Key workers called low skilled

Key Workers in the Coronavirus Crisis Are Made Up of Migrants

Key workers currently battling the Coronavirus crisis in the UK have long been labelled ‘low skilled’ by the Government, and many on the frontlines come from overseas.

Data suggests that millions of key workers are migrants. They are working tirelessly in public and frontline services which without them, the country wouldn’t be able to function. Approximately 23% of all hospital staff are migrants – 29% of doctors and 18% of nurses – 20% of agricultural workers, over 40% of food production workers and 18% of care workers (which rises to 59% in London).  

Yet as soon as 1 January 2021, the Home Office plans on pulling up the ladder for migrants entering these roles.

Key workers called low skilled
A poster designed by Craig Oldham emphasises the “countless unknown work” of people, both migrants and British, across the UK who are protecting public health and keeping the economy ticking over during the Coronavirus crisis. [Image: Craig Oldham/Creative Review.]

It is difficult to imagine a return to normal life post-Coronavirus, but it is even more difficult to imagine a society whereby the Government continues its obsession to reduce immigration and propel austerity-driven measures given migrants’ invaluable help and contribution to the UK during this time of crisis.

Staff in these sectors have been shedding light on the Government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy for years and the impact its language has on migrants’ lives and wellbeing in the UK.

In March, Rachel Harrison of the GMB Union spoke out in criticism of the label ‘low skilled’ saying it has “caused stress and anxiety for people who do an outstanding job day in, day out.” 

The hypocrisy, and ultimately the false narrative pushed by the Home Secretary Priti Patel prior to the pandemic, is blinding as those ‘low skilled’ workers magically have become ‘key workers’

The hypocrisy, and ultimately the false narrative pushed by the Home Secretary Priti Patel prior to the pandemic, is blinding as those ‘low skilled’ workers magically have become ‘key workers’. They always were key workers, but it’s incredible to see government and press rhetoric change at lightning speed. 

The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, is standing by her original immigration plan. [Image: Scram News.]

The swift change in narrative hasn’t stopped the Home Secretary from publishing post-Brexit visa and immigration plans, despite the pandemic worsening in the UK as of today, April 14. While where possible it is integral businesses are able to function to a degree of normality, Patel’s publication of punishing immigration policies hardly fits the bill of urgent business. Besides, the plan to restrict migration in a couple of months’ time appears distasteful when essential migrant workers are currently risking their lives in these very roles.

They always were key workers, but it’s incredible to see government and press rhetoric change at lightning speed

The jobs labelled as essential workers are diverse, including roles such as supermarket worker, bus drivers, carers, agricultural staff and nurses. Typically, these workers earn significantly less than the post-Brexit wage stipulation for a Work Visa (£25,600) which essentially prohibits them from entry into the country. Supermarket staff can earn between £11,000 to £17,000 depending on their role whereas a nurse’s salary, at least in the initial stages of their career, averages at £24,000. 

If the Conservative government still pushes ahead with its post-Brexit immigration plans, including the harsh wage stipulations for workers that the UK now recognises as the most important jobs in society, it is an insult to those currently working on the frontline as the country attempts to survive COVID-19.