Chefs Most Common Migrant Occupation

23rd May 2024

Chefs have overtaken computer programmer as the most common occupation of migrants arriving in Britain on a skilled worker visa, according to Home Office official data.

Some 6,203 chefs were granted skilled worker visas in the year to March 2024, a rise of 54% on the previous year In the same period, the number of work permits granted to programmers and software developers more than halved from 8,752 to 4,280. The contrasting trends highlight the extent to which labour shortages have lingered in lower-paid sectors even as hiring slowed in the tech sector and other white-collar professions. There were also reductions in the amount of skilled worker visas awarded to management consultants, and those working in the finance and insurance sector and scientific and technical sectors. A total of 67,703 skilled worker visas were issued by the Home Office in the year to March 2024, down 2% on the previous year, the data shows

Chefs are among the lower-paid occupations that are likely to be priced out of the visa system in future as minimum salary requirement has risen to £38,700, or £30,800 for younger workers. The average annual salary of a chef was £22,877 in April 2023, according to the most recent ONS data.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said chefs “stood out” as one of the few roles skilled enough to qualify for a visa in a sector where 6% of jobs were unfilled. The rise in visa grants to chefs was driven by arrivals from south Asia, with 25% of visas in the first three months of this year issued to Indians, 22% to Bangladeshis and 21% to Pakistanis. Curry house owners have long lobbied government for easier access to the visa system to overcome a perennial staffing crisis. In 2019, then Home Secretary Priti Patel ceded to calls for a so-called vindaloo visa, removing a previous restriction on restaurants that offered takeaways. But Nicholls said chefs recruited from south Asia would be working across the industry, not only in curry houses, given the demand for their skills. Continuing labour shortages have also led to a rise in the number of jobs in food and hospitality, such as butchers and restaurant managers, being taken by people arriving on skilled worker visas. Accommodation and food service accounted for 17% of skilled worker visas granted in the first quarter of 2024, well above twice the proportion two years ago.