UK Chinese takeaways facing unprecedented crisis

By Tomos Povey – Nee Hao’s Political Editor 

Chinese takeaways are closing all over the UK at an alarming rate, with some predictions calculating as many as 10 closing weekly.

The difficulties which Chinese takeaways encounter are truly enormous.

The UK had seen a boom in the amount of Chinese restaurants and takeaways. This all began when, during the 1950s, mass immigration to the UK resulted in Chinese takeaways becoming prevalent in society. It is estimated that there are tens of thousands of takeaways dotted all over the UK. Worryingly predications have estimated that thousands of takeaways are on the verge of closure.

The most devastating factor to the billion-pound worth industry was the coalition government’s (2010-15) decision to alter the visa process. The Liberal Democrats and Conservatives placed a strict cap on the amount of non-EU migrants entering the country on the basis that the immigration level was far “too high”. Chinese takeaway owners and the general public have been urging David Cameron’s government to reform visa rules, so to allow experienced non-EU chefs and other potential members of staff to enter Britain for two working years. At present, non-EU peoples are required to apply for Tier-2 visa, which would enable the person to stay for less than 2 years.

For many years the takeaways proudly employed Chinese people with experience of cooking in mainland China or Hong Kong, who could then replicate their skills back in Britain. The current immigration law now prevents the recruitment of highly-skilled chefs.

Diane Li, a Chinese food shop owner, warned:

“Cooking traditional Chinese food is not straight-forward. It takes years to perfect. Before the introduction of these harsh immigration laws I’d employ chefs from China or Hong Kong. Now I can’t. Last week I had to lay off two chefs as they simply did not have the experience to cook difficult Chinese dishes.”

It has been suggested that the industry should solve the grave shortage of chefs by employing people from Britain. But perfecting the array of contrasting Chinese dishes is an exceptional skill. Understandably, many takeaway owners seek talent from mainland China.

It is not complex to comprehend that without a skilled chef, who has the knowledge and ability to serve difficult meals, many of the nation’s beloved takeaways will shut down indefinitely. The government has answered the backlash to the immigration law by arguing that it wants to see more “home grown” employees to work at takeaways.

Unfortunately, it has not become unusual to read in the news of assaults against takeaway food members of staff. In October 2015 it was reported that a couple were mugged at a Chinese takeaway in Southend. In addition, in 2013, ten similar reports were picked-up by regional media outlets. Predictably takeaway staff encounter much verbal and physical abuse, sometimes by intoxicated persons returning from a night out. A considerable amount of staff at various Chinese takeaways revealed that this was an influential factor in owners deciding to shut their shops earlier than anticipated. For others the hassle of experiencing daily abuse may encourage them to actually consider re-locating their business or shutting it down.

In 2009, 2010 and 2015 Chinese takeaways were declared the most popular ethnic cuisine by Mintel (market research company). Judging by this fantastic news, it is easy to forget many of the challenges that the industry faces. The countless hidden conundrums facing Chinese takeaways need to be faced head-on. If ignored, many of our cherished eateries will face closure. Certainly a bold step to relieve unnecessary pressure on Chinese takeaways would be relaxing the overly strict visa system. By allowing talented non-EU chefs the right to practice their much-wanted skill in Britain will definitely aid the industry.

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