The UK government has been told to let overseas nursing assistants and social care workers into the UK post-Brexit or face “stark” labour shortages in the sector.
The Migration Advisory Committee on Tuesday said health and social care professionals should be added to the Shortage Occupation List post-Brexit to “relieve pressure when freedom of movements ends.”
“We remain particularly concerned about the social care sector, which is so central to the frontline response to this health pandemic, as it will struggle to recruit the necessary staff if wages do not increase as a matter of urgency,” said Professor Brian Bell, the chair of the Migration Advisory Committee.
The Shortage Occupation List allows workers in certain sectors to leapfrog Britain’s new points-based immigration system in order to plug gaps in the labour market. The new immigration system will come into force on 1 January when Britain officially leaves the EU transition period. The system requires foreign workers to earn a minimum salary of £25,600 ($32,903), which many social care workers would not qualify for.
Watch: Why job losses are rising even as the economy reopens
Bell said overseas workers were “not always the solution” to labour shortages, particularly in the social care sector. The Committee “reiterated the need to make jobs more attractive to UK workers by increasing salaries rather than relying on migrants, particularly during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”
However, he said it was “sensible” to include them on the list given the circumstances.
Home secretary Priti Patel in March extended the visas of overseas NHS workers and in May announced that Britain’s new immigration system will include a fast track for NHS workers. However, social care workers fall outside of the NHS.
READ MORE: The UK’s new points-based immigration system explained
Other professions recommended for inclusion on the Shortage Occupation List include butchers, bricklayers and welders. The Migration Advisory Committee, which was set up to advise the government, said devolved Shortage Occupation Lists for the four nations should also be set up to address local skills shortages.
The recommendations were included in a 649-page report published by the Migration Advisory Committee on Tuesday. The report is the culmination of six months of work. Professor Bell said it was “a very challenging time to look at the Shortage Occupation Lists” given the COVID-19 pandemic.
A spokesperson for the UK prime minister Boris Johnson said the government would be “looking at the recommendations closely and responding in due course.”
The spokesperson added that companies should “focus on investing in the domestic workforce.”