As the COVID-19 pandemic and the UK’s response have unfolded, some occupations at all skill levels—deemed essential to the country’s ability to both deal with the immediate crisis and support future national recovery efforts—have become more visible and valued: not only nurses and carehome workers, but also people in food manufacturing and delivery services. Large proportions of workers in these key occupations and sectors are foreign-born, yet, based on current immigration requirements related to salary and education, many would not qualify for permanent residency, visa extensions, or publicly-funded benefits. As attention turns to economic policies, decisions impacting these workers will have to be—and are already being—made. Our project aims to track how the public perceives low- and high-skilled migrant workers in essential and non-essential occupations over the coming year, and whether these translate into changes in policy preferences that prioritise some groups over others. Moreover, we aim to see how durable these attitudes are across UK regions that have different labour market needs, as well as over time as political and public health events continue to shape the country. Having a comprehensive and dynamic picture of public attitudes is an important contribution to the evidence base that can, in turn, inform future policymaking.
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