London mayor calls for construction worker visa
By Leila Steed19 January 2022
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has called on the UK Government to introduce a temporary visa system for construction workers, in order “to alleviate the debilitating double impact of Brexit and the pandemic on the building industry”.
While both skills and labour shortages in the UK’s construction sector have been a major concern for several years, the sector’s vacancy rate has now risen to its highest recorded level since 2001.
This is evidenced by data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which shows that vacancies in construction were 40% higher in the summer of 2021, than they were in the three months before the pandemic.
With the situation currently being described as an impending crisis, the Mayor’s Office - along with the support of several leading industry bodies - is proposing that ministers create a Coronavirus Recovery Visa to help sectors that are struggling with shortages of workers, including construction.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said, “The Government must look beyond their current blinkered approach to immigration and recognise the impending crisis that is already enveloping one of our most vital industries.
“Training our own people to take on jobs in the construction sector is an admirable aim and one we’re working hard to meet but in the meantime, we need skilled tradespeople on site now to manage the short-term crisis and build a strong recovery.”
Kahn said the introduction of a temporary visa scheme - similar to the one introduced last year for HGV driver - is now the only viable option to help the struggling sector in the short term.
The city leader is advocating a visa scheme that would allow foreign nationals to work in the UK for least 12 months, and be appropriately tailored to sectors like construction where many workers prefer to work on a self-employed basis.
Khan added, “Tackling London’s housing crisis has always been one of my top priorities since becoming Mayor. We’ve worked tirelessly over the last five years to get London building again, and the construction sector forms a key part of London’s Covid recovery plan.
“However, both our recovery and efforts to deliver the genuinely affordable homes Londoners desperately need could now be put at risk if there isn’t the skilled workforce available to build them.
Supporting the call for a temporary visa scheme, Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FBM), said, “Long-term action to improve and encourage greater numbers into the UK’s skills system is necessary, but short-term solutions like emergency visas will be a real shot in the arm for an industry under pressure.
He added, “The FMB’s most recent State of Trade Survey for Q3 2021 found that 60% of local builders had been forced to pause jobs due to a shortage of labour, with nearly 50% struggling to recruit into key trades such as bricklaying and carpentry.
“A boost in the numbers of skilled workers will help support SME builders deliver much-needed new homes and retrofit existing houses to help lower carbon emissions.”