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Migration Watch wrong to blame migrants for care shortages

by Charlie Mitchell | 06.10.2016

Migration Watch UK argued in a paper last week that migrants are worsening staff shortages and that more of them shouldn’t be encouraged into the care sector. But the pressure group is wrong to blame migrants. We’ll continue to need them as our population ages.

Migration Watch was responding to a report by Independent Age (IA), which predicted there would be 849,000 too few care workers by 2037 if we cut net migration to zero and don’t make the sector more attractive to work in. At present, the UK’s care workers look after an average of seven adults each. In future, this “care dependency ratio” could hit 11.

To reduce the gap, IA recommends increasing the sector’s attractiveness to British workers by improving training, pay and conditions – so that staff turnover falls from the current 24% – and attracting migrants. It says, if the sector is made more attractive but net migration cut to zero, the care dependency ratio would be nine in 2037. The ratio would be eight if net migration falls to the ONS’s principal projection of 165,000 a year.

But Migration Watch said: “Increasing the share of migrant workers in the sector bears down on wages making it not more but less attractive, thus making the problem worse”. To reach this conclusion, it referred to a Bank of England (BoE) report, which shows that a 10 percentage point rise in the migrant share in care and personal services sector – a group that includes jobs like dental and veterinary nurses as well as care workers – would lead to a 2.5% reduction in pay.

According to the BoE, between 2000 and 2014, the share of migrants in the care and personal services sector rose from 8.5% to 17.3% – an 8.8 percentage point increase. This implies an impact on average pay across the sector of just over 2%.

But this doesn’t mean that the pay of British workers has suffered as much as that. If migrants are paid less than natives, it could simply be the statistical impact of having more lower-paid migrants bringing down the average. “The implied wage impact on UK-born workers will certainly be less than 2% over the entire period from 2000 to 2014”, Jonathan Portes, principal research fellow at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, told InFacts.

In other words, Migration Watch hasn’t provided evidence either that migrants are depressing wages of British care workers significantly – or that the reduction in pay such as it is deters many Brits from working in the sector. And the pressure group certainly hasn’t provided evidence that stopping migrants coming into care work would cut shortages. It is much more likely to exacerbate them.

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Edited by Hugo Dixon

2 Responses to “Migration Watch wrong to blame migrants for care shortages”

  • Migration Watch NEVER provides statistical facts to substantiate its “findings”
    it’s an astroturf lobby group for all those bigoted high-earners that wants to raise the drawbridge and wave the flag.
    they are an absolutely distateful and disgraceful bunch !!

  • The acceptance among the UK population of continued lying about the EU and what came from it by the pro-Brexit media and from the side of ruling politicians is truly amazing. What serious reason does half of the UK population actually have to accept anything at all as truth from their present government and its foremost representatives?