If you needed reminding that Government’s new six-year work permit policy is crazy, you only had to listen to Government ministers last week.

First you had the Finance Minister pointing out that, because of population changes, there are hundreds and hundreds fewer Bermudians every year to fill the jobs. In the last two years alone, there are 1,700 fewer jobs held by Bermudians — not because foreigners are snatching them away from us, but because there are fewer of us available to grab them.

Over the next 36 years, the Finance Ministry predicts, another 8,000 Bermudian jobs will be lost.

“It is going to have some impact on the work permit situation, no question,” the Home Affairs Minister Minister was quoted as saying.

But then you had the Home Affairs Minister, along with Immigration Department officials, reminding employers that the new rules are coming into effect — requiring them to get rid of work permit holders who have been on the island for six years.

Beginning over the next year, there will be a mass exodus of perfectly qualified non-Bermudians who have been here six years or longer.

They will be replaced (if replacements can be found, or exasperated employers don’t take their business elsewhere) by new plane-loads of non-Bermudian work permit holders whose primary qualification is they haven’t worked in Bermuda before.

That, in a nutshell, is the problem with the six-year policy. It is completely absurd, and it doesn’t help Bermudians.

Here are a few of the more obvious ways in which the policy hurts us:

n It kicks large numbers of foreign workers out of Bermuda at a time when we actually need more people.

n It replaces people with six years experience in Bermuda with people with no experience in Bermuda. We are expelling those people who can benefit Bermuda most.

n It guarantees that guest workers will have less commitment to Bermuda and Bermudians, and be less understanding of our culture and customs. (Imagine the difference in a teacher with six years in Bermuda, versus one with none at all!)

n It dramatically increases the likelihood that non-Bermudians will see the island as a place to make money and clear out, and to hell with the locals. It reduces the likelihood of non-Bermudians helping or donating with charities and other Bermudian causes.

n It makes Bermuda significantly less attractive to international business, at a time when we depend on international business more than ever.

n It forces businesses to get rid of their best employees — those they have had for more than six years — with risky new hires. It makes their most difficult job – hiring the right people – considerably more difficult.

n The large numbers of exempt categories of workers undermines the declared goal of the policy, which is to make sure we don’t produce more long-term non-Bermudian residents.

n This system of exemptions and waivers gives a significant hiring and staffing advantage to the largest international companies owned by foreigners, and hurts smaller local companies owned by Bermudians.

n The system of waivers will inevitably raise suspicions that ‘special favours’ and corruption are taking place, no matter how scrupulously honest and impartial every official and politician may be.

n The policy won’t change the overall large numbers of imported workers. It doesn’t address the infrastructure problems (like housing) caused by this.

n It doesn’t directly address the hiring and promotion of Bermudians. Companies are supposed to supply evidence of this when seeking exceptions to the six-year rule – but this is supposed to be happening anyway.

n It ignores the core difficulties with long-term non-Bermudian residents — how to handle their Bermuda-raised non-Bermudian children. Employers are given waivers and extensions and exemptions for many things but not for the key one – of not having children, or having a proven home and residence outside of Bermuda.

All this could, perhaps, be justified if there was the remotest possibility that it would produce anything like the desired results.

But there is not.

What would cause far less damage to the people of Bermuda, our economy and our island’s reputation, is in fact far simpler and less dramatic. It is simply to take seriously the long list of warnings that already appear on every work permit — declaring that a work permit offers absolutely no rights of residency.

If any foreign workers are too dumb to understand this, that’s their problem. We shouldn’t hurt our own interests, and our own economy with a bizarre policy like the six-year limit.

Secondly, we should give the Department of Immigration the staff and the training and the money it needs to make sure Bermudians are treated fairly in the workplace, that questions and challenges are thoroughly and fairly investigated, that work permits are not given when Bermudians are available to do the job. We all know there are not nearly enough Bermudians to do the jobs we want done in Bermuda.

Forcing ourselves to sack all imported workers every six years, only to replace them with a new crop, just doesn’t make sense.

The policy needs to be changed before the damage is done.