The coronavirus pandemic has upended which people are deemed “key workers”, say Andrew Aitken and Chiara Manzoni from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research in an article for Spotlight. Food systems in the UK are dependent on migrants working in agriculture, manufacturing and retail.
Aitkin and Manzoni point out that these sectors were already facing labour shortages due to Brexit. The closing of borders and end to free movement mean there will be no route for “low skilled” workers in a year’s time. The government’s seasonal workers scheme, they argue, is still bringing in far fewer workers than needed (10,000 compared to an estimated demand of over 70,000).
They say the Covid-19 pandemic should prompt government, and wider society, to change the conversation about what work is valued and how, providing an opportunity to create a system that works for all.
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