The future need of the Falklands Islands labour market is the driving force behind a decision to review the Falklands immigration system, confirmed Head of Policy Jamie Fotheringham this week in a report published by Penguin News.
The review will establish whether it can be improved, “to better meet the economic development needs of the Islands,” he said.
Asked by Penguin News what it was about the current system the government wished to change, Mr Fotheringham explained: “The Economic Development Strategy (EDS) identifies the immigration system as being one of the key constraints to economic growth in the Islands.
“The key issue is whether the current system is suitable for meeting future labour market and skills needs; at present there is very little spare capacity in the labour market but yet there are ambitious plans for developments in oil, tourism and for increased jobs in Camp.”
He said all of those would require additional people to fill the new jobs that would be created, adding: “Undoubtedly there will be opportunities for local people to take advantage of these new opportunities but there is insufficient spare capacity in the labour market (with unemployment at less than one per cent) to meet all of these needs going forward.”
Because of this there is a requirement for more people to fill these roles and to fill the roles left behind by existing local people who move on to take up new opportunities, for example, oil and tourism.
Key issues for the review will include examining the current system and establishing how effective it will be in meeting those needs. The review will also aim to identify, “where changes might be desirable to facilitate the increased level of immigration needed to achieve the Islands’ economic development goals.”
Along with that the review involves consultation with all sectors of the community to establish how much and what sort of immigration they require in the Falklands: “For instance, is there a desire for more permanent immigration and to avoid more ‘contractorization’ of the Islands? Is it desirable to encourage people to become long-term residents and avoid the short-term ‘churn’ of people that the current system encourages?”
On the subject of what ‘type’ of expert would be required to undertake the review, Mr Fotheringham said: “The expertise we will be seeking will be of immigration systems and processes that will best serve the Falkland Islands in meeting the EDS objectives.”
The person will need to bring knowledge and experience of immigration systems and best practice from around the world, not just the UK.
He or she will work under the day-to-day management of the Head of Policy who will provide the necessary direction in terms of the immigration requirements of the EDS.
Mr Fotheringham said: “Should the work result in recommendations for changes to the system, these will be subject to public consultation and will be presented to Executive Council (ExCo) for consideration. Any final decisions as to whether to adopt any recommendations will rest solely with ExCo”.
Becoming a Falklands resident became slightly easier in the middle of last year when ExCo made a small change to the Immigration ‘points system’. At the time MLA Gavin Short pointed out that the original points system that had been introduced had lead to it being almost impossible for most “ordinary” people to achieve.
That led to an immigration review group being set up to look at the PRP points system and other related matters.
The Falkland Islands 2012 Census revealed that the Islands has an exceptionally high economic activity rate – at 83.6% (compared to a level of 76% in the UK). The economic activity rate for males is higher still at 87.5%. This reflects the larger proportion of the female population who are retired or who are not working for other reasons (such as homemakers, family carers etc).
Likewise the Census also highlights the tight labour market within the Islands – the unemployment rate is 1%, indicating that there is virtually no spare capacity within the labour market to accommodate any additional employment opportunities that may arise in the future.
Indeed, almost 20% of persons in employment have more than one job, pointed out the Census. (PN).-