Improve pay and conditions in the social care sector rather than relying on migration

September 29, 2016

The answer to possible future shortages of workers in the care sector is better pay and better terms of employment, not more migration

Relying on migration to tackle potential shortfalls in the social care workforce will continue to depress sector wages and allow poor working conditions to be swept under the carpet.

That is the finding of a Migration Watch UK briefing paper being published today in response to suggestions of a shortfall of up to a million care workers by 2037 if EU migration is restricted post-Brexit. This is the view of Independent Age and the International Centre for Longevity following a study of the care sector

The IA/ILC-UK study also found that the effective rate of pay for as many as 1 in 10 staff in social care was below the National Minimum Wage. Over the sector as a whole, average pay was found to be below living wage levels and this was true even outside London.

In reality, this and poor working conditions are more likely to be the main underlying reasons that discourage those in the existing labour force from working in the care sector, which has both high rates of vacancy and sees up to a quarter of its workers leaving their jobs within a year. Sector owners and managers would do much better to look at the low wages and questionable working conditions they offer than bemoan the potential loss of cheap labour from poorer parts of the EU.

Migrants working in social care account for just 18.4% of the workforce while about 80% of new entrants are from the European Economic Area. A 2015 Bank of England report found that migration into lower-skilled work had a clear negative effect on wages in ‘caring personal service occupations’ and that it was greater in the care sector than in any other field of employment.

Commenting, Mr Alp Mehmet, Vice-Chairman of Migration Watch UK, said:

Lower-skilled migration adds little, if anything, to the UK’s budget and does nothing for GDP per head. Instead, it maintains the UK’s poor productivity levels while pushing down some of the lowest wages, especially in the care sector. It is not right to continue to pursue a policy of importing lower skilled workers rather than looking at wages and conditions and making these jobs more attractive to existing residents.

To read the recent report 'Brexit and the future of the migrant social care workforce' by the International Age and the International Longevity Centre UK (2016), click here.

To read the Migration Advisory Committee report ‘Work Immigration and the Labour Market’ (2016), click here.

To read the Bank of England report, 'The impact of immigration on occupational wages: Evidence from Britain’ (2015), click here.

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