Post-Brexit reality bites. Can the UK labour force meet demand?


Although EU nationals make up 7% of the UK labour market, they account for 15% of workers in low-skilled roles. And, because this labour pool is concentrated in certain sectors (33% in food manufacturing, 18% warehousing and 14% hospitality), these areas are going to feel the impact more than most.

What these stats show – whether because British jobseekers are over-qualified, unable to carry out physically demanding roles, or are simply unwilling – is that it will be impossible to replace EU workers with British substitutes.

There is some talk that automation will offset some of the skills shortages the UK is facing, but the REC is quick to ask the government not to rely on this as a potential solution – particularly as many SMEs will not be able to invest adequately for this to be a viable course of action.

The REC also recommends that there should be no blanket salary threshold for EU migrants wishing to work in the UK after the UK leaves the EU. That provisions for both temporary workers, and a seasonal workers scheme, must be included in any new immigration system. And that employers should be allowed to recruit from the EU for any role that cannot be filled domestically.

Kevin Green, REC chief executive, says, “Low-skilled work is too often talked about as if it’s not vital to our economy, but we need people to pick fruit and veg, sort and pack deliveries to supermarkets, and to cook and serve food once it reaches hotels, school canteens, and restaurants.

“Employers in these sectors are already talking about downscaling, closing or moving operations overseas if they can’t get people to fill jobs post-Brexit.

“The government needs to engage with business and ensure that any new immigration system is agile, pragmatic and based on a proper understanding of labour market data.”

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

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