The UK government is offering more visas for jobs like HGV drivers... but not very many more.
The economic and social impacts of immigration are myriad, complex, and often argued about. But jobs have always been front and centre of the debate about what levels of immigraton Britain should have. People who would like immigrant numbers capped or reduced often argue that mass immigration leaves British people - especially working-class ones - facing unfair competition when looking for work, and that this phenomenon also pushes down British wages. People who take a pro-immigration stance frequently say that immigrants are essential to fill jobs that are crucial to the British economy but which many British people turn their nose up at, such as fruit picking or care work.
Making Britain back into an attractive option for many migrants - especially migrants from EU countries - may be a tall order. Exiting the EU means the UK no longer offers the same perks, such as a visa-free right to work for any EU citizen. And Britain’s association with anti-immigration sentiments will be hard to shake. Moreover, more migration may be as tough a sell at home as abroad, because Covid converted many more Brits into fans of closed borders: 84 percent of adults now think no immigration at all should be allowed while the pandemic continues.
The government may figure that by holding fire it will force businesses to entice Brits into the roles instead. Considering the usual way to make a job more appealing is to offer more money, that could translate into a raft of well-paid low-skilled jobs that would be of particular benefit to the poorer and less-educated sectors of society. Indeed, this is already happening. Lorry-driver wages have shot up by as much as 40 percent. Firms are offering HGV workers signing-on bonuses of thousands of pounds. That’s good news for the drivers. It may be worse news for consumers, as extra staffing costs tend to mean the prices in the shops have to go up too.
We’ve moved beyond a world where your country was all that matters. Our economies have become bigger than we realise. Things we use are less and less likely to come from our own country and more likely to have been imported from a country across the globe – this has become so normal that we’ve forgotten what a huge implication this has for how our economies work…