Non-EU workers easing skills shortages

The persistent problem of a shortage of applicants for skilled vacancies in the UK has been eased somewhat by an increase in non-EU migrants arriving in the country, according to new research.

Non-EU workers easing skills shortages
A new report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and The Adecco Group said the arrival of these non-EU migrant workers has resulted in only a “relatively modest” decrease in the number of applicants chasing each medium- and high-skilled vacancy over the past year, despite employment levels reaching record highs.

Low-skilled job shortages increase

However, for low-skilled jobs, applications were substantially down over the past two years. Among the 2,100 employers surveyed, the median number of applications for low-skilled posts fell from 24 in 2017 to just 16 in June this year. “This decline in the number of applicants is putting upward pressure on a significant minority of employers,” said the CIPD, with median basic pay expectations in the private sector increasing over three months from two to 2.5%.By contrast, the supply of medium- and high-skilled applicants was found to have held up relatively well, partly as a result of a sharp increase of 123,000 in the number of non-EU citizens in the workforce between first quarter in 2018 and Q1 this year, with the majority of these arrivals having been subject to a skills threshold test.“This increase has been mainly driven by the buoyant recruitment of nurses and medical practitioners, partly following a relaxation to remove doctors and nurses from the government’s migration cap in June 2018,” said the report.

Non-EU migrants support UK labour market

Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market adviser for the CIPD, said, “Amidst the current political uncertainty, the UK labour market is holding up surprisingly well. Labour demand remains strong and the robust supply of non-EU workers has helped many employers meet this demand; partly owing to the government’s decision to remove the migration cap for doctors and nurses. This has been key to freeing up visa capacity for employers in other sectors who have sensibly been able to resolve skill shortages by hiring non-EU migrants.“Looking ahead, the government’s post-Brexit immigration policy must demonstrate similar levels of flexibility to ensure that such shortage occupations benefit from a more generous minimum salary threshold.”Mr Davies added, “The alarm bell is sounding for employers trying to fill low-skill roles, many of whom are still in wait-and-see mode. It’s essential that those employers are prepared for reduced numbers of candidates and further restrictions to low-skill labour planned from 2021 with a workforce plan.”Alex Fleming, country head and president of staffing and solutions at Adecco Group UK and Ireland, concluded, “Ensuring businesses have the right supply of talent isn’t a new issue and during these uncertain times, the ‘grow-your-own’ mentality has become more important than ever for organisations. Workforce planning comes into play again as organisations need to be constantly looking forward and anticipating their future needs and training their own talent accordingly.”

For more news on the UK labour force and skilled workers, visit our United Kingdom section.

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