Uncertainty over the UK’s future relationship with the EU has resulted in a record drop in the number of EU nationals working in the UK. The statistics show that the number of EU nationals fell by 86,000 last year to 2.28 million. This is the largest annual drop the UK has seen since records began in 1997. But will this become a continuing trend? And if it is, how will it affect industries in the UK?
According to Matthew Percival, the head of employment for the Confederation of British Industry, the British government needs to preserve EU nationals right to work after Brexit. He said in a recent interview: “Putting migration and mobility on the table when negotiating a new relationship with the EU will help secure the best deal,” he added.
The UK has already seen a reduction in the number of people applying for jobs. A survey carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that 40% of employers found it hard to fill job vacancies in the last year; and a report from the ONS shows that the UK now has its lowest unemployment rate in 43 years.
Although this could boost wages for lower income workers, it could also lead to a shortage of workers across a number of industries. For example, transport, IT and construction are a reliant on non-UK workers to fill vacancies. Brexit could worsen these existing shortages. There are also fears there could be a lack of workers in the health industry and the NHS has already warned that EU migrants are essential for maintaining services.
Gerwyn Davies of CIPD said: “The most recent official data shows that there has been a significant slowdown in the number of EU nationals coming to work in the UK over the past year. This is feeding into increasing recruitment and retention challenges, particularly for employers in sectors that have historically relied on non-UK labour to fill roles and which are particularly vulnerable to the prospect of future changes to immigration policy for EU migrants.”
A government spokesman said: “EU citizens make a huge contribution to our economy and we have been clear from the beginning of this process that we want these citizens and their families in the UK to be able to stay. After we leave the EU, the UK will continue to be the open country it has always been. We will have in place an immigration system that delivers control over who comes to the UK, but that welcomes the brightest and best who want to work hard and contribute.”
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