The population of the Falkland Islands is set to grow by an average of 2% a year over the next fifteen years, according to a State of the Economy report published by the Falkland Islands Government.
The figure reflects the islands’ anticipated workforce requirements, predictable organic growth, and stimulus from investments in the oil sector and government infrastructure, the report says.
The report predicts that Premier Oil’s decision to put work on the Sea Lion Phase 1 project on hold due to the impact of Covid on oil prices means that that ‘the [previously predicted] temporary population surge in 2020-2025 is not likely to take place as projected’, but nonetheless maintains that the long-term projections laid out in the report remain ‘broadly valid’.
The report also notes the islands’ low unemployment (1%) and high labour force participation rate (89%), but warns that ‘there is little scope for increasing labour supply by drawing additional residents into the labour force’, and ‘any net new jobs will require immigration.’
Attracting permanent residents key to long term social cohesion
According to the report, in 2016 around 24% of the Falklands population were classified as temporary, a group mainly made up of work permit holders and their dependents. If current growth population assumptions hold, the report goes on to say, around 37% of the resident population would be temporary by 2035.
The report notes that while certain workforce flexibility will always be desirable, ‘long term social cohesion will largely depend on how successful the Falkland Islands is at converting temporary workers to permanent residents, as a high percentage of transient workers has been demonstrated to have negative effects on small communities, particularly in remote locations.’
MLA Mark Pollard, who holds the immigration portfolio, told MercoPress that the issue is a cause for concern for Gilbert House, but policy work is underway to address it: ‘We are very worried about the erosion of corporate knowledge within the community that comes as a result of having a large transient population. This is at the heart of the Labour Force strategy that is still being produced. There are many strands happening presently and many more to come I believe.
‘Essentially I want to see Falkland Islanders encouraged to remain in the Islands and Falkland Islanders overseas to want to return. We haven’t done all the work on how we make that happen.
But having good jobs, the ability to train and educate ourselves to further our careers along with a thriving economy and modern social infrastructure will definitely help. Next we need to find ways to encourage those already in the Islands on work permits to stay and make the Falklands their home, some of the changes in immigration policy will help here I hope. Finally we need to work on how we attract workers to do the jobs that aren’t taken care of by those previously mentioned,’ he said.