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The number of foreign graduates remaining in the UK to work in the care sector increased more than sixfold last year, according to a study which highlights the unintended consequences of the government’s migration policy.
More than half of all international students who moved from a graduate visa to a skilled worker visa in the year ending June 2023 headed into care work, the group found of the Migration Observatory of the University of Oxford via access to information requests.
Some 26,200 foreign graduates were recruited into the care sector, compared to 3,900 in the year to June 2022, the data showed.
“Most international students graduate from master’s programs in subjects such as business, engineering and IT, so it is striking to see so many of them taking on care roles, which require few qualifications “, Ben Brindle, researcher at the Migration Observatory and co-author. of the report, said.
This increase is linked to the Government’s expansion of the list of skilled shortage occupations in February 2022 to include social care roles to help fill huge labor shortages. Workers whose occupations are on the list are eligible to apply for the skilled visa route.
These findings have implications for net migration, which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is trying to contain after hitting an all-time high in 2022 of 745,000 people. This increase is partly explained by an increase in the number of international students coming to the UK.
In the past, international students tended to leave the UK quite quickly after completing their studies. Transitioning from a graduate visa to a skilled work visa via care work opens up the possibility of longer-term residency, potentially increasing net migration figures over time.
Brindle noted that while some graduates in care roles may want to work in the sector, others will have taken the job, despite being heavily overqualified, “because it offers a pathway to stay in the Kingdom -United “.
The Migration Advisory Committee, which advises the government on migration policy, is expected to soon review the graduate visa process as part of wider efforts to reduce net migration.
Home Secretary James Cleverly said in December the review aimed to ensure the route worked “in the best interests of the United Kingdom”.
Brian Bell, president of the MAC, told the Financial Times last week that at present the easiest way to reduce net migration “would be to ban social services from attracting workers”, the one of the main sources of immigration. But he added: “You need to think about the consequences this would have on the social care sector.
“It’s the same thing with education,” Bell continued. “You could have a policy saying we want to reduce the number of international students. . . This will reduce university revenues.
The Migration Observatory said there were 77,700 social workers on visas abroad in the year ending June 2023. When adding the number of graduates changing visas to working and joining the healthcare workforce, the figure is around 34 percent higher than the official figure. proposed statistics.
There are both pros and cons to the move toward care jobs, said Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory.
By entering the care sector, some students lost the opportunity to develop the skills acquired during their studies. However, the care sector has also benefited from using international students rather than people coming directly from abroad.
“Exploitation in the care sector has been a big problem recently, and former students with good language skills and more local knowledge may be less vulnerable to it,” Sumption said.
The Home Office said its plans struck the right balance between reducing net migration while ensuring the NHS and care sectors “continue to have access to the workers they need”.
“We will ask the Migration Advisory Committee to review the graduate pathway to prevent abuse, protect the integrity and quality of UK higher education and ensure it works in the best interests of the UK “, he adds.