Jersey – not an island in the sun – guest blog from Chris Steel of ATTAC / TJN Jersey

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Senator Frank Walker is continually telling us that we live in an "inclusive society" where "the people of Jersey have a high quality of life". Let us take a closer look at what he means.

Jersey's high value residents, the ones that seek residency in Jersey so they can avoid paying their codified tax liabilities in their country of origin, only pay on average £71,000 a year in personal income tax. This is very low considering that some of them are billionaires. Therefore, they obviously have a high quality life.

Then there are the 12,000 people employed in the finance industry, who on average earn £37,500 per year. They probably have a reasonably good life style, as only 30% of households in Jersey have a yearly income in excess of £34,000.

This leaves 70% of households that have a yearly income of less than 34,000, so do they have a high quality of life? Are they socially included? We could look at public spending on social protection and social housing as a percentage of our gross national income (GNI) to see if Jersey looks after its less well off people. For example, the Social Security Department's budget is slightly less than 2.7% of GNI, and the Housing Department's budget is less than 0.01% of GNI. Both of these are well below the European average, yet Senators Routier and Le Main state that their departments can manage with these dismal budgets.

Senator Le Sueur says he is looking at tax incentives to aid people to save for their future, so they do not have to be dependent on the dismal support they currently receive from Social Security and Housing. We would ask, how do you save for the future when social protection benefits and a minimum wage of £5.24 per hour will keep people in income poverty, deprive them of material goods and socially exclude them from mainstream society? A working week of 40 hours on the minimum wage without deductions only equates to £209.60, which is less than 40% of the average weekly wage in Jersey and 20% less than the internationally recognised benchmark for assessing relative poverty.

How do you save for the future when 70% of households in Jersey have an income of less than £34,000 a year? Those who have tried to save for the future, have now found that the endowment policies and pension plans they have paid into are not worth the paper they are written on.

How do you save for the future when the average price of a one bedroom flat is £169,000 and a three-bedroom house is £388,000? At least 50% of households in Jersey suffer from at least one or more of the three benchmarking measures for assessing relative poverty. These are income, material deprivation and social exclusion. Jersey only uses income to measure relative poverty at the current time. This may well be due to the fact that material deprivation and social exclusion tend to demonstrate a truer reflection of relative poverty in reality. For example, if your household income is less than £20,500 per year or your personal income is less that £16,800 per year you will suffer from relative income poverty. Measuring material deprivation is based on what you do not have, but would like to have if you could afford to. If your household does not have half or more of the below list you can be deemed to be in relative material deprivation poverty

- A computer.
- A dishwasher.
- A daily paper.
- A car.
- A washing machine.
- A mobile telephone.
- A driving licence.
- A video cassette recorder.
- A garden.
- A stereo system.

Measuring social exclusion is based on whether your household would like to take part in the below activities if you could afford to. If your household is not able to participate in half or more of the below list you are deemed to be in relative social exclusion poverty:

- Have a private pension plan.
- Have a one week holiday away from home once a year.
- Have a night out once a fortnight.
- Go to the cinema, theatre or concert once a month.
- Have access to a cottage for one week once a year.
- Have friends or family for a meal once a month.
- Have a special meal once a week.
- Have a dental examination once a year.
- Have a haircut once every three months.
- Have a driving licence.

Research conducted by many civil society organisations tends to indicate that households who have an income in excess of £20,500 per year in Jersey, and are therefore not in relative income poverty, tend to suffer from material deprivation and social exclusion poverty approaching average household income of £34,000 per year. We therefore believe that Jersey is not an Island in the sun, but an Island on the dark side of the moon for at least 50% of households in Jersey.

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ATTAC / TJN Jersey can be found here.

Chris Steel is media officer of ATTAC / TJN Jersey and a native Jersey islander.