New UK immigration system would disqualify 8 in 10 current EU care workers
A new study claims that eight in 10 EU care workers currently employed in Britain would not have been eligible for UK visas under the government’s new immigration system set to launch on 1 January 2021. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think tank has warned that the new system will harm the UK’s economic recovery from COVID-19.
According to the IPPR’s study, two-thirds of EU nationals working in Britain would have been denied entry under the new system, including a staggering 80% of social care workers. The think tank is now warning that Britain’s post-Brexit immigration system could stifle recruitment in key sectors of the economy, including the care industry.
The care sector is already faced with a growing recruitment crisis, which the IPPR has warned will be ‘further exacerbated’ when the new UK immigration rules come into force. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the care sector had 100,000 social care vacancies.
Minimum salary threshold
Under the government’s new immigration system, UK visa applicants will be subject to a series of mandatory rules, including having a job offer that’s on a list of eligible occupations with a minimum salary of £20,480.
Social care workers were recently excluded from a list of 70 new jobs that the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recommended for the UK’s Tier 2 visa shortage occupation list, while a new fast-track health and care visa launched in July also omitted social care workers.
The Royal College of Nursing said: “The government’s new immigration system falls short of what is needed and will directly affect patient care.”
IPPR’s study found that the care sector would not be the only industry hit hard by new UK immigration rules affecting EU workers. Food production is likely to face shortages, with 1 in 4 workers in the sector coming from the EU.
Other areas likely to struggle with skills shortages include manufacturing, logistics and construction, according to IPPR researchers. While the IPPR acknowledged that the government’s aim is to fill vacancies with the millions of unemployed people across the UK, their study warned that retraining and upskilling workers will take time.
The IPPR’s study claims that the new immigration system could see a rise in exploitation and poor working practices, with unscrupulous employers formerly reliant on EU workers using informal work arrangements to fill vacancies, putting migrants in vulnerable situations.
According to the IPPR, a decrease in EU migration will in no way benefit UK workers long-term, highlighting that migration not only increases the supply of workers but increases the demand for workers, without any meaningful impact on wages or employment.
IPPR’s study includes a number of recommendations to improve the new UK points-based immigration system in support of government efforts to respond to the pandemic and trigger economic recovery.
The key recommendations include the support of critical sectors with the addition of senior care workers to the Tier 2 visa shortage occupation list, the scrapping of the minimum salary threshold, support for local talent and tackling worker exploitation – including a requirement for employers to inform employees of their rights as part of their sponsor duties.
A number of major employer and professional bodies have backed the recommendations made by the IPPR, including Care England, the Federation of Master Builders, the North West Business Leadership team and London First.
IPPR’s associate director for immigration, trade and EU relations, Marley Morris said: “As our care system struggles and businesses reel from the effects of the pandemic, it is vital that the new points-based system helps to support the country’s response to coronavirus and the economic recovery.”
“The government can use the new system to ‘build back better’ from the current crisis. The rules should be reformed to allow employers to address immediate skills shortages across all parts of the labour market, while encouraging employers who sponsor migrant workers to pay the living wage, offer secure work, and invest in skills and training,” Marley added.
A spokesperson for the government said: “We are delivering a firmer, fairer, points-based immigration system from January 2021, based on what people have to offer, rather than where their passport is issued.”
“We’re supporting the social care sector in a number of ways, including more funding and a national recruitment campaign, but we want employers to focus on investing in our domestic workforce,” the spokesperson added.
The spokesperson finished by saying: “As we look to the future, we must be realistic about the effect coronavirus has had on the labour market and our economy, and we know an increased number of people across the UK are looking for work. It is important that we focus on the resident labour market at this time.”
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