The population of JERSEY is now 103,267, according to the 2021 census taken on March 21 last year.
The latest figure is 4,533 less than the 2019 population estimate, which statisticians said was based on the atypical 2011 census snapshot, with the population increase of 5,400 since 2011 being a lot more consistent with the rates of increase seen over the previous 20 years.
But other trends confirm the challenges currently facing Island government. In the context of the housing crisis, 924 more homes were vacant in 2021 than ten years earlier, and the average housing occupancy rate – the number of people per household – continues to fall.
Meanwhile, the dependency ratio – the ratio of people outside of working age to the number of people earning – fell from 46% to 52%.
Presenting the first of two census reports ahead of this summer’s general election, Chief Statistician Ian Cope said the main factor affecting the disparity between previous population estimates and the latest confirmed figure was in-migration, which over the course of the ten-year period between 2011 and 2021 was at 3,300.
“The previous period was a period of increased migration, especially from candidate countries and Poland, and this trend has continued in the population estimate,” he said.
“We can see now that quite a few Poles, in particular, who arrived in 2004 are no longer in Jersey. Between 2011 and 2011, approximately 3,200 Poles arrived in Jersey.
“In the decade to 2021 it was minus 380, so there has been a big shift and the population estimates would have pushed that trend forward.”
But Mr Cope added that another factor was the combination of Brexit and the pandemic, which meant people left the island or failed to arrive in expected numbers due to travel restrictions imposed to fight against the global Covid crisis.
The number of vacant properties increased significantly in the decade leading up to Census Day last year.
At a time when the government is grappling with a worsening housing crisis, 8.3% of the island’s stock is likely to remain empty.
Commenting on the 4,027 private dwellings identified as vacant on Census Day, Mr Cope said: ‘Some of that could also be a temporary effect – property that could have been kept for temporary migrant workers who weren’t there .
“Our next report will be on housing and we hope to do an in-depth analysis, but we wanted to release the numbers now to give a broader context,” he said.
Although the number of private dwellings in Jersey increased by 3,912 (9%) to 48,610, occupancy levels continued to fall from 2.79 persons per dwelling in 1971 to a total of 2. .27 on Census Day 2021.
Where do we live?
Analysis of population by parish shows that the largest percentage increase was in Grouville, where the population increased from 535 to 5,401, putting it slightly ahead of St Peter at 5,264.
St Helier remains the most populated parish with the highest density per square kilometre. The capital of the island hosts 35,822, ahead of St Sauveur (13,904), St Brélade (11,012) and St Clément (9,925). St Mary remains the least populated parish with only 1,818 inhabitants.
The largest number of Islanders by age are those in their 50s, which portends a further rise in the dependency ratio as many approach retirement age during the next census period.
As of 2021, half of Jersey’s residents were born on the island, of which almost a third were born in the British Isles, 8% in mainland Portugal or Madeira and 3% in Poland.
Of those born elsewhere, 1,338 were from Romania, an increase of 875 from 2011. About one in 11 Jersey residents considered themselves Portuguese or Madeiran, which is nearly 1,500 more people than those born in Portugal or Madeira.
For the first time in 2021, the census asked questions about gender identity and sexual orientation, although it allowed respondents to “prefer not to say” if they wished.
A total of 90.5% answered that they kept the sex they were registered as at birth, 0.2% answered no and 9.2% chose to remain silent.
Some 87% said they were heterosexual, 2% gay or lesbian, 0.7% bisexual, 0.2% “of another sexual orientation”, while 10.7% preferred not to say so.
As politicians absorb the latest census data, attention should focus on improving population forecasts in the future, also driven by population policy’s call for better data.
Statistics Jersey has secured £500,000 in funding split between 2022 and 2023 for what Mr Cope described as a ‘data link’, linking information held by different government departments to help produce more accurate information on the presence or no migrants on the island.
While information on births and deaths is accurate, figures for migrants are currently the subject of estimates, which may be less reliable.
“We are not the only country struggling with this,” Mr. Cope said. “We know migrants need to register, but what we tend not to know are migrants leaving, because you don’t have to deregister. In the population estimates, we have to make an assumption about how many incoming migrants are going to stay here, and that’s what we think we’ve overestimated.
In Scandinavian countries, information from tax, social security and health services was first used to identify those who were no longer in the country, an approach now used in the UK.
In Jersey, the 2018 Census Act allows the use of this information, but requires more structuring to improve population forecasting.
“I have secured funding to help bring this information together this year and next year, but ultimately it will be up to the next Council of Ministers to decide if they wish to fund it in the future,” added Mr Cope.