Isle of Man moves to address skilled worker shortage

As concerns over a possible shortage of skilled workers caused by Brexit is causing some banks to consider relocating some of their UK staff to Paris and Frankfurt, the Isle of Man’s government says it has highlighted similar potential problems there, and issued a consultation aimed at finding out more.

The Island’s Department of Economic Development’s consultation includes proposals that would ease work permit requirements for those looking to come to the island from elsewhere to work.

Brexit has led to thousands of jobs being relocated from the UK to Continental Europe, particularly from the City,  though in the case of the Isle of Man, additional local conditions are reported to have exacerbated the problem – including the island’s demographics.

A source who requested anonymity, speaking to International Investment, played down any link to Brexit concerns, saying that “while what happens on the mainland generally is echoed here, this is more a sign of an ageing population”.

“The worry is that with a decline in the economically active population – due to retirement, and also younger residents leaving the island to seek employment elsewhere – we will be short of workers if we don’t act.”

The proposals include reforming the current process for a work permit from an existing joint application by both employer and applicant to a single-stage, employer-only application.

They also include simplifying matters to be considered when assessing a work-permit application, making it easier to grant long-term applications, and making it easier for those cohabiting with Isle of Man residents, work permit holders and those who are exempt by offering automatic work renewals, reducing bureaucracy.

Laurence Skelly, (pictured below left) Isle of Man’s minister for Economic Development, said: “The Isle of Man is facing labour shortages across many sectors of the economy. This, paired with a high number of job vacancies, is creating an Island-wide skills shortage which has the potential to deter businesses looking to grow in the Isle of Man.

‘Economically active’

“Further, the 2016 census indicates there has been a reduction in the economically active population and that the dependency ratio is worsening, therefore although the recent indications are that this trend has reversed, ensuring the Island is an attractive destination for those seeking work is critical.

“While the Department does not intend to abolish work permit controls, there are strong grounds for additional reforms to ensure the legislation is in keeping with the evolving needs of the Island,” he said.

“At the moment, the system works in such a way that the presumption is that a work permit is required for anyone who is not an Isle of Man worker, unless the role is one of a specific list that has been made exempt, such as seasonal hospitality workers.

A spokesperson added that the Department is considering flipping the system to work in the opposite way, that a work permit will not be required except in the cases of a minority of designated employments or for people with specific circumstances, such as those who have previously served terms of custody in the criminal justice system.

The proposals outlined in the consultation would require secondary legislation, which could be brought to Isle of Man parliament Tynwald after the summer recess

The closing date for the receipt of responses is 31 August. A summary of the responses will be published after the consultation has closed.

Eugene Costello
Eugene Costello has been a journalist for some 20 years, and has written for a wide variety of UK and international newspapers and magazines.

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