Fears for shortage of staff if foreign key workers leave Wigan

Nearly 2,000 of the foreign workers in Wigan are key workers.
Foreign nationals make up three per cent of Wigan’s key workersForeign nationals make up three per cent of Wigan’s key workers
Foreign nationals make up three per cent of Wigan’s key workers

The GMB union has warned that the Government’s points-based immigration system, which is due to be introduced in January, could leave the UK desperately short of key workers.

According to researchers at Oxford University, many key workers will not qualify for a work visa.

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Office for National Statistics figures reveal that out of 4,800 non-British workers estimated to be in employment in Wigan, 1,900 were working in key roles between 2017-19.

That is three per cent of the 55,600 total key workers in Wigan.

The figures do not include those born outside the UK who later became British citizens.

Key workers are employed in sectors deemed essential by the Government, such as health and social care, education, food production, transport and other public services.

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The Home Office says the planned post-Brexit immigration is a fairer scheme to attract people with the skills needed in the country.

But GMB has warned that many migrant workers have already left the UK.

Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary, said: “Health and social care, for example, rely heavily on workers from abroad. We have huge numbers of vacancies and the current workforce is already under incredible pressure. Meanwhile, the immigration bill doesn’t even reference key workers and has capped salaries of workers to such an extent the care workers we desperately need won’t earn enough to meet the threshold.

“Unless it undergoes radical reform, the immigration bill in its current guise will leave the UK desperately short of key workers.”

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Across the UK about 10 per cent of the 10.5 million key workers are non-British.

Mariña Fernández-Reino, Senior Researcher at The Migration Observatory, said that while some key roles are included in the Government’s shortage occupation list, high costs and bureaucracy may make the UK less attractive for EU workers.

She added: “A large share of key workers will not qualify for a work visa in the new immigration policy; this includes, for example, social care workers or factory workers in food manufacturing, which are considered low-skilled and hence do not qualify for a work visa.

“In the short term, there might be some shortages in specific sectors because it will be more difficult for employers to hire EU workers.”

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A spokesman for the Home Office said: “The Government is committed to delivering a firmer, fairer, points-based immigration system, based on the skills people have and not where they come from.

“We have removed the Resident Labour Market Test to make it easier for employers to sponsor workers and suspended the cap on skilled migrants.

“We are also introducing special schemes to enable more scientists, academics, investors, entrepreneurs, and health and care workers to come to the UK easily, so that we can work with sectors to fill roles quickly where shortages may occur.”

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