With record vacancies in adult social care, the international workforce is more vital than ever for the sector to function.
International staff in the social care sector
The adult social care workforce is made up of 1.6 million people. International staff make up 19 per cent of the workforce and without them the system would struggle to function. Even with these international staff (including 70,000 international recruits in 2022/23), there are still 152,000 vacancies across the sector.
International staff by region
Some regions have a higher proportion of international staff. For example, in London international staff make up 41 per cent of the workforce compared to just 7 per cent in the north east of England.
EU and non-EU staff
The number and proportion of international staff working in social care has increased over 2022/23. The proportion of non-EU staff is increasing after falling until 2016/17, while EU staff rose and then fell.
Some job roles in social care have more international staff. For example, 41 per cent of registered nurses and 23 per cent of care workers are non-British. The figure for senior managers and personal assistants is just 7 per cent.
Nationality of international staff
Social care’s international workforce is very diverse. Nigerian is the most common nationality of non-British staff, followed by Indian.
Without its international workforce, the social care sector would struggle to function. The sector has high turnover rates and low rates of pay, as well as challenging working terms and conditions, particularly for staff on the front line. It is essential that issues around pay, conditions and other factors that drive poor retention rates are addressed. However, a continuing supply of international staff will also be key to ensuring that England has enough skilled and trained staff to meet the ever-rising demand for social care services.
Immigration policy should be designed with the social care sector in mind, for example high-salary thresholds as part of a points-based immigration system or 12-month 'low-skilled visas' would not be helpful for social care providers.