ONS data has shown that there has been a sharp fall in net migration. The REC have warned this fall, together with a rise in emigration by EU citizens has the capacity to hit employers at Christmas. “The news that more people from the EU are leaving the country and fewer are coming to the UK will be a concern for employers and should be a concern for government,” says REC director of policy Tom Hadley. “Our data shows that candidate availability has been falling for four years. Employers will find roles even harder to fill as fewer people are coming to look for work. We need warehouse workers to pack up our deliveries, drivers to transport goods, and chefs and waiters in our restaurants. Employers will be hit hard at Christmas and no doubt the consumer will feel the effect as they end up paying more for products and services.
“The UK currently has a vibrant temporary labour market but as EU workers no longer feel welcome here it is under threat,” he continues. “We need this country to be an attractive place to work and live, which means the government needs to ramp up efforts on a Brexit deal that provides clarity for EU workers and assures them that they are valuable to this country. Post-Brexit immigration arrangements must also cater for temporary and seasonal workers to allow them to continue supporting the many sectors of our economy that rely on them.”
Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market analyst at the CIPD agrees saying: “While today’s figures show a strong demand for EU workers in the UK, the decrease in the number of EU citizens coming into the UK, coupled with a large increase in those leaving, suggests that some EU citizens are voting with their feet.”
Davies says that if the tightening continues, employers need to be prepared to deal with more constraints on access to labour in the future. “The rising proportion of EU citizens that have a job offer when they come to the live and work in the UK indicates that employers and jobseekers’ attitudes towards free movement of labour are beginning to change, with some clearly taking pro-active steps to offset the uncertainty that the vote has created,” he said. “Looking ahead, the data underlines the need for policymakers to conduct a thorough analysis of where genuine skills and labour shortages lie alongside employer efforts to address these shortages.”
CIPD research has shown that some employers are still unable to fill unskilled or semi-skilled roles despite their best efforts to recruit local applicants through widening recruitment channels, investing in skills and raising pay, which suggests that future government policy should avoid the dogmatic ‘brightest and best’ approach.
“A window of opportunity exists within which employers need to prepare for migration restrictions with a more sophisticated approach to workforce planning and development to avoid future skills gaps or shortages,” concludes Davies.