Why the new immigration rules will do the UK yet more harm at a time of labour shortages and changing demographics, and everyone will end up losing, except the far right.
The immigration changes announced this week are personal to my family. I’ll say that from the off. My husband is Spanish. He works in social care where most of his team is not from the UK. There is no way he would have been able to come here under these new rules. So what would I have done? I would almost inevitably have moved abroad. And I think many young people will. It’s not just the people coming into the UK who are affected. It’s the environment created, particularly for people already in the UK who are propping up the care structures in this country, and the possibilities limited for the people who are here too.
As I said, my husband works in social care. There has been much coverage of the potential impact of the changes in that sector and the knock-on effect on the NHS. Restricting people who come here from bringing their family members with them, for instance, partners or children, is not only cruel, but makes no sense from the point of view of attracting people to come when we so desperately need them to do so. Many countries in the Global North are facing similar problems in terms of labour shortages as their populations age and the percentage of the working population shrinks. They are competing with us when it comes to their workforce. Surely we should be trying to appear more not less attractive?
The Government’s response is to say that we need to get more UK citizens – mainly the sick and disabled – to fill all those roles. They have been saying that working from home will enable them to get back to work, although many of the care and health jobs are frontline ones, rather than remote ones. In any event, several prominent members of the Government and its friends seem to hate remote working with a passion. For some reason a June article from the Telegraph keeps popping up in my X feed, titled ‘The work-from-home fanatics owe the rest of us an apology’. I don’t know what is meant by ‘fanatics’, but the Telegraph has an anti-remote and hybrid story in almost every other day when there is a lot of evidence to the contrary. Sounds pretty fanatical to me.
Are we going to see the sick caring for the sick? Then there are parents. The Government is keen to get them into work too, but its childcare policy seems to be putting more pressure on struggling businesses who are already coping with, you guessed it, chronic labour shortages as well as rising costs.
My other job is in higher education. Many roles within higher education are under the new earnings threshold. Higher education is an international endeavour these days, given international collaboration is needed to tackle the kind of global problems we are facing today. How are we to compete in terms of being at the cutting edge of new technologies, biotech and the like if we cannot learn from the best the world has to offer? The idea that international researchers and students are taking away from UK students doesn’t stand up. It is a mutually beneficial relationship. Indeed, international students, who make up a large number of the immigration numbers and generally don’t stay in the UK for long after their course has finished, are basically funding UK higher education, including the amazing research into AI and vaccines and the like that have boosted our standing internationally and which the Government is so happy to boast about when it suits them.
None of this makes sense in the absence of a proper industrial strategy, with a focus on education, thriving local communities and good quality jobs that offer proper career progression, underpinned by a solid care infrastructure. It all seems to be driven by a fear of losing face over three-word pledges and of Nigel Farage. When will this xenophobic bubble burst and where will it lead us next?