As coronavirus uncertainty impacts the jobs market, now is not the time for the government to pursue sweeping reforms to the immigration system planned to come into effect in January, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) has warned.
Figures from the ONS, published today, for the year ending December 2019 show that the number of EU citizens arriving for work has fallen to 76,000 – the lowest level since 2004. Non-EU net migration continued to rise, and is now at +282,000, the highest level since information by citizenship was first collected in 1975.
The REC’s JobsOutlook survey showed almost half (49%) of employers expected to find a shortage of workers. Skills shortages are especially severe among lower-paid jobs such as carers, drivers, and agricultural workers
Tom Hadley Director of Policy and Campaigns at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) said:
“Now is not the time to plough on with immigration reforms. Lots has changed since these figures were collected and coronavirus is causing huge uncertainty for businesses as they look towards reopening. Before the lockdown, our Report on Jobs showed that employers across many sectors which were struggling to recruit the people and skills they needed and this was one of the biggest challenges to growth. Our labour market is in flux and the national effort needs to be focused on eliminating coronavirus, protecting jobs and getting the economy back on track. The country will recover from this pandemic – and ensuring businesses have the skills they need in future will be essential to the recovery. From carers and cleaners to retail workers and drivers, the current crisis is showing us how much we depend on people at all skill levels.
“Pre-crisis, REC’s data found that of the job titles reported as having a shortage of skills, 49% were ranked as below level 3 on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) meaning they would not qualify for a visa as a skilled worker. From January, these are roles that employers won’t be able to fill with new migrants to the UK. We need a temporary visa immigration route that meets the needs businesses in every sector of the economy. Post-Brexit and post-virus, this will help businesses succeed and support job and growth here in the UK.”