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Workforce nationality figures


Data correct as at 2019/20

Next update due: Mid October 2021

This page provides information on the nationality of the adult social care workforce from Skills for Care’s weighted workforce estimates. It also provides information on the points-based immigration system that the UK will adopt from 1 January 2021 and how that may impact people immigrating for job roles in the adult social care workforce.


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The impact of the EU referendum on the adult social care sector

Skills for Care estimates that there are 1.65 million jobs in adult social care as at 2019/20. 1.54 million jobs are within local authorities, independent sector providers and those working for direct payment recipients only - the statistics below are based on this segment of the workforce. 

Overall, there were around 250,000 jobs in adult social care held by people with a non-British nationality (113,000 EU; 134,000 non-EU).

  • Around 84% of the adult social care workforce were British.
  • 7% (113,000 jobs) had an EU nationality and 9% (134,000 jobs) had a non-EU nationality.
  • Therefore, on average, the adult social care sector had a greater reliance on non-EU than EU workers.
  • The proportion of the adult social care workforce with a British nationality has been consistent over the past seven years (from 2012/13 to 2019/20), varying by less than one percentage point over the period. The proportion of EU (non-British) workers has risen three percentage points and non-EU workers has fallen three percentage points over the period.

Up until March 2020, Brexit appeared to have had little effect on these trends, with the number of EU nationals continuing to increase and the number of non-EU nationals decreasing. Since then, however, there has been a reduction in the number of people arriving in England to work in adult social care jobs. This is mostly likely a result of less travel taking place due to the pandemic.


EU citizens working in adult social care

According to the Government’s ‘EU Settlement Scheme’, the rights of EU citizens living in the UK will not change until after 31 December 2020. After this point, EU citizens will have until June 2021 to hold, or be in the process of applying for, UK immigration status through the ‘EU Settlement Scheme’.

By June 2020, over 3.4 million settlement applications were fully processed through the scheme, of which 57% resulted in ‘Settled’ and 41% resulted in ‘Pre-settled’ status.

The ASC-WDS showed that around 19% of workers with an existing EU nationality also held British Citizenship. These workers will not have to apply for ‘Settled’ status. Of those of an EU nationality but without British Citizenship, 63% had arrived in the UK either in or prior to 2015, and therefore may have gained the required five years’ continuous residency required to be eligible for ‘Settled’ status; this equates to 51% of workers of an EU nationality. The remaining 30% of workers of an EU nationality will be eligible to apply for ‘Pre-settled’ status.


New points-based immigration system

The UK will adopt a points-based immigration system from 1 January 2021.  This includes a ‘Skilled Workers route’ which requires that people obtain 70 points, of which 50 come from the mandatory criteria of having:

  • a job offer from a licenced sponsor
  • a job offer which is at, or above, the minimum skill level of an RQF Level 3 or equivalent (A-level or equivalent).
  • spoken English of an acceptable standard.

A further 20 ‘tradable’ points might also be drawn from a combination of a worker’s salary, a job in shortage occupation (as designated by the Migration Advisory Committee), or their possession of a relevant PhD.

At the time of writing, ‘Care worker’ was not listed as an eligible occupation on the ‘Skilled Workers’ route. Therefore, care workers will not be able to immigrate into the UK to take up these roles from 1 January 2021. Even if the occupation was eligible for the ‘Skilled Workers’ route, virtually none of these jobs meet the salary threshold and the occupation would therefore need to be listed on the shortage occupation list to allow for immigration into these roles (or for an alternative route to be made available).

Social workers, registered nurses and occupational therapists are listed occupations for the ‘Skilled Workers’ route and are also on the Shortage Occupation List. Therefore, workers will be able to immigrate to the UK to take up these regulated professional roles in the sector after 1 January 2021 providing that they have a job offer from a licenced sponsor and can speak English to the required standard. As long as these occupations remain on the Shortage Occupation List, salary level will not be a factor.


The Cavendish Coalition

Skills for Care is a member of the Cavendish Coalition. The Coalition, a group of 37 health and social care organisations, is working to ensure the system is properly staffed after the UK leaves the EU. The group sets out what the Government needs to focus on during EU withdrawal negotiations in order to maintain safe, high-quality health and social care services.

The Cavendish Coalition believes it’s critical that the Government takes all possible measures to safeguard the future supply of health and social care workers needed to continue delivering safe, high-quality care. The Cavendish Coalition is committed to helping the UK Government to design and deliver post-Brexit policies which have a positive impact on the UK’s health and social care system.

The Cavendish Coalition submitted evidence to the Migration Advisory Committee on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) in July 2020. The submission identifies that care workers are not included in the SOL and migration into these roles will therefore cease, with an effect of exacerbating the chronic crisis in the adult social care workforce. The report goes on to state that care workers should be recognised by the migration system by way of awarding points for occupations which provide a ‘high public value’ 


Related reports

  • For data at a regional and local level please access the visualisations on the regional and local sections of this website.
  • There is national information in Chapter Four of the 'State of the adult social care sector and workforce in England report
  • Looking for something specific on workforce nationality? Contact us