• Latest News

    Wednesday, January 31, 2024

    Overseas Graduates Heading into Care Work - Migration Observatory

    The number of overseas graduates staying on in the UK to work in care rose more than six-fold last year, according to research that puts a spotlight on unintended consequences of the government’s migration policy.

    More than half of all foreign students who switched from graduate visas to skilled worker visas in the year ending June 2023 went into care work, the Migration Observatory think-tank at Oxford university found via freedom of information requests.

    Some 26,200 overseas graduates were recruited into the care sector, from 3,900 in the year to June 2022, the data showed.

    “Most international students graduate from masters programmes in subjects like business, engineering and computer science, so it is striking to see so many take roles in care, which requires few formal qualifications,” Ben Brindle, researcher at the Migration Observatory and co-author of the report, said.  

    The increase was linked to the government’s expansion of the skilled occupation shortage list in February 2022 to include social care roles in order to help plug huge labour shortfalls. Workers whose professions are included on the list are eligible to apply for the skilled visa route.  

    The findings have implications for net migration, which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is trying to keep down after it hit an all-time record high in 2022 of 745,000. The increase was partly the result of a surge in the number of overseas students coming to the UK.

    In the past, foreign students have tended to leave the UK relatively soon after completing their studies. Transitioning from a graduate visa to a skilled work visa through care work opens the possibility of longer-term residence, potentially adding to net migration figures over time.

    Brindle noted that while some graduates taking care roles may want to work in the sector, others will have taken on the work, despite being heavily overqualified, “because it provides a route to stay in the UK”.

    The Migration Advisory Committee, which advises the government on migration policy, is due shortly to review the graduate visa route as part of wider efforts to bring net migration down.

    Home secretary James Cleverly said in December the review was to ensure the route works “in the best interests of the UK”.

    Brian Bell, head of the MAC, told the Financial Times last week, that currently the simplest way to reduce net migration “would be to ban social care from bringing in workers”, one of the main sources of immigration. But, he added: “You’ve got to think about what that would do to the social care sector.

    “It’s the same with education,” Bell continued. “You could have a policy that says we want to reduce the number of international students...That will reduce the revenue of the universities.”  

    The Migration Observatory said there were 77,700 care workers on out-of-country visas in the year ending June 2023. If the number of graduate-to-work visa switchers joining the care workforce were added the figure was about 34 per cent higher than official statistics suggested.

    There were both pros and cons to the shift towards care jobs, Madeleine Sumption, Migration Observatory director, said.

    By entering the care sector, some students were losing the opportunity to build on skills acquired during their degree. However, there were also benefits to the care sector drawing on 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 cutting net migration while ensuring the NHS and care sectors “continue to have access to the workers they need”.

    “We will be asking the Migration Advisory Committee to review the graduate route to prevent abuse, protect the integrity and quality of UK higher education and ensure it works in the best interests of the UK,” it added.

    • Blogger Comments
    • Facebook Comments


    Item Reviewed: Overseas Graduates Heading into Care Work - Migration Observatory Rating: 5 Reviewed By: BrandIconImage
    Scroll to Top