The UK Immigration Bill: A Threat to Social Care
As of recent, Prof Brian Bell, the new head of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has been probed by MPs into the details of the new immigration bill. The bill is scheduled to take effect from 1st January 2021 and will impose strong barriers to migrants who want to enter the UK. These blocks on UK immigration will be manifested in the launch of a points-based system where individuals must reach a minimum criterion of 70 points. What this means is that it will be mandatory for migrants to have a job offer, a respectable command of the English language, meet the minimum salary threshold of £25,600 and either work or study in a ‘skilled’ or specialist field. Individuals viewed as an ‘unskilled’ worker will not be permitted entry.
The question surrounding the bill is: what is an ‘unskilled’ worker or profession? What has sparked criticism and the most scrutiny in the Houses of Parliament is that many social care workers would not meet the minimum salary threshold of £25,600 per annum. This is because multiple workers in this specific sector only earn the national living wage, £8.72 per hour, and so they would not meet the income requirement which will immediately bar migrant workers in the social care sector from entering the UK.
As of January 2021, it seems that there will be a tremendous downfall in the recruitment and sponsorship of migrant workers in the social care sector, not to mention other industries such as retail and hospitality. In turn, this will automatically reduce the employment and retainment of staff in these sectors and will create highly pressurised conditions to meet the demand from the British public. Considering the tragic consequences of COVID-19 and all the hard and appreciated effort from all NHS health and social care workers and medical professionals, this is simply not workable.
“[Workers need to be paid] £10 and £12 as an hourly wage before you make that sector attractive” – Prof Brian Bell, Head of the Migration Advisory Committee.
As a solution to this potential impact stemming from the immigration bill, it seems that workers in this sector, potentially others to follow suit, will need to be paid higher salaries. This would be to combat this shortfall of workers and make the social care sector attractive for new British workers to fill the vacancies that migrant workers would typically fill.
Standing before the Home Affairs Committee, Prof Bell, as well as MPs who backed the bill, faced considerable parliamentary interrogation and scrutiny from other MPs on the topic of ‘unskilled’ workers and the bill.
“…key and essential workers are not necessarily valued by salary in the same way society might set that expectation at” – Simon Fell, Conservative MP.
MPs on the same wavelength as Fell are urging the UK government to re-evaluate their plans for the new bill. This would be by permitting migrant workers who would be considered as ‘unskilled’ under the new bill to qualify for a visa and entry into the UK.
UK Government’s Response:
“The Migration Advisory Committee have continuously pointed out that really the problems of social care are nothing to do with immigration systems, it is to do with the fact it is not properly funded.
“And if the system was properly funded, wages could rise in that sector. That would [lead to] more attractive jobs for people to take up and potentially you wouldn’t need immigration to be helping out in the social care sector.”– Prof Brian Bell, Head of the Migration Advisory Committee.
Prof Brian Bell, on behalf of the UK government backing the new legislation, admits that the bill will incur teething problems initially. However, it is still maintained that the issue is not with the bill itself but simply the current wages for workers in the social care sector. To compensate for the pending loss of migrant workers, there needs to be a considerable wage premium to attract British workers into the sector.
The UK government will not alter its stance on the current immigration details of the latest bill and simply address that this issue will be resolved by adequately funding the social care sector. It is unclear when the legislation will be subjected to further scrutiny.
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