Research reveals how UK is reliant on overseas workers in key industries

by Ray Clancy on April 7, 2017

With the official process now underway for the UK to leave the European Union, some new research shows how certain sectors are reliant on workers from the EU and will need to recruit new workers going forward.

Immigration and access to jobs as well as the rights of EU expats currently living and working in Britain has been confirmed by both sides as the most important negotiation that needs urgent attention.

There has not been much information on how many EU expats actually work in certain industries but the latest edition of Mercer’s workforce monitor reveals that 33% of accommodation and food services staff are from abroad, 23% of manufacturing workers and 20% of transport staff.

‘The UK is likely to impose more stringent migration controls in the future and this will reduce the number of overseas workers available. While we have focused on 11 industries in this report, the fact is that every company in every sector in the UK will be competing for a reduced pool of available workers. Problems in one sector will impact on a variety pf others, so organizations need to understand the make-up of their workforce, the risks and plan how to address this challenge,’ said Gary Simmons, a partner at Mercer.

According to Mercer, manufacturing, despite being one of the larger employers of EU and non-EU workers, may be less impacted by the talent crisis as its employee base has already dropped by 25% since 2000 and any workforce shortage could accelerate further automation, and spur relocation. A major risk to the UK is that manufacturers move offshore in response to this talent scarcity and possible Brexit-related trade restrictions.

The bulk of new jobs in the accommodation and food services industry has gone to non UK workers since 2000 and it now relies heavily on a large volume of low skill employees and the nature of this work means that relocation to other countries is unlikely. The biggest impact will likely be on small businesses, which are unable to afford scarce resources and may not be able to find solutions in automation.

Any decline in workforce availability in the information and communication industry poses a major risk more broadly for the UK’s competitiveness, attractiveness and productivity, the report suggests, adding that high demand will make skilled workers expensive due to increasing wages.

In the financial and insurance sector it suggests that while demand for many of the traditional roles, including broking, customer services and sales, will decline as a consequence of automation and digitisation there will be large increases in management, computer and mathematical roles and the competition for the talent needed to support digital, regulatory and cybersecurity needs is expected to be intense.

Demand for workers in the health sector is expected to dramatically increase to manage the needs of an ageing population. The report says that increasing demand will require a further substantial increase in employment by 2030. The main priority for the sector will be to attract and retain staff, and this is particularly important as one third of doctors plan to retire by 2020.

The net result could range from a massive reduction in available workforces for all other sectors, to a huge shortfall in health and care professionals as others sectors build more attractive jobs, enhance their valuation propositions, offer more flexibility and can afford to pay more.

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