Whatever your reason for being or staying in Jersey, it’s important to protect the things that make the Island special – we want it to be a great place to live, socialise, grow up and belong; a place where community and people matter.
We asked Islanders about these important issues in our recent My Jersey online survey, which is part of a wider consultation to help shape a long-term vision for Jersey. The areas where most Islanders felt Jersey was doing well were:
- People, property and the environment are protected against fire
- People and property are protected against crime and disorder
- Sport is important and valued
But affordable living was the one big sticking point. It was the only issue on which an outright majority of people felt negatively about the Jersey they live in today. Their concern lay around whether Islanders can independently afford a decent standard of living.
What is a decent standard of living? In everyday life, there are essential goods and services we need to meet our basic needs and to enable us to take part, meaningfully, in Island life. For people on low incomes, a greater amount of money is used on these everyday essentials than better-off households, and to them, price rises can have a significant impact on what they can and cannot afford to buy and do.
“Housing standards and costs are challenging”
Islanders’ comments revealed the strength of feeling about how housing costs and the gap between the cost of living and earnings affect people’s lives, their choices and their quality of life. “Housing standards and costs are challenging,” one person said. “I’m not surprised people don’t want to come here once they discover the cost of living,” said another. Others said:
- “It is very difficult for young people to find affordable rental accommodation hence they leave the Island.”
- “Food still much more expensive than in the UK.”
- “Many often struggle to afford essentials.”
- “…my boyfriend and I both work full-time earning the ‘average’ Jersey salary and are struggling to get on the property ladder, or afford to have children. Sometimes it feels like we would be better off on benefits!”
- “We can’t afford holidays…and the cost of living has increased faster than my mum’s wages. It’s sad as she works so hard.”
There were also comments from people who felt more positive about their situation, such as: “I think my standard of living is high due to the fact that I can be at the beach in five minutes from anywhere and Jersey is safe and clean, there is little commuting etc.”
But they went on to say: “…property prices are outrageous and the cost of living really needs to reduce. It is simply unfair that with two adults working full-time in a standard household, the average family can’t afford to buy a three-bedroom house. We are one of the lucky families that own our own home but I feel for those who will never achieve that.”
Our work / life balance
Work/life balance was another area the survey asked about. Overall Islanders felt positively about it – 39% of people said they were happy that they were finding a balance between time spent at work and time spent with family and on their personal lives.
Islanders acknowledged the natural advantages of Island life in terms of access to coast and countryside and short commuting distances, but many felt that living costs had a severe impact, affecting their opportunity to start a family, or, as parents, the time available to spend with their children. Two issues that were repeatedly highlighted in comments were the inadequacies of maternity leave and the cost of nursery care:
- “I am the mother but also the prime earner in our family and am gutted that I will have to continue to work the hours I do to pay for nursery education and am going to miss out on the opportunity to spend any time with my children before they begin school age.”
- “Cost of housing has a negative impact on family life. Rents often higher than monthly mortgage repayments but working families simply cannot afford to eat AND pay huge deposits currently required to secure mortgages.”
- “The work/ life balance is great though, but this is because the commute is short and the Island so small!”
- “Maternity leave is one of the worst and shortest I have ever come across.”
- “Just to be able to rent a half decent place means working every hour possible and missing out on a good work / life balance.”
- “I personally am working full-time, see my children for two hours during the working week and am only scraping by with providing food/ clothing/ bills. I have a decent job, no debts but will be caught in this rut until the children are both at school and my other half can return to work as we cannot afford nursery fees.”
Houses, the cost of living and achieving a work/ life balance play an enormous part in our daily lives and how we function as a community. In my next blog, I’ll look at your views on our Jersey’s natural environment, which is key to the Island’s appeal as a place to live.