Employers Fret as Number of EU Workers in U.K. Starts to Decline

The number of workers in the U.K. from other European Union nations fell the most in five years in the fourth quarter, according to new data that comes days after a report showed companies are worried about a labor shortage.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said this week that skills shortages are “starting to bite” in sectors which employ a high number of EU nationals. It also warned of “significant” recruitment challenges, particularly if Britain’s decision to leave the EU means changes to immigration policies.

The numbers from the Office for National Statistics showed EU-born workers declined by 50,000 to 2.3 million. It said that the data isn’t seasonally adjusted and should be “treated with caution,” while also noting that it’s not a proxy for migrant flows.

Still, with Prime Minister Theresa May refusing so far to guarantee the rights of EU citizens before formal exit talks begin, the decline in the fourth quarter could mark the beginning of a shift in the trend of workers coming to Britain. The total of EU workers is up almost 190,000 in the past year and has more than doubled in the past decade.

The CIPD responded to the latest ONS numbers, saying it’s “further evidence that Brexit has had a discernible impact on the allure of the U.K. as a place to live and work.”

“Employers in sectors that employ relatively large numbers of EU nationals, which also account for a sizable proportion of vacancies, are likely to come under further
recruitment pressures if, as we expect, this trend continues,” said Gerwyn Davies, Labor Market Adviser at the CIPD.

— With assistance by Mark Evans

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