Monday, 28 October 2013

A lack of perception

I was listening last night the play back of BBCJersey politics hour. The subject was whether we should have a population policy. Deputy Higgins correctly pointed out the illogicality of planning hundreds of millions on a new hospital and school classes when we haven't had a population debate or policy and therefore have no clear population model or demographics model underpinning these huge expenditures. Both the Education minister and the Health minster have prevaricated when asked direct questions in the States in recent assemblies about the figures and models behind their sizing of these schemes.

Unsurprisingly I suppose the question of having a population policy gets mixed up with how to implement it. If it is to be credible it has to be plausible to implement. It is clear looking at past figures this has not happened. The last policy was to increase by 150 households per year, but the figures appear to suggest something approaching double that. In a recent conversation with a States of Jersey Minister it was claimed the only reason the 30% decrease in finance industry revenues was not catastrophic was because of of working age incomers of recent years. That might make sense if they all came to work in other industries, but we know some of the unemployment is from finance – it is inevitable given it is such a huge proportion of the economy and of the workforce. But to claim the effects of a reduction in a sector are ameliorated by more people coming in to that sector does not stack up.

However the thing that really got me vexed was the statement from someone else on the programme who claimed there was a desperate shortage of IT skills like web development, and decried that locals do not want to work at menial jobs such as agriculture. I know several perfectly capable web developers locally who do not work in IT. Equally I could take you to some growers who have perfectly good degrees in applicable subjects like IT. No one seems to ask the question why we have educated capable people working low paid 'menial' jobs and eschewing high paid ones?

Reflecting on that question reveals something about society and who forms opinion. I'll give you the gist of it by way of an example. Some years ago I sent my cv to a local recruitment company in response to an advert they had for an interesting sounding job. When I went to talk to them about the position they were insistent I applied for a different position. When I looked at the details I refused because it paid too much. You could have heard the 'consultants' jaw hit the floor. It never occurs to some people that pursuit of money is not the only reason people work. It simply does not motivate, once you have enough income for your needs. And if you reflect for a while you will probably agree that the expectation and demand on you from someone paying twice as much for your employ is likely to be far more. That may put an unacceptable burden on family and other commitments.

There are countries where different values apply. In Germany engineer is an esteemed title, unlike in here where the connotation is a dirty physical undesirable type of work. Similarly in some southern European countries waiting table is a sought after job - it carries a degree of respectability. There are even places where journalism is something other than a despised profession. It might help our situation locally is bodies like the States stopped talking about 'high value' jobs a something apparently reserved for immigrants, locals need not apply. Similarly it would help if people referred to jobs as worthwhile activities, even socially essential, rather than as menial. However I don't expect such a change to happen any time soon.

 Those whose opinions are sought out and promulgated by our media are those of people who are seen as important , generally because they have reached some elevated position in their organisation or profession. Unsurprisingly this is a self select group – the people who wanted to do that sort of thing and were motivated to 'reach the top'. Their values and aspiration are then the ones that are then reflected as the desirable ones.If they are motivated by money then expect that to be seen as the norm for everyone.