According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), published on 28th February, a decrease in EU immigration led to net-EU migration dropping to a level last seen in 2009. Conversely, net migration from countries outside the EU hit its highest level for 15 years.
More EU8 citizens – those living in central and eastern European countries – left the UK than arrived in the year ending September 2018, in the last ONS report on migration before the Brexit deadline on 29th March.
Sellick Partnership warns that the number of British industries who rely heavily on workers from EU8 countries – such as agriculture, hospitality and care sectors – will face a huge shortfall if the downward trend continues.
The recruitment firm noted a 15 percent rise in the number of temporary workers placed in February 2019, compared with the same period of 2018, suggesting that business owners are turning to short-term solutions when dealing with the imminent candidate crisis in certain sectors.
Jay Lindop, director of the Centre for International Migration at the ONS, said: “Different patterns for EU and non-EU migration have emerged since mid-2016, when the EU referendum vote took place. Due to increasing numbers arriving for work and study, non-EU net migration is now at the highest level since 2004.
“In contrast, EU-net migration, while still adding to the population as a whole, has fallen to a level last seen in 2009. We are also now seeing more EU8 citizens – those from central and eastern European countries, for example Poland – leaving the UK than arriving.”
Jo Sellick, managing director at Sellick Partnership, says: “The latest ONS data is a tale of two halves. On the one hand we have a worrying drop in the number of people coming from the EU to work in the UK withoverall EU net migration at a ten-year low.
“But then we see non-EU net migration at its highest level since 2004, which shows that there is a pool of people in the UK who might be suitable for work if they are given the right opportunities, visas and training.”
If the downward trend in EU workers continues and results in a candidate shortage, it is likely that salaries will rise in order for businesses to compete to secure the best talent, putting increasing financial pressure on business owners.
This follows the latest ONS report on gross domestic product, revealing that the UK economy grew at its slowest annual rate in six years in 2018, blaming falls in factory output and car production, as well as Brexit uncertainty.
Jo says: “I would strongly advise employers to pay attention to these statistics and begin preparing for the worst when it comes to Brexit. Plan for a no-deal scenario so that anything else is a bonus, and make sure you have a pipeline of candidates lined up - especially if your business relies heavily on EU workers.
“Remember that the UK is also full of incredibly talented individuals who could be a great fit for your organisation. All business owners have a responsibility to offer opportunities and training for young people - including mentoring and work experience for students - in order to prepare for the next generation of homegrown talent.”