At the Chamber Lunch on Monday 22nd May, PWC shared the details of their ‘Women in Work Index’ and outlined the challenges and opportunities that it presents. By  increasing the female employment rate while closing the gender pay gap, we can have a profound impact on the GDP and female earnings in the Channel Islands. 

Currently, a lack of talent is constraining our growth. Despite full employment, we face a shortage of skills, and attracting individuals to the island presents its own challenges. Alongside this, we have an ageing population and a growing group of non-working individuals over the age of 50 and the government needs to find ways to boost revenue.  

Put simply: we need more people in the workforce, and the government needs more income. 

We have a sizable untapped talent pool in Guernsey that  is currently less incentivized to work. Approximately 8,000 non-employed Guernsey residents have the potential to contribute significantly to our economy. From the data, we know that there are women of all ages, and both men and women over the age of 50. The question is, how can we remove the barriers that prevent these skilled individuals from being more economically active? 

During the Chamber Lunch, PWC presented the findings of their Women in Work Index 2023 – PwC Channel Islands and there is an opportunity for the island to address the skills shortage by improving workplace parity. It is clear that Guernsey and Jersey are falling behind other major economies in terms of workforce parity. Countries like Luxembourg, Ireland, New Zealand, and the UK have made significant progress in this area, and it is time for us to catch up. 

Barriers such as inflexible work arrangements and high childcare costs were identified as key obstacles, particularly for women seekin

g employment. For instance, in Guernsey, median earnings for women are £35k, compared to £42k for men. Childcare costs in the Channel Islands are exorbitant, with full-time care for children under 2 years old costing over £400 per week or £19,000 per annum for a single child. 

While childcare is a significant concern, we recognize that it is not the sole barrier preventing people from returning to work. Flexibility, changes in technology, and a lack of confidence in relevant skills also need attention. By addressing these barriers and increasing the female employmen

t rate while closing the gender pay gap, we can have a profound impact on the GDP and female earnings in the Channel Islands. 

There are many benefits of achieving workforce parity. Firstly, it would address the critical skill gap, as identified by Geek Talent, with nearly 2,500 job vacancies in Jersey and Guernsey at any one time. Secondly, by matching Sweden’s female labor force rates, we could see a 6% increase in GDP in Guernsey, amounting to £194 million annually. Finally, closing the gender pay gap could result in an additional 18% increase in female earnings, equating to £159 million in Guernsey.

To seize these opportunities, both the government and businesses must take action. The government should focus on targeting non-employed talent pools, reviewing parental leave and childcare entitlements, providing incentives for individuals to return to work, implementing up

skilling and reskilling programs, and encouraging flexible work arrangements. On the other hand, businesses need to gather data on workforce demographics and equality gaps, set targets, embrace flexibility, offer training programs for career returners, and foster inclusive cultures that promote equal opportunities for all. 

By prioritizing workforce parity, Guernsey can not only boost its GDP and address skill gaps but also cultivate a more inclus

ive and prosperous economy. The time for action is now. Let us work together to unlock our untapped potential and build a future of equal opportunities for everyone in Guernsey.