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Chief Minister responds to unemployment

25 November 2011

“Unemployment, particularly amongst the younger workforce, combined with a worrying trend towards longer periods without work, not only carries significant cost in financial terms to families and the taxpayer, but most importantly in human terms, resulting in ill-health, loss of self esteem and problems within our community.

Equally tackling unemployment brings with it self-respect, better health and a safer community and for these reasons getting Islanders back to work will take the highest priority for the new Council of Ministers.

It is clear to both the Island’s government and to the business community that economic recovery is going to be protracted and that accordingly a sustained programme of assistance will be needed in a number of areas to ensure that all Islanders have every opportunity to gain and retain employment.

We will need an immediate, co-ordinated and determined approach from all departments and the Council of Ministers has given its full backing to the development of measures which will help the States of Jersey get people back to work.  

We shall be developing a package of longer term investments to ensure that the Island becomes more self-reliant in skilled and semi-skilled vocations for which we have often had to rely upon imported labour. This will require the provision of vocational based programmes of education and investment in apprenticeships and work based training provision.

In addition we must build upon the considerable successes that the fiscal stimulus measures brought in creating employment opportunities and investing in Highlands and schemes such as Advance to Work and other initiatives of the Skills Board as well as expanded services at Social Security, without which the unemployment situation would have been much worse.

Resources will be made available to ensure that such initiatives are sustained over the coming years and are scaled up to be able to assist many more jobseekers.

Investing further in these measures and bringing together the teams that deliver them will allow us to respond more effectively to the challenges ahead.

This “Back to Work Programme” will also include a dedicated team engaging with employers, not only to understand better what additional measures they think will be needed to promote employment levels amongst Islanders, but also to develop relationships with employers to encourage greater local employment and more opportunities for gaining work experience.

The Back to Work programme is being put together with immediate effect, backed by the necessary resources incorporating investment in intense training to ensure that Islanders have the skills and attitude to work that employers are looking for.

A key component of the programme will be a scheme providing payments to employers for employing key target groups such as the young and longer term unemployed. These payments will be sufficiently large for employers to make them worthwhile. This expenditure could add up to a considerable sum, but would mostly be funded from savings in benefits that would arise as a result.

Employer incentive schemes, work-focused courses and the advancement of capital programmes as well as measures to speed up the planning process, will form part of the cross Departmental approach taken to tackle the number of Islanders registered as unemployed.

In addition, we are exploring the possibilities of creating schemes which will marry opportunities for skills development and work experience combined with investment in environmental and community projects.

It is our intention to work closely with industry to get people back to work and encourage the employment of locally qualified individuals. We will also explore ways of removing any potential barriers to employment while maintaining the necessary levels of protection for the Island’s workforce.

As components of the package are finalised they will be announced in greater detail before the end of this year.

These measures will require the appropriate level of funding and although we are all aware of the tight public finances, it is far better to make these investments now than to suffer far greater costs to our society and economy in the longer term and I am pleased to be able to say that the Treasury Minister and his team are ensuring that funding will be available as soon as it is needed to allow departments to concentrate on getting on with the tasks ahead."

- Chief Minister Senator Ian Gorst

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