Shortages of senior care workers, nursing assistants, butchers, bricklayers and welders are so acute that vacancies will have to be filled by migrants after Brexit, say Government advisers.
The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) singled out social care as a serious concern because its low wages meant that most of the sector would no longer be able to rely on cheap migrant labour after freedom of movement ended on December 31.
It recommended senior care workers should be added to the shortage occupation list which would mean they could be recruited from abroad on salaries as low as £20,480, 20 per cent below the normal threshold for skilled migrant labour.
However, the MAC warned that senior carers accounted for only ten per cent of the sector’s staff, requiring the remaining 100,000 vacancies to be filled by UK workers after the Government’s ban on unskilled migrant labour kicks in from the end of the year.
It said wages in social care must rise to attract UK staff and urged the Government to introduce a “more sustainable and generous funding model” in a sector that had been central to the UK’s battle against the coronavirus.
“The risks of this not happening in a timely manner are stark. If that does not occur, or occurs with substantial delay, we would expect the end of freedom of movement to increase the pressure on the social care sector,” said the MAC.
“This is something that would be particularly difficult to understand at a time when so many care occupations are central to the Covid-19 pandemic frontline response.”
MAC chairman professor Brian Bell added: "We remain particularly concerned about the social care sector, which is so central to the frontline response to this health pandemic, as it will struggle to recruit the necessary staff if wages do not increase as a matter of urgency."
Professor Bell said the shortage of butchers, bricklayers and welders was “extraordinary”. He said it extended right across the sector and was “serious enough” for them to be added to the shortage occupation list.
The MAC report found that the decline of high street butchers had contributed to a decline in the status of the profession with fewer young people coming forward to train. Colleges reported cancelling butchery courses because of the low uptake.
“UK nationals that are qualified butchers are in very short supply. Whilst the biggest businesses have created training programmes with some success, these do not produce enough skilled workers to fill the shortage in the UK. Therefore, recruiting from abroad must be maintained as an option,” one industry group told the MAC.
MAC has also called on devolved nations to allow additional flexibility for trades such as "fishmongers, bakers and horticultural workers for Northern Ireland, childminders and nursery nurses for Scotland and health professionals for Wales".
Downing Street said the panel had acknowledged that recruiting workers from overseas was not the answer."We have set out that we want employers to focus on investing in the domestic workforce," the Prime Minister's official spokesman said.