UK ‘faces labor shortage’ as Covid and Brexit fuel exodus of foreign workers

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UK ‘faces labor shortage’ as Covid and Brexit fuel exodus of foreign workers


UK employers are struggling to hire staff as the lockdown lifts amid an exodus of foreign workers caused by the Covid pandemic and Brexit, industry figures show.

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and recruiting firm Adecco, employers plan to hire at the fastest pace in eight years, thanks to the reopening of the then hospitality and retail sectors. as pandemic restrictions are relaxed in England and Wales on Monday.

However, a sign of growing labor market pressures amid rapidly growing consumer spending, the professional body for human resources and people development said there had been a sharp decline in the number of workers in the EU, fueling the risk of labor shortages.

Separate figures from Adzuna showed rapid growth in hires, with nearly a million vacancies listed on the jobs website, up 18% from six weeks ago amid a backdrop of increased jobs in hotels, restaurants and in the events and leisure sector. But he warned that there had been a sharp drop in interest from overseas job seekers.

The jobs website, which is tracked by government officials for warning signs of the labor market, found that the number of overseas job searches in Western Europe and North America had halved – a drop of around 250,000 – since February 2020, just before Covid-19. spread to the UK.

He said the drop was due in particular to foreign interest in generally lower-paying service sectors, while some cities have up to 20 jobs offered per job seeker. Maidstone in Kent is the hardest place to hire, followed by Manchester, Cambridge and Oxford, according to research.

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of the job search engine, said: “There is fierce competition for staff, with many hospitality and retail workers leaving the industry to seek safer work. after the ups and downs of last year.

‘There are also far fewer foreign workers looking for jobs in the UK, with overseas interest in UK jobs having more than halved compared to before the pandemic hitting these industries hard. . UK employers can no longer count on foreign workers to fill job shortages. “

New evidence of labor shortages in the UK comes as US employers also struggle to recruit staff, with job seekers postponing their hospitality jobs, especially due to downturns wages, security concerns and customer harassment due to Covid’s security measures.

Business leaders have warned that a lack of overseas workers after the lockdown would put a ‘hand brake on the recovery’, with up to 1.3 million people believed to have left the UK since late. 2019, as many returned to their countries of birth to overcome the pandemic. at home.

Gerwyn Davies, Senior Labor Market Advisor at CIPD, the professional body for people and human resource development, said: “New limits on the supply of unskilled migrant labor and the shift to new working methods prompt many employers to review their jobs. quality. “

According to the CIPD survey of more than 1,000 UK employers, the balance of employers planning to add jobs, compared to those planning to cut them, was 27% for the second quarter of 2021, compared with 11% in the previous quarter. during the first three months of the year. . He said it was the highest level since February 2013.

Unemployment in the UK has stabilized in recent months, helped by the extension of the leave scheme until the end of September, after the fastest rise in layoffs on record at the end of 2020 when Rishi Sunak sought to abolish the salary support system.


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The Bank of England expects the unemployment rate to peak near 5.5% after the end of holidays, less than initial fears of a 1980s recovery when unemployment jumped sharply by 12%. Unemployment was 4% before the outbreak of the pandemic, representing around 1.3 million people.

Davies said companies should respond to the “emerging threat of recruitment difficulties” by improving their employment conditions, such as training opportunities and the right balance between flexibility and security.

“By providing better-quality jobs, employers will be better able to attract and retain the staff they need, especially in sectors that have traditionally relied on EU workers, whose supply has been highly critical. decreased, ”he said.

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