[news article based on press release from the Migration Observatory, University of Oxford]
The Government’s Migration Advisory Committee has made a series of recommendations for the post Brexit immigration system, including lowering the minimum salary from £30,000 per year to £25,600. These would apply to both EU and non EU workers applying to work in the UK.
Under the recommendations, most teachers and NHS workers would be exempted from the £25,600 threshold, and new entrants to the labour market – those under 26 and recent graduates from UK universities – could be granted permission to work in the UK with much lower salaries – a minimum of £17,920 per year. This issue for social care of course is that there is no national pay scale to hang recruitment on, but, although MAC remains concerned about social care, it concludes that the root cause is the failure to offer competitive terms and conditions in the sector, itself caused by the lack of a sustainable funding model. Senior carers and some other roles within social care would become eligible with the extension of the skilled worker route to included medium-skill occupations, but MAC recommends this route is not the appropriate one to use to solve the problems social care faces for low-skilled workers. Many of the problems involve lower-skilled care workers, who would not be eligible under this route as they are below RQF3 skill-level. ‘Residential and social care’, is not one of the sectors where there is predicted to be a large impact on employment, MAC says, because it has a lower share of EEA migrants in employment than the national average and an ineligibility rate only slightly above the national average. MAC acknowledges there may be parts of this broad sector where impacts are larger. Overall, however it seems likely that the change in EEA population reduces the social care workforce more than it alleviates demand (from EEA nationals), thereby increasing pressure in social care.
Importantly, MAC make the case for, “sectors that provide high public value to society and the economy, but which might not necessarily pay as high wages”. These sectors,or more generally jobs, provide additional public value that is not always reflected in their wage. The most obvious examples of these might be public sector jobs like health and social care workers and teachers, whose work has significant positive spill-over effects (‘externalities’). Without an educated and healthy workforce, other sectors would struggle to continue producing their output at the same level of efficiency as they currently do. In short, poor quality or lack of social care impacts on working age adults and the wider economic output.
Among the key recommendations:
- The MAC has recommended that most skilled workers should earn at least £25,600 to qualify for a long-term work visa, with lower rates for nurses and various other public-sector workers. This is down from £30,000 under the current system for non-EU citizens.
- In addition to meeting these thresholds, workers would also need to meet an occupation-specific one, which in many cases will be higher. The occupation-specific rate would be set at a level that would exclude the 25% lowest-paid workers within each occupation – an approach unchanged from the current system for non-EU citizens.
- Required rates for young people under age 26 would be 30% lower. This means that in some occupations, young workers would only need to earn £17,920. The MAC also recommends that they should be able to stay on this rate for five years instead of the current three (though they may need much higher salaries to qualify for settlement after 5 years).
- The MAC recommends against having lower salaries for jobs in the ‘shortage occupation list’ – something that the government proposed in its 2018 white paper – and against regional variation in salary thresholds.
- The MAC suggests that an ‘Australian-style points system’ would bring little added value when deciding which workers could enter to the UK with a job offer. The MAC instead recommends that entry visas should be allocated based on employer sponsorship, as current happens for non-EU citizens.
- However, the report suggests that a points-based system might be useful for deciding who gets permanent settlement rights after a few years. It also suggests that small numbers of people without a job offer could be admitted using a points system.
Also recommended by MAC are the addition of childminders and related occupations, teaching assistants and educational support assistants to RQF3 occupations. All these could reasonably be described as in competition with front-line social care staff. Perhaps diversification into education or young people’s services might benefit care provider recruitment, as long as you can manage a dual inspection regime of Ofsted and CQC. A useful comparison of sectors published by University of Oxford shows the disparity and the mountain that social care has to climb to compete in the employment market, as well as longer narrative about the wider economy. It’s no consolation, but a swathe of our current UK labour market is in for a shake up and it will be interesting (to say the least), who is driving our buses, delivering our online parcels and serving our cafe coffees in the future.
The whole reports stretches to over 270 pages, but for social care it can be summarised in one line.
Nothing to see here, please await the government funding strategy.