The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has backed calls for the government to introduce a Covid recovery visa to fill the shortage of workers across a variety of industries including hospitality, and set out how the scheme could work, including calling on the government to change its immigration system to meet economic needs and help businesses, with devolved powers to fill vacancies in sectors with serious shortages, and extending the Youth Mobility Scheme to EU nationals.
The crisis has been sparked by Brexit and Covid-19, with many young workers having returned to their home countries. The post-Brexit rules make it harder for those in lower-skilled or lower-paid roles to move to the UK.
Mr Khan argued that a regional shortage occupation list for London and other cities would give areas the ability to attract and retain staff where they have greatest need.
He said: “Many sectors that are important to our economic recovery, from hospitality to haulage, construction to culture, are now under huge strain due the lack of EU workers and the government’s immigration rules. We know there are countless struggling businesses across London that are working hard to get back on their feet, but are now simply unable to hire the staff they need.
“Given the urgency and the scale of the challenge, I’m calling on the government to change its immigration system so that it meets our economic needs and helps our businesses. This must include introducing a ‘Covid recovery visa’ to help attract international workers into key roles to support our economic recovery. London has unique needs when it comes to attracting workers from around the world – and so a more tailored, dynamic approach is urgently required.
“When it comes to immigration, many politicians seem to be too scared to argue for what they know is needed. The truth is that a flexible migration system that can attract talent from around the world will always be crucial to London’s competitiveness and our ongoing success.”
According to the latest ONS figures, the number of job vacancies in London was around 21 per cent higher in July 2021 than in July the previous year, rising to 43 per cent for vacancies in the construction industry and 60 per cent in hospitality.
Despite this, London still has the highest rate of unemployment in the UK at six per cent.
It is one of only three regions including Scotland and the South East of England to have fewer payrolled employees than before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.