achieving twenty years residence (or after such lower period as the States may decide) a "Temporary " cardholder would become a "Permanent " cardholder. Other current Housing Rules could be similarly applied (eg regarding marriage of a non-resident to an Islander). Newcomers would hold a "short-term " or "limited period " card.
7.7 None of the above would cause any problems with countries in the European Union, so long as the same rules applied to citizens of the United Kingdom. The proposed scheme also has the advantage of being more in the nature of a "conventional " immigration policy (as adopted by most other countries) and is therefore likely to be more readily understood and accepted by prospective immigrants.
7.8 It may be necessary to modify the constitutional relationship between Jersey and the United Kingdom insofar as its citizens are presently free to travel to Jersey and to live and work in the Island without the need for any general permission. The United Kingdom may, however, wish to reciprocate by imposing, on Islanders, similar rules to those, which presently limit the rights of some of us to live or work in the remainder of Europe, except the UK.
7.9 All immigration application forms and notices should be available in several languages, to ensure that all immigrants could truly be said to have "known the rules when they came ". This requirement is also fundamental to the whole proposition. All enquirers should, on request, be sent copies, of the papers they would be required to sign on arrival, so they can decide NOT to come to Jersey if they do not like the rules or cannot afford the Smart-Card deposit.
7.10 The Regulation of Undertakings Law would probably continue, at least for a while, as the appropriate vehicle to regulate the commencement of, the size of and the expansion of undertakings but should no longer purport to control the type of individual, who may work in each undertaking. In this regard, Article 2 of that Law prohibits "increasing" the number of persons engaged in an undertaking but appears to make no reference to "replacing " persons engaged in an undertaking. Is the Committee currently acting ultra vires?
7.11 All immigration controls must, without question, apply to the Private Sector and the Public Sector equally. 7.12 Under no circumstances should the proposed "Smart-Card" method of immigration control be confused with "work-permits ", which are inappropriate in Jerseys present economic climate. The use of that terminology is unhelpful to the point of being counter-productive and should henceforth be avoided.
7.13 It has been suggested (by John Lees, former Social Security Controller), that the Smart-Card might be called a "Citizenship Card ". It would be issued to all Islanders with 1(1)(a)-(h) housing qualifications. Existing residents, without Housing Qualifications, would apply for a "Temporary Citizenship Card " whilst new immigrant workers would apply for a "Short-term Citizenship Card ". Hopefully, possession of a "Citizenship Card " (even a Temporary or Short-term Citizenship Card) might instil, in the holder, some sense of pride and should also obviate any disquiet about ID cards, from a "civil rights" point-of-view.
7.14 Policing of the scheme would generally be "passive" rather than "active", just as it is with the present Housing and Regulation of Undertakings Laws. Additional border controls should not be necessary, except for statistical purposes. However, the simple "swiping " of Smart-Cards, on entry & departure, would make the collection of statistics relatively easy.
7.15 There would naturally be civil service staffing implications to be assessed, in respect of the administration of a Smart-Card immigration policy. However, the Social Security Department and the Immigration Department together administer the Aliens Law, which worked well prior to the expansion of the EU in 1993/94. That Law is still in place today for non-Europeans; so the present administrative procedures could probably be extended, as may be necessary, to cope with the additional workload. Co-operation would be essential between departments involved with immigrants (eg Immigration, Housing, Social Security, Income Tax & Parish Welfare). The secrecy oaths, sworn by these departments, would have to be extended to permit full co-operation.
7.18 More-detailed consideration should be given to the following questions:
a) whether children would be recorded on a parents card or have their own card? To meet statistical needs (eg card-swiping on arrival and departure), each child would probably require its own card.
b) whether to remove the citizenship status of any 1(1)(k) immigrant, who, having undertaken to pay a minimum sum of income tax per annum, fails to pay that minimum sum for two consecutive years during their first twenty years in Jersey.
c) whether citizenship status, once attained, can be lost due to subsequent departure from the Island or divorce and, if so, after what period and in what circumstances.
d) whether the "grey market " in labour will need any special attention, due to the relatively fine line between "employees " and "sub-contractors ".
7.17 When the worlds population is increasing, and Jerseys own number of births in excess of deaths are about 200 to 300 per year (ie approx 0.25% pa), can we reasonably expect to avoid any population increase at all? A level, at which the population may reasonably be capped, cannot realistically be set until a workable immigration scheme is in place. Even then, any capping level proposed should take into account any continuing growth in population, resulting from the excess of births over deaths. The proportion, of working population to non-working population, needs to be maintained in order to ensure that social security contributions are sufficient to provide for the forecast increase in the non-working population.
7.18 Land Reclamation is not a new idea. It has been Island "policy " for two centuries. Would it not be a practical option, economically, to cater for any essential or unavoidable population growth by continuing to expand St Helier southwards in order to provide the necessary additional housing on reclaimed land?
Published 13th September 1999 by Robert Weston (Tel 1534 766366)