During lockdown, it has been made clear that we depend on specific workers to keep our nation afloat. Our NHS staff, teachers, social workers, food chain workers, transport staff, postal workers, and more, are now celebrated by those on both sides of the political spectrum for their dedication and service to our country.
Despite this, home secretary Priti Patel refused to soften her hard approach to post-Brexit immigration, with her Immigration Bill being voted through the House of Commons. Patel took to Twitter to claim that this Bill “will ensure people can come to our country based on what they have to offer, not where they come from”, reasserting her belief that individuals should be judged solely on the vague notion of “skill”. This means that the points-based system will still be introduced, with points being awarded to applicants who meet a specific criteria, such as holding certain qualifications, the ability to speak English to a certain standard, and meeting a £25,600 salary threshold.
As a black person, seeing on the news that you are four times more likely to die from Covid-19, while having family members who are essential workers, leaves you with a constant feeling of anxiety that haunts you on a daily basis.
The Covid-19 pandemic has drawn attention to the deeply problematic nature of defining individuals on their economic value. A government who, in February, pejoratively labelled some as “unskilled”, is now praising the efforts of these same people, deeming them to be “essential workers” within society. Recent months have shown that the conceptualisations surrounding “skilled” and “unskilled” labour say little about the nature of the work itself but serve to naturalise our society’s established divides along racial, class and gendered lines. The act of reducing people to their economic output, while labelling certain people as “unskilled”, strips people of their humanity and legitimises their exclusion from...