Thousands of foreign workers in Southend and Basildon are classed as key workers, new research reveals.

It comes as the GMB union warned the Government’s points-based immigration system, which is due to be introduced in January, could leave the UK desperately short of key workers.

According to researchers at Oxford University, many key workers will not qualify for a work visa.

Office for National Statistics figures reveal out of 8,000 non-British workers estimated to be in employment in Southend, 2,800 were working in key roles between 2017-19 – 9 per cent of the 30,100 key workers in Southend.

In Basildon of 7,500 non-British workers estimated to be in employment, 1,600 were working in key roles, which is 5 per cent of the borough’s 31,000 key workers.

No figures are available for Castle Point.

Key workers are employed in sectors deemed essential by Government, such as health and social care, education, food production and transport and other public services.

The Home Office says the planned post-Brexit immigration is a fairer scheme to attract people with the skills needed in the country.

But GMB has warned that many migrant workers have already left the UK.

Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary, said: “Health and social care, for example, rely heavily on workers from abroad. We have huge numbers of vacancies and the current workforce is already under incredible pressure.

“Meanwhile, the immigration bill doesn’t even reference key workers and has capped salaries of workers to such an extent the care workers we desperately need won’t earn enough to meet the threshold.”

“Unless it undergoes radical reform, the immigration bill in its current guise will leave the UK desperately short of key workers.”

A spokesman for the Home Office said: “The Government is committed to delivering a firmer, fairer, points-based immigration system, based on the skills people have and not where they come from.

“We have removed the Resident Labour Market Test to make it easier for employers to sponsor workers and suspended the cap on skilled migrants.”

“We are also introducing special schemes to enable more scientists, academics, investors, entrepreneurs, and health and care workers to come to the UK easily, so that we can work with sectors to fill roles quickly where shortages may occur.”