Home Secretary Priti Patel has come under fire after suggesting eight million “economically inactive” Britons can fill vacancies following a post-Brexit clampdown on immigration.
The government set out its new post-Brexit immigration system on Wednesday, which will deny visas to “low-skilled” workers and require others to achieve a certain number of points based on their salary and qualifications.
Ms Patel hailed a “very significant moment in the UK’s immigration policy”, with the new system due to come into force when EU free movement rules end in January 2021.
The Home Office estimates 70% of EU workers currently in the UK would not meet the requirements if applying under the new system.
Critics have claimed the government’s push to drive down net migration numbers under the new system could lead to shortages in some sectors.
Andrea Wareham, director of human resources at cafe chain Pret a Manger, has previously revealed 65% of its workforce come from EU countries.
She also claimed only one in 50 people who apply for vacancies are British.
But, challenged about those warnings, Ms Patel told Sky News’ Kay Burley @ Breakfast show: “It is about time businesses started to invest in people in this country.
“We have over eight million people – that is 20% of the workforce – aged between 16 and 64 that are economically inactive right now.”
The home secretary said it was an “assumption” that Britons do not want certain jobs.
She added: “It is down to businesses to work with the government and join us in investing in people, levelling up across the UK so we can have wage growth across the entire country.”
Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal there were 8.48m economically inactive people in the UK aged 16-64 at the end of last year.
However, when those classed as economically inactive are asked whether they do or don’t want a job, only 1.87m say they do.
Around 2.6m of those who are economically inactive are students, 2.08m are long-term sick, 1.89m are looking after homes or family members, and 1.12m are already retired.
Labour’s shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth claimed Ms Patel was “clearly clueless” for suggesting economically inactive Britons could fill job vacancies, as he criticised the government’s immigration plans.
“Not only are these proposals hugely damaging for our economy – making a complete mockery of Tory claims to ‘level up’ our economy – they’re potentially devastating for our health and care sector,” he told the BBC.
“Although there may well be exemptions for certain categories of NHS staff, it seems there’ll be no exemptions whatsoever for social care staff.”
Priti Patel: Home secretary attacked over ‘clueless’ claim that ‘inactive’ Britons will fill job vacancies
Home Secretary Priti Patel has come under fire after suggesting eight million “economically inactive” Britons can fill vacancies following a post-Brexit clampdown on immigration. The government set out its new post-Brexit immigration system on Wednesday, which will deny visas to “low-skilled” workers and require others to achieve a certain number of points based on their salary and qualifications.