The final chapter of the Population Atlas refers to a motion placed before Tynwald in April 2015 that led to a call for a debate on population policy. That debate still needs to happen.
Government has established an Enterprise Development Scheme which has, as one of its aims, a growth of 500-1,000 jobs per annum. Including dependents this might be seen as a suggested population growth in the range of 750 – 1500 per year.
In the week beginning 11 September 2016 Isle of Man Newspapers published results to a questionnaire completed by all sixty-three candidates for the House of Keys Election. One of the questions asked was: ‘What is the optimum population for the Isle of Man?
Without getting bogged down in the definition of the term ‘optimum population’ (candidates were allowed to interpret the term as they wished) some candidates offered quantified answers whilst other replied in more general terms.
Some of the significant words used in the answers included sustainability, infrastructure, services, growth, economic growth, community, housing, healthcare, balance, working age, quality of life, younger, overcrowding, and skills.
Two candidates did not answer the question. Thirty candidates answered, but did not provide a figure.
Optimum population figures were offered by twenty candidates were:
• 90,000 (suggested by five candidates)
• 96,000 (suggested by two candidates)
• 100,000 (suggested by ten candidates)
• over 100,000
The current population is likely to be just over 85,000 when the 2016 census results are published.
Seven candidates offered their answer as a range. These included:
• 75,000 – 100,000
• 85,000 – 90,000
• 85,000 – 100,000 (suggested by 3 candidates)
• 90,000 – 100,000
• 95,000 to 100,000
Four candidates replied by offering a rate of growth. These included:
• growth of 500 per year for five years
• growth of 500 – 800 per year for ten years
• growth of 100 per year for five years
• growth of 1,000 per year
There appears to be a belief across almost all of the sixty-three candidates that the Island’s optimum population is higher than the current population.
The debate that needs to happen must be well informed using a good evidence base. It needs to progress the development of clear aims and a realistic population policy involving public consultation and recognising the benefits of balanced growth. I hope the Population Atlas will make a good contribution to that debate and the policy that follows.