Migrants are “invaluable” to the adult social care sector, an industry leader has stressed, as he warned that the workforce shortage is “unsustainable”.
The comments come amid the Office for National Statistics’ release of the UK’s net migration figures, which hit 606,000 in 2022. But while the statistics place pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who promised to bring numbers down, industries struggling with a workforce crisis have highlighted the importance of immigration to help fill vacancies.
Responding to the net migration figures, Professor Martin Green OBE, chief executive of Care England, said: “Despite increases in net migration, the adult social care sector continues to grapple with 165,000 vacancies - in addition to the 130,000 in the NHS. It is clear from this that the government’s immigration policy is failing to address workforce challenges across our vital public services.”
He explained that with one in 10 posts remaining vacant, and one in three workers leaving their role each year, the current situation within the sector is “wholly unsustainable”. This, Professor Green said, means the government’s priority should be recruiting the staff needed, “regardless of origin”, as “international recruits have always made an invaluable contribution to our sector and are crucial to its sustainability going forward.”
Other industry leaders have echoed these sentiments, with Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, also pointing out that “despite the numbers published today, there remain significant shortages across hospitality - with 132,000 vacancies.”
She argued that while there is significant investment in skills and training, “it’s not enough on its own - and it’s time we had a sensible and pragmatic discussion about immigration.” Ms Nicholls concluded: “I urge the government to take a twin-track approach to investing in developing our own skills and making best use of the immigration system to plug vital job roles.”
Professor Green also said multiple-solutions approach should be taken when addressing vacancy issues, commenting that “years of chronic underfunding” and the “lack of a long-term plan [on] recruitment, retention, pay and conditions” had contributed to the workforce crisis in adult social care.
Data published by ONS as part of the 2021 census previously gave an insight into the other types of jobs non-UK born workers fill. It found ‘elementary occupations’, which are low-skilled, normally low pay jobs, had the largest proportion of international recruits at 31.2%.
Under this type of occupation, packers, bottlers, canners, and fillers were found to have the greatest proportion of migrant workers - with almost two thirds (60.7%) being born outside the UK. This was followed by warehouse operatives at 38.8%, cleaners and domestics at 37.3%, security guards at 36.2%, and, a bit further down the list, waiters and waitresses at 32.4%.
The same data also highlighted how many migrants work in the NHS. Nearly half (47.5%) of specialist medical practitioners in England and Wales, such as oncologists and cardiologists, were born outside the UK. Meanwhile, 40.6% of general medical practitioners, like GPs, were foreign born - as were 37.8% of nursing professionals, 37.7% of dental practitioners, and 31.8% of pharmacists.
All of these sectors have warned of a crisis in their workforces in recent months, with many nurses across the UK striking over pay, conditions and staffing issues, and scores of pharmacies closing across the UK. The British Dental Association also previously slammed Rishi Sunak for offering a “grotesque misrepresentation” of the crisis facing the dentistry industry in the NHS, after the Prime Minister claimed during a PMQs session that there had been an increase in dentistry funding and that more dentists are practicing across the UK.
BDA chair Eddie Crouch said in response: “The Prime Minister has offered a grotesque misrepresentation of a crisis facing millions. Our patients are living with the reality. The facts are there are no new dentists, no new contract and no new money. All we’ve seen are tweaks at the margins. We need honesty, ambition and investment to save a service on its last legs.”
The number of migrants contributing to adult social care was also highlighted by the data provided by ONS, which reported that one in four (25.3%) care workers and home carers were not born in the UK.