Blog: Polish workers feel unwelcome in UK after Brexit plus COVID – Open Democracy

During the height of the COVID pandemic, migrants were essential to the British economy – as to many others across Europe. They worked in healthcare, in the food and transport sectors, and, importantly, did seasonal work. As British people stood in their doorways to ‘clap for carers’, many of those migrant workers were flying in from Central and Eastern Europe, continuing to cross borders that were closed off for most people.

Today the UK has severe labour shortages – at least, shortages of people willing to take the jobs and pay on offer – particularly across the ‘essential’ work sectors. For example, the number of vacant posts in the care sector increased by 52% in 2021-22 and reached 165,000.

Despite this, the government continues to express anti-immigrant sentiments. At the same time, however, there is a growing consensus that the UK needs migrants after all to boost the economy, especially as the country is heading into recession.

This might prove challenging, at least when it comes to attracting workers from Central and Eastern Europe. Migration from the EU has been declining in recent years, with large numbers of people leaving the country.

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