UK: While ‘low-skilled’ migrants are saving us, the government is cracking down on them

Expect all governments will need to reflect upon the importance of lower-skilled immigrants following the pandemic:

This crisis has revealed how arbitrary the phrase “low skilled” is: how we value people, their rights, what they’re paid and the conditions they work in is all wrong. For all its warm words about key workers, the government should be reminded of this.

The day Dominic Raab encouraged us all to clap for the workers who are risking their lives to keep society going, the government restated that some of those same people won’t be allowed in the country come January 2021. While Priti Patel is conspicuously absent – notably on immigration issues – the department she oversees decided now was the time to reiterate that as part of its new immigration rules, “low-skilled” people would not be able to apply for a UK work visa.

Millions of key workers in the UK are migrants – approximately 23% of all hospital staff, including 29% of doctors and 18% of nurses, 20% of agricultural workers, more than 40% of food production workers and 18% of care workers, rising to 59% in London. These are the human beings who, for decades, politicians have blamed for holding down wages, ruining “British culture” and overburdening public services.

Source: While ‘low-skilled’ migrants are saving us, the government is cracking down on them

And the following related critiques:

The government has sparked fury by quietly publishing guidelines for a crackdown on ‘low skilled’ immigration at the height of the coronavirus crisis.

Businesses had called for a delay to the new “points based” immigration rules, amid warnings they could throw care homes and healthcare providers into crisis.

And just days ago Boris Johnson’s stand-in Dominic Raab heaped praise on checkout workers and cleaners, saying: “I think you’ve certainly made us all think long and hard about who the ‘key workers’ are in our lives.”

But Home Secretary Priti Patel last night pressed ahead anyway, publishing guidance for employers outlining the new system.

The radical shake-up will block millions of ‘low-skilled’ – by which it means low-paid – workers from coming to the UK.

After Brexit people will have to earn over £25,600, have a job offer and speak English to a certain level in order to get a work visa.

There will be some exceptions for people who earn £20,480 to £25,600 in shortage areas like the NHS.

But the plans have prompted an outpouring of fury from businesses and council who warn sectors like social care face “disaster”.

In response the Home Office told businesses they should simply end their “reliance on cheap, low-skilled labour”.

Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the guidance was a “slap in the face”.

He said: “These last few weeks have been a stark reminder, not that one should be needed, of the incredibly important  contribution frontline workers make in our communities.

“Workers like nurses, carers, supermarket staff and refuse collectors are playing a vital role in saving lives and keeping our country running, often at risk to themselves. It will be a slap in the face to many of these workers to see themselves classed as low skilled and unwelcome in Britain.”

Tom Hadley, director of policy and campaigns at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), called for a “temporary immigration route” in light of the Covid-19 crisis.

“Now is not the right time to plough on with immigration reforms. The national effort needs to be focused on eliminating coronavirus, protecting jobs and getting the economy back on track.

“The country will recover from this pandemic – and ensuring businesses have the skills they need in future will be essential to the recovery. From carers and cleaners to retail workers and drivers, the current crisis is showing us how much we depend on people at all skill levels.

“We need a temporary immigration route meet the needs businesses in every sector of the economy. Post-Brexit and post-virus, this will help businesses succeed and support job and growth here in the UK.”A government spokesperson said: “Now that we have left the EU, free movement is coming to an end and we will be introducing a new points-based immigration system from January 2021.

“We want to give employers as much time as possible to prepare for the new system that will bring in the best and brightest to the UK, which is why we have published this guidance today.

“The Government is committed to helping businesses through this difficult time. We have announced unprecedented support for businesses including £330 billion in business loans and guarantees, cash grants for small businesses, paying 80% of furloughed workers’ wages, business rates holidays and tax deferrals.”

Source: Fury as Priti Patel pushes immigration crackdown guide during coronavirus crisis

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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