Official figures reveal which UK workforces could be impacted by Brexit

by Ray Clancy on April 13, 2017

Expats make up a significant chunk of the UK workforce with 3.4 million people from overseas working in the country, new official figures show.

There have been a lot of claims that certain sectors in the UK will be affected when the country leaves the European Union as they rely on workers from overseas and the data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) gives an idea of where the impact might be.

Overall in 2016 there were 3.4 million people from overseas working in the UK or 11% of the labour market of which 7% were from the European Union, but there are higher proportions of international migrants in some industry sectors more than others.

The ONS analysis of the figures suggests that it is the wholesale and retail, hospitality, public administration and health sectors that would be worst affected if restrictions were put on the movement of people from the EU. But these are not necessarily the top jobs, as the figures cover all levels of employment including cleaners as well as surgeons.

The figures were published as British Chancellor Philip Hammond said that the UK must continue to attract the most skilled workers after Brexit. ‘We need to continue to attract the brightest and the best from around the world to these shores and we will,’ he told a FinTech conference in London but he added the UK must also ‘do better at nurturing and developing’ home grown talent.

The official figures reveal that 14% of workers or 508,000 people in the wholesale and retail trade, hotels and restaurants are from overseas, while 12% or 382,000 work in the financial and business services sector, and 8% in manufacturing.

The highest number of expats are employed in elementary occupations such as selling goods, cleaning or freight handling, in which approximately 669,000 non-UK nationals are employed of which 510,000 are from EU countries.

This is followed by professional occupations, in which an estimated 658,000 non-UK nationals were employed of which 352,000 were EU nationals.

But the ONS report points out that the figures reflect the sector in which people work rather than the type of job, for example, people working in the finance sector may include cleaning and administrative staff as well as finance professionals, and the same is true for other sectors.

The data also shows that expats are more likely to be in jobs they are over qualified for than UK nationals. Approximately 15% of UK nationals were employed in jobs they were deemed to be over educated for in comparison to other workers while two in five expats were in this position.

The figures also suggest that it is expats from what is known as EU2 countries, those that joined the EU more recently such as Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, who would be most affected if there were conditions attached to them staying in the UK after Brexit.

‘The analysis shows the significant impact international migration has on the UK labour market. It is particularly important to the wholesale and retail, hospitality, and public administration and health sectors, which employ around 1.5 million non-UK nationals,’ said Anna Bodey of the ONS.

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