Record fall in EU workers in UK making skills shortages worse, warns Business West

August 14, 2018

Business West, the region’s largest business organisation, today warned that the record fall in EU nationals working in the UK was hitting British companies.


Some 86,000 fewer people from European Union countries are now employed by UK firms compared to the same period last year, according to the figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – a situation Business West, which runs the Swindon & Wiltshire Initiative, described as “worrying”. 


The figures were released at the same time as those showing unemployment fell to a 40-year low in three months to June.


While welcoming the fall of 65,000 to 1.36m in overall unemployment, Swindon & Wiltshire Initiative director Ian Larrard hit out at the fact that EU nationals were leaving the UK in record numbers at a time when firms were suffering with skills shortages.


“Government will no doubt highlight the fact that unemployment is at its lowest level since the 1970s, but we must remember that this figure is slightly misleading, given that it is a reflection of the claimant count, rather the total number of the UK adult population who find themselves out of work,” he said.


“A much better indicator of the health of the UK labour market is the employment rate and this has remained static. The wage growth that we saw in the last set of ONS figures similarly refuses to budge.


“Perhaps the most worrying statistic for businesses is an increase in unfilled job vacancies spurred by falling immigration from the EU.


“Some 2.28m EU nationals were working in the UK between April and June. This is 86,000 less than the same period last year; making it the largest annual fall since records began in 1997.


“What this exposes is a national education and training system that is struggling to cope with the demands of British businesses in terms of skills, and this a worrying sign with Brexit looming.”


However, he said one positive from the figures was that the unemployment rate among 16-24 year olds was now at its lowest since records began.


“While this can of course be caveated due to the fact that the unemployment rate reflects those claiming benefits; the fact that the number of young people not in employment, education or training overall is low and getting lower is news to celebrate,” he added. 


The CBI also picked up on the dwindling number of EU nationals working in the UK, saying the size of the UK workforce was shrinking at the same time as vacancies for skills and labour were growing.


Its head of employment Matthew Percival said the government needed to guarantee that EU workers could continue to work even in a ‘no-deal’ Brexit scenario.

Comments are closed.


Reach tens of thousands of senior business people across Swindon & Wiltshire for just £70 a month. Email for more information.