Loss of overseas care workers

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LaingBuisson founder and executive chair William Laing explains why absent overseas nationals will be sorely missed

Covid-19, it seems, has brought about what years of Conservative government policy failed to achieve – a massive net outflow of foreign born residents, which could be as high at 1.3 million, as many foreign-born nationals returned home during the pandemic.

Revealed in the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR)’s budget commentary, this loss of workforce is one of the reasons why OBR projects the pandemic will lower UK output in the medium term by 3% relative to its pre-pandemic path.

Unless most of these ‘missing workers’ return, the OBR warns, the scarring impact from net outward migration will be greater than previously assumed and on a worst case scenario (economically if not politically) the UK population could be as much as 2% smaller.

The implications for the care sector don’t need spelling out.

Pre-Covid figures from Skills for Care show that 17% of care workers were from overseas (8% non-British EU and 9% non-EU).  Many of these will have gone and will not come back.

The care sector may well have enjoyed something of a Covid bonus over the last year, as workers in the hospitality sector sought alternative employment. But that will now come to an end as we emerge from lockdown, and the absent overseas nationals will be sorely missed.

Anyone recruiting from overseas faces a tough challenge, with visa fees and the immigration health surcharge to contend with.

Now that the OBR is focusing attention on the downside of outward migration from the UK, is it not time to argue even more strongly for a relaxation of the points-based immigration rules to be seriously questioned with a view to replenishing the stock of care workers lost as a result of the pandemic?