The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has backed calls for the government to introduce a Covid recovery visa to plug the shortage of workers across industries including hospitality.
Yesterday, he set out how the scheme could work, including calling on the government to change its immigration system so that it met economic needs and helped businesses, requesting devolved powers to fill vacancies in sectors with serious shortages, and extending the Youth Mobility Scheme to EU nationals.
Khan argued that a regional shortage occupation list for London and other cities would give areas the ability to attract and retain staff where they have greatest need.
For instance, the existing Youth Mobility Scheme gives under 30s from Australia, Canada and New Zealand the right to work in the UK for two years. Khan called for a similar reciprocal arrangement with the EU.
He said: "Many sectors that are important to our economic recovery, from hospitality to haulage, construction to culture, are now under huge strain due the lack of EU workers and the government's immigration rules. We know there are countless struggling businesses across London that are working hard to get back on their feet, but are now simply unable to hire the staff they need.
"Given the urgency and the scale of the challenge, I'm calling on the government to change its immigration system so that it meets our economic needs and helps our businesses. This must include introducing a ‘Covid recovery visa' to help attract international workers into key roles to support our economic recovery. London has unique needs when it comes to attracting workers from around the world – and so a more tailored, dynamic approach is urgently required.
"When it comes to immigration, many politicians seem to be too scared to argue for what they know is needed. The truth is that a flexible migration system that can attract talent from around the world will always be crucial to London's competitiveness and our ongoing success."
The staffing shortage in hospitality has seen venues forced to cut hours or close altogether while a lack of HGV drivers has resulted in disrupted supply chains.
According to the Office for National Statistics the total number of job vacancies in the UK reached a record high in the latest quarter. In July the volume of online job postings in London was around 21% higher than in July 2020, with that figure rising to 60% for food preparation and hospitality roles.