Guernsey in Statistics


Guernsey in Statistics

Last week, States Members met to define a vision for Guernsey and Alderney: the heart of our plan for the next four years and beyond. I blogged beforehand about what this might involve; the Policy & Resources Committee released a short statement afterwards about what we had achieved so far.

The first meeting was good-natured and productive. I hinted at it last week: it’s easy enough to agree on a vision at the highest level – aspirations to health, happiness and economic flourishing are ones we can all share. The next steps must involve translating these into more concrete goals and ambitions. That will be harder. Because we do not have political parties, our government is made up of people who do not always share even the same basic assumptions about how the world works. Without a common framework at that fundamental level, reaching agreement on the best way to achieve a good future for the Bailiwick will be an immense challenge.

It’s important to me to keep blogging about this work. I know it’s fairly abstract stuff, which will be a turn-off to many – but its purpose is to lay the foundations for all the work the States will be doing this term, and that’s important. It’s important you should know about it, and it’s important you are able to engage. I get thoughtful responses whenever I blog, and I carry those thoughts with me into meetings and debates – so you have an influence that way. By knowing what’s going on, you also have the opportunity to speak directly to others who represent you. You will, of course, be able to engage with, challenge and perhaps reshape our finished product when it goes to the States in November – but I’d rather take you on the journey than meet you at the end. This is my way of doing so; I am sure P&R will have other ways in mind, as well.

Having spent some time on the vision, we’re bound to move on soon to the more painful task of clarifying our goals. But I’m not going to write about what those could or should be, for now – I don’t want to pre-judge Wednesday’s teamwork session. Instead, I want to take a step back. Because, in order to work out how we get to where we are going, we need to know where we are. Think about the old cliché, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” True enough, if you are on the sea. But what if you’re between locks on a canal? A rising water level in one compartment means a falling level in the next. In that silly example, the consequences of a change in water level are quite different, depending on where you are. In real life, too, the consequences of what a government chooses to do are different depending on the kind of environment in which it’s acting.

The rest of this blog post is given over to diagnosing “where we are”, based on the information that’s available. I’ve organised it around some of the ideas that came up again and again at last week’s workshop (being healthy, safe, inclusive, successful, happy and – for want of a better word – idyllic). As I explore each area, I’m asking myself two simple questions: “what keeps us healthy (safe, etc)?” and “what stops us being healthy (safe, etc)?”. I know the range and quality of our data leaves much to be desired, and my own analysis of it is quite simplistic; so this is also an open invitation to share your insights about what’s working (or not) in each area. Please get in touch if there is anything you think I’ve overlooked.

Although this is only a faint sketch of what life is like here – there’s plenty of data we don’t collect, on topics government should care about; and plenty of data we do, which I haven’t been able to fully explore – I’m hopeful that it will help to anchor our conversations about “where next?” in a reasonably neutral and balanced picture of “where we are now”, which might help us to see our way more clearly.


Our average life expectancy at birth is 82.0 years (p44). The global average is 71.4 years and only 12 countries have a life expectancy above 82 years: the highest being Japan, at 83.7 years. We are starting from a good place; but, to improve, we may need to understand what countries like Japan, Switzerland and Singapore do better.

Our top causes of death are cancers, cardiovascular diseases and respiratory diseases (p51). But we lose the most years of life to suicide and accidents, before lung cancer and coronary heart disease (p58). Worse, our rates for years of life lost to suicide and accidents (as well as to prostate cancer) are significantly higher than in the UK (p60).

There are very clear connections between certain diseases and certain kinds of risky or harmful behaviours (e.g. smoking and lung cancer). “Preventable” deaths are deaths that could be avoided if risky behaviours (such as smoking, excessive drinking, physical inactivity, unsafe sex or substance misuse) were minimised. 95% of liver disease deaths, and over 60% of deaths from respiratory or cardiovascular diseases, are considered preventable (p63) – so the scope for improvement is evident.

The proportion of our population over retirement age, and the proportion over the age of 80, continues to increase (p23). We do not have good data on health outcomes for older people, including on age-related conditions such as dementia, frailty, or sensory impairment. We do know that we have an ongoing trend of excess winter deaths among older adults (p76), which may be a consequence of poor housing conditions and/or fuel poverty.

We’re lacking data on the general performance of our health and social care services at present, although the HSC President has promised we’ll work to improve this. We do know the average length of stay in hospital in Guernsey is 6.2 days (p82), compared to a UK 2013 average of 7.0 days.

Similarly, we know very little about inequalities in health: the differences in outcomes for different parts of the population. We know that, on average, men’s life expectancy is 4.2 years less than women’s (p48): a gap smaller than in many other European countries, and one which continues to close. We know that there are variations in tooth decay from school to school (p40) which may point to geographic or, more likely, income-related inequalities.

1,527 crimes were reported in 2015 (p18), a 12% decrease on the previous year; and 711 of these (47%) resulted in a detection. The most-reported crimes were criminal damage, threats & arson (434 reports), common assault and threats to kill (313), and theft (256). The most-detected crimes were common assault and threats to kill (251 detections), criminal damage, threats & arson (116) and drug-related offences (69). Police stop-and-search powers were principally used in respect of drugs (p23).

Nearly three-quarters of Guernsey residents are not very worried, or not at all worried, about becoming a victim of crime (p10), while just 6% are very worried. We are generally a safe community, and our Law Enforcement services are able to focus on targeting “quality of life” crimes (p2) – although, of course, we are not immune to infrequent but awful incidences of serious crime.

While our streets are generally safe and our border controls effective, we need to pay careful attention to what happens behind closed doors. Up to 2014, the number of children on the child protection register had been steadily increasing (p17), especially among older children (p16). The dominant risk factors for children were parents who had a problem with alcohol or drugs, a mental health condition, or a known history of violence – with the three, in combination, being especially risky (p17 and p46).

Reported rates of domestic abuse in Guernsey are lower than in the UK (p3583) – although care should be taken with interpreting that figure, as this is known to be a very under-reported area (p6). A recent survey of local survivors of domestic abuse found that the vast majority of cases (75%) were perpetrated by men against their female partners (p5), although women were also perpetrators, and abuse took place in LGBT+ as well as heterosexual relationships (p5). Over 90% of victims reported a negative impact on their mental health, and three-quarters said their physical health was affected (p6).

Given the strategic importance of Guernsey’s finance industry to the island, economic crime and cyber-security also merit consideration. There were 978 Suspicious Activity Reports recorded by the Financial Intelligence Service in 2015 (p30) and four money-laundering convictions. I haven’t been able to find statistics on cyber-crime at present.

Finally, in terms of the effectiveness of the justice system in reducing crime and promoting rehabilitation, the reoffending rate ranges from 20% of people who were initially sentenced to community service, to 39% of people sentenced to prison (without post-custody supervision) (table 3.6.2). The UK 2012 average reoffending rate was 24.9% (p9). Most offences committed by young people are dealt with through the Child, Youth and Community Tribunal (p41) – the rate of youth crime is low, but those who commit crimes often come from challenging backgrounds (p42).

One of the most obvious causes of exclusion is poverty. One in five local households live on an income of less than £18,000 a year (p3). More than two-thirds of those households are people who own their own home without a mortgage – people who are very likely to be “asset-rich, cash-poor” pensioners (p16). The poorest group of islanders overall are single parents with one or more children, who have an average income of £27,500 island-wide (p3) – and with eight times as many single parents in the lowest income bracket as in the highest (p15).

Another is disability. Again, around one in five islanders has a long-term condition which affects their day-to-day life (p3): a rate comparable to the UK’s. Long-term conditions are more common among people living in social housing and people who are not in work (p4). In 2012, the proportion of people with a long-term condition who struggled to take part in activities outside the home (including things such as doing the groceries) was two to four times higher than those who struggled to do things for themselves at home (p5) – this points towards physical environments, shops and services being less than accessible for disabled islanders.

Inclusion or exclusion starts early. With a selective education system and separate schools for children with disabilities, some of that is deliberate. But there are also exclusions that the education system would wish to avoid: 10 children (0.3% of the school roll) were excluded from primary school, and 66 children (2.6% of the roll) were excluded from secondary school in the school year 2014-15 (p71). Conversely, attendance at primary school over the past three years has been 95.7% – about on par with school attendance in the UK (p72). Attendance at secondary school has been 92.6% – consistently a couple of percentage points lower than in the UK (p72).

This links into the broader social sense in which inclusion and integration arise from having a good start in life. The children on the child protection register (92 in 2014), who are affected by parents’ substance misuse or violence at home (p31), and the 72 children in statutory care (p47) are far less likely to have the kind of positive, nurturing start in life that will enable them to thrive as young people and adults. Among the small numbers of young people who get involved with the criminal justice system, many are found to come from difficult family backgrounds (p42).

There is, at present, no central collection of data on discrimination in Guernsey (p36). Similarly, we don’t have much information on differences in outcome for different population groups – as I mentioned above, we know very little about health inequalities, for example. We know that women are much more likely to suffer domestic abuse (p5), that men have shorter average lifespans (p48), and that older people are probably over-represented among the poorest islanders (p16). We can spot some of these differences in outcome when we look at a specific issue in detail, but we don’t currently collect data in a systematic way – so there’s a lot we don’t know about the way that Guernsey includes or excludes groups who are known, elsewhere, to be marginalised: groups including disabled people, LGBT+ people, people from ethnic or national minorities, and others.

While every area I’ve explored here could be considered a dimension of success, I’m using this heading to focus on economic flourishing and international competitiveness, including in education.

Our estimated GDP in 2014 was £2,353 million (section 1.2), a real-terms increase of 0.9% on the previous year, with the Finance sector responsible for a third of all output. Median average earnings in 2015 were £30,550 (section 1.2) – relevant to my point on inclusion, women’s median average earnings were £6,600 lower than men’s. There is a very wide spectrum of distribution of earnings, with more than 10% of employees earning less than £15,600 a year, and about 5% earning more than £100,000 (p3). (Even if the rich are getting richer, according to the OECD, income inequality can reduce GDP growth – so this is something to be wary of.)

Just under 31,500 people were employed or self-employed in Guernsey at the end of 2015 (p1). The four largest areas of employment were Finance (21.5%); Public administration (17.2%); Wholesale, retail and repairs (12.5%) and Construction (9.0%) (table 3.2.1). The make-up of these latter two groups is quite different: nearly 10% of those working in Wholesale (etc) and over 30% of those working in Construction are self-employed (table 3.2.1); and two-thirds of employers in both sectors are small businesses, with no more than five employees (table 4.2.1). By contrast, less than 1% of people working in Finance are self-employed, and under 50% of employers have no more than 5 employees, while 10% have more than 50 staff (table 4.2.1).

There were 649 registered jobseekers in mid-2015, about 2.0% of the working population (p2801). There is considerable movement into and out of unemployment, with 666 people being placed into employment by the Job Centre in the year to June 2015 (p2803).

Government expenditure remains low as a proportion of GDP, at 24.2% in 2014 (p12): lower than any of the OECD countries and not much more than half what the UK spends.

Within the Finance sector, Guernsey has £228bn of funds under management (source), neck and neck with Jersey, which reports £228.4bn of funds under management (source). Guernsey is reportedly strong in the insurance sector, being Europe’s largest captive domicile, and home to over 800 international insurance entities (source).

Guernsey’s ongoing success as a business and tourist destination depends on good connections to the outside world. I know stats on air and sea travel are published, because there were reports only this week of a decline in visitors by sea – but unfortunately, for now, I can’t find where they are kept!

One other major factor for our economic competitiveness – and for our success as a community as a whole – is the way we prepare our young people for the world beyond school.

The range of statistics on education locally are limited, but we can see that 86% of junior-school children attained at least Level 4 in English and Maths at Key Stage Two over the past three years (p40); with 91% of them having progressed by at least two Levels over their time at junior school (p40). However, in 2014, pupils who were eligible for Uniform Allowance had lower attainment levels – by 24% in reading, 32% in maths and 36% in writing – than their peers (p38).

Similarly, 57.4% of young people at secondary school attained at least 5 A* to C grades in their GCSEs, including English and Maths (p54). None of the children in statutory care attained these grades (p38). Performance in Guernsey over the last few years has been roughly in line with the England average (p55), but with more variation from year to year, probably due to the comparatively small number of students. Progress measures introduced in 2014 show that 66.9% of Guernsey students made their expected progress or more in English, from Year 7 to Year 11; while 73.9% of students did so in Maths (p55). Progress levels were lower in English than in the UK, but higher in Maths.

Hundreds of Guernsey students go on into higher education: of those, in 2015, about 40% returned to Guernsey and entered employment after graduation (source – 67% went into employment, and two-thirds of those returned to Guernsey). Half of those graduates were employed in the Business and Finance sector, but returning students also entered a wide variety of other fields, from health and education to marketing and tourism. Of course, we don’t know how long they will stay for, or how many of them will manage to make it onto the housing ladder.

Measuring happiness is something of a challenge, and not something we have done much of in the past. But one obvious contributor to happiness is mental wellbeing. We do know that less than a fifth of islanders have high levels of mental wellbeing (p93) and 21% of the population experience anxiety, depression or both at a clinical level (p94) – with much higher rates among the poor and unemployed. We don’t currently have a clear picture of the factors which have led to poor mental wellbeing among that fifth of islanders, or among the people whose who need to access services for moderate or severe mental health conditions.

Good mental health and wellbeing among children is especially important. The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) saw 98 young people at high risk in 2014 (p36), of whom 44 were admitted to hospital. 76% of admissions were due to self-harm, and 13% to eating disorders (p36). Overall, 353 young people were referred to the service; an increase of 55% since 2010 (p36).

There was a sense that part of the joy of island life was its homeliness. The future we were imagining for Guernsey was not one of shiny glass high-rises and flying cars, but one that uses our modern knowledge and capabilities to recapture something of the simplicity of the past. Our beautiful natural environment was an important part of that.

The amount of open land in Guernsey has decreased by 5% over the decade from 1999 to 2010 (p54), but the length of hedgebanks – equally an important habitat for local biodiversity – appears to have increased, from about 695km to 826km (p55). Guernsey has 42 types of habitat, and over 13,000 species of animal, plant and fungus have been recorded in Guernsey and the other Channel Islands (p17). However, the island has lost 80 species of animal and plant in the past century, due to habitat loss, climate change, and the introduction of invasive species (p23).

Tying in with success and sustainability, 40% of Guernsey’s land is available for agriculture (p18) and its seas support a fishing industry worth £4m (p20).

In terms of actions that impact on our environment and our health, Guernsey’s greenhouse gas emissions reduced by 7.0% from 2013 to 2014 (section 1.2), with power generation being responsible for the largest proportion of emissions (25.2%), followed by methane emissions from decomposing landfill waste (23.8%) and emissions from transport (21.9%) (figure 3.1.2).

Of the 13 beaches routinely surveyed by Environmental Health, 3 were classed as having “excellent” water quality, 7 as “good”, 2 as “sufficient” and 1 as “poor” (source). Drinking water quality in Guernsey complies with UK best practice standards (p34) but Guernsey Water has observed a 5.8% increase in quality-related complaints over the past ten years (p34).

Just under 74,000 tonnes of waste was generated by households and businesses in 2014 (p46) – a figure that’s held more or less steady since 2008. Households now recycle 49.1% of waste, and businesses recycle 41.6% of waste – a combined rate of 44.2% in 2014 (p46). Liquid waste, measured by water consumption, is decreasing gradually from year to year (p47).

Like happiness, this concept is difficult to capture through statistics, except by measuring the things – such as pollution, waste or loss of habitat – which threaten it. There are other elements that make Guernsey idyllic – our heritage, our language, our customs – which completely slip through the net of official statistics.


This is an early, unstructured and unscientific romp through the data we’ve got easily available. I haven’t looked closely at the quality of the data (most of it will not be great) or, really, at the relevance of the indicators. I’ve tried to flag up “what we don’t know”, when it’s obvious to me, but there will be plenty else I’ve missed. But I’ve just tried to sketch a quick picture of Guernsey (and Alderney, where data cover both islands) based on what we currently measure, record and share, so that I can go into Wednesday’s workshop with a bit more of a sense of what we’re like as a place, and where our weaknesses and our opportunities are to be found. Meanwhile, my analysis here is just my interpretation of the published data – I’ve linked back to my sources for every point I’ve made, so that you can go and sense-check my claims for yourself. I’d be pleased to hear your interpretations and additional suggestions.

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