UK allows overseas workers to fill staff gaps in agriculture and care sectors

The government on Friday acted on two fronts to ease labor market shortages, allowing thousands of agricultural and social care workers from abroad to fill the gaps left by labor shortages. left by the British.

In two announcements made on Christmas Eve, ministers said UK fruit and vegetable growers would be able to recruit foreign workers to help bring in the harvest over the next three years, while staff looking after Foreigners will be allowed to enter the country on special visas early on. in 2022.

The Home Office has been reluctant to make exceptions to tough new immigration rules for low-skilled workers introduced after the EU’s free movement of people provisions were no longer applied in the EU. England earlier this year.

The extension of visas for Britain’s seasonal farm workers by three years follows pressure from farmers, who have warned that cuts to the overseas workforce will slash food production in the country. country.

Neil Parish, the Conservative chairman of the House of Commons environment committee, claimed this month that Brexit is “destroying” UK agriculture, with labor shortages hitting a range of sectors. .

The Home Office said on Friday that it would allow 30,000 foreign workers to enter the UK for up to six months to harvest in 2022, the same number as this year, but with the potential to increase by 10,000 if necessary.

It added that the seasonal agricultural labor scheme, introduced in 2019, will be extended for a further two years later, but in reduced numbers from 2023, as ministers seek to force a shift to labor. domestic worker and “high-skill, high-wage economy”.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “We recognize that agriculture has special and seasonal requirements for labor at harvest and have listened to our world-leading fresh produce industry to understand. their needs.”

“This is great news for the thousands of fruit, vegetable and flower growers who depend on the necessary seasonal workers to help,” said Tom Bradshaw, Vice President of the National Farmers Union. picking, packing and sorting our iconic fresh produce.” He added that labor shortages were “pervasive across the entire food supply chain”.

The Department of Health has announced that, for at least a year, foreign social care workers will be eligible to enter the UK on a health and care visa.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The care sector is experiencing unprecedented challenges driven by the pandemic and the changes we’ve made to care and health visas will accelerate that. workforce and help alleviate some of the pressures currently being experienced.”

Adult social care is experiencing major labor shortages ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic, and post-Brexit immigration rules are expected to have a growing impact, but a key issue Also the salary is relatively low.

This month, the government’s Migration Advisory Committee said social care workers should “immediately” be added to the list of occupations that provide foreign nationals with preferential access to the UK. Great Britain.

The Government has made it clear that the addition of care workers to the UK’s shortage occupation list will be revisited once pandemic pressures ease.

Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, an industry body, said it had called for a change to the shortfall occupation list “and in the long run it will help tackle the hiring difficulties that are already challenging.” number one in adult social care”.

Daisy Cooper, the Liberal Democrats’ health spokeswoman, said the government’s move was “too little, too late”.

She added: “The short offer of a one-year visa may not attract the number of care workers we desperately need.

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