London mayor joins call for easier visas

Pressure on the government to relax its post-Brexit immigration rules has increased following a call from Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, for the creation of of a 'Covid Recovery Visa' to address the nation's acute labour shortages.

In a speech to Bloomberg’s ‘The Future of Global Financial Centres' conference, Mr Khan also proposed extending the Youth Mobility Scheme - which currently allows under-30s from Australia, Canada and New Zealand to work in the UK for two years – to EU nationals.His call to relax the immigration system and increase the roles listed on the Shortage Occupation List, which makes it easier for workers to obtain UK visas, reflected demands from leading business groups, including the Confederation of British Industry and British Chambers of Commerce.On Tuesday, official figures revealed that vacancies across the country had topped a record 1.1 million last month as a result of the pandemic and the exodus of EU workers because of Brexit.A recent survey by the Institute of Directors found that 44 per cent of its members were experiencing staff shortages across all skill levels.Mr Khan said: “Many sectors that are important to our economic recovery...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."Mr Khan accepted that the subject of immigration was contentious, resulting in many politicians seeming "too scared to argue for what they know is needed".He added: "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 mayor also wants to see large cities and regions granted devolved powers under the Shortage Occupations List so that they can make additions to the list on the basis of specific skills needed in their areas.According to the latest figures, the total of job vacancies in London was more than a fifth higher in July than it was 12 months earlier. Vacancies in the construction industry were 43 per cent higher and 60 per cent in the hospitality sector.And these figures were revealed at a time when London's six per cent unemployment rate was the highest in the UK. Data from the Office for National Statistics on Tuesday also showed that London, Scotland and SE England were the only three areas of the UK when payroll numbers had not recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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