The number of Zimbabweans departing for care and support jobs in the UK increased by 562% to over 17,000 last year, but the escape route may be eliminated as a result of the Tory administration’s significant political backlash over net migration.
A government report released last Thursday showed that net migration reached a record 606,000 for 2022 representing a 24% increase on the previous year. Net migration is defined as the difference between immigration (those coming into a country) and emigration (those leaving).
According to the new data, Zimbabwe was third behind India and Nigeria in terms of work visas granted in the health and social care sector. Some 17,421 Zimbabweans left the country for the UK last year, up 562% on the 2,630 recorded the previous year.
The departures are blamed on an unrelenting economic crisis which has lasted two decades with a brief respite during the coalition administration.
The health sector is among the critical sectors worst affected with some 4,000 Zimbabwean doctors and nurses having reportedly left service since 2001.
Thousands more have now joined the doctors and nurses after the British government added ‘care workers’ and ‘home carers’ to its shortage occupation list for skilled workers forced by Brexit.
The rush to leave and escape dire poverty has now seen even pastors signing up for the seven-week first-aid course run by Red Cross which makes it easier and faster to secure work as a care worker overseas.
“We can’t dance in front of the pulpit and hide our poverty. I don’t feel bad for leaving my congregation,” evangelical pastor Tinaye Tangwena, who is now based in Watford told Baptist Global News in an interview earlier this year.
Silas Gatsheni, a Baptist pastor now working at a nursing home in Liverpool added; “I’m not shy to quit being a pastor, immigrate and become an elderly care worker in the UK.
“I know 10 Zimbabwe pastors who have arrived here in England to become care home workers in 2022. As the Bible says, it’s an exodus.”
owever, the route could narrow for Zimbabweans and other nationalities going forward as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government faces a huge backlash from its own Tory MPs and the opposition of the surge in the number of people coming to live in the UK.
After the data was released last Thursday, Tory legislators warned of voter anger and frustration at “unsustainable” levels of net migration.
Opposition Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper upped the pressure, saying;
“The Conservatives’ chaotic approach means that work visas are up 119%, net migration is more than twice the level ministers were aiming for, and the asylum backlog is at a record high despite Sunak promising to clear it this year.”
Sunak vowed to bring the numbers down.
“Numbers are too high, it’s as simple as that. And I want to bring them down,” he said in a television interview.
The Tory PM faces a difficult balancing act ahead of elections expected next year in which post-immigration policy is likely to be a key issue for voters.
On the one hand he faces frustration from voters – most supporters of his Conservative party – who backed for Brexit in the 2016 referendum on the promise that it would bring down the high numbers of immigration.
On the other hand the UK faces serious labour shortages in key economic sectors such as agriculture and healthcare after Europeans left the country due to Brexit.