The United Kingdom announced plans to ease visa access to tackle labour shortages, which have been partially caused by the country’s stricter immigration regulations post-Brexit.
Following its departure from the European Union in January 2021, the government implemented a points-based immigration system. A government spokesperson stated that they are working to ensure that the points-based system supports the country and benefits the economy by prioritising required skills and talents and by promoting long-term investment in the national workforce.
This includes reviewing the shortage occupation list to ensure that it reflects the current labour market. This list helps to facilitate visa access for professions facing labour shortages.
Numerous British companies have been urging the government to relax its visa policies, particularly in the hospitality, road haulage, and agriculture sectors that have been severely impacted by labour shortages brought about by Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Recent data from the Office for National Statistics reveals that the UK currently has approximately one million unfilled jobs. This number has increased due to the inclusion of Britons who are choosing to leave the workforce due to long-term illness or early retirement.
According to a survey by the ONS, more than a quarter of businesses with ten or more employees experienced labour shortages in late February. This is consistent with data from late January.
Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets at stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdown, warned that businesses may have no option but to increase wages to attract and retain workers, adding more pressure at a time when energy costs and the rising prices of goods are already causing difficulties.
The UK government and the Bank of England have urged employers to demonstrate restraint, warning that significant pay hikes could jeopardise attempts to curb inflation. However, strikes in the UK have increased in recent months, with workers protesting over salaries that have failed to keep up with the soaring consumer price inflation, worsening the cost-of-living crisis.