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Brexit a double-edged sword for the UK labour market

Five years from the seismic Brexit referendum of June 2016[1], the UK labour market is feeling its consequences. We have seen a notable shift in international job search patterns on Indeed UK. The news is mixed, with both positive and negative developments.

EU jobseekers are less inclined to search for UK jobs, with lower-paid positions seeing the greatest fall-off[2]. These are jobs most likely to be affected by new skilled worker visa rules.

We see evidence of a clear Brexit effect, rather than just a pandemic travel effect. Falling searches from the EU contrast with rebounding searches from non-EU countries and from Ireland, whose citizens are unaffected by post-Brexit immigration policy thanks to the Common Travel Area. Non-EU interest in higher-paid jobs has actually registered a substantial increase.

The changes in international jobseeker interest in UK positions suggest that the shift in the UK’s immigration regime is working very much the way the government intends — to “reduce overall levels of migration and give top priority to those with the highest skills”.

For some employers and recruiters, this spells a need to rethink recruitment strategies 

For some employers and recruiters, this spells a need to rethink recruitment strategies. For those that previously relied on EU workers to fill lower-paid jobs, such as cleaning, social care, distribution, childcare, food and hospitality, that is likely to mean an increased reliance on domestic candidates. This could be problematic in some cases, given a historical reluctance of home-grown workers to do some types of jobs and the fact that some jobs (lorry driving for example) involve lengthy training periods. Where recruitment difficulties prove persistent, the answer is likely to ultimately involve reviewing pay and conditions.

Concerns over skill shortages in a range of industries from social care to haulage have generally been met by the government rejecting calls for increased flexibility

Concerns over skill shortages in a range of industries from social care to haulage have generally been met by the government rejecting calls for increased flexibility. The Home Office has repeatedly emphasised that employers should focus on hiring and training British workers. The need to recover pandemic job losses among the domestic workforce has only reinforced this position.  

It’s a very different story for those recruiting for roles paying higher salaries, including tech, engineering, finance and medicine

It’s a very different story for those recruiting for roles paying higher salaries, including tech, engineering, finance and medicine. Rising non-EU interest in UK jobs means they are well-placed to tap into new talent pools. Several current and former Commonwealth countries have notched some of the biggest increases. Jobseekers from India and Pakistan are particularly interested in software development jobs, while we’ve seen rising interest in nursing jobs from Nigeria.

Meanwhile, job searches from Hong Kong spiked after the UK government offered citizenship to around three million residents of the special administrative region in July 2020 and have stayed high since.

For the UK labour market, the changes we’re seeing underline that Brexit is a double-edged sword. Jobseekers have reacted to the new immigration system, while British employers wanting to hire from abroad will benefit or suffer depending on the type of work they offer. Some will need to be creative in how they respond and think carefully about how they attract the workers they need from pools of candidates who may have different characteristics to those they previously relied on. 

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Jack Kennedy, UK Economist at Indeed

Edinburgh police launch search after 150 e-scooters worth £100k stolen

Police Scotland is investigating the high-value theft of e-scooters from a business premises in Loanhead.

Between 7.15pm on Thursday, 10 June, 2021 and 6am on Friday, 11 June 2021, the building on Dryden Road[1] was broken into and between 100-150 boxed e-scooters[2] stolen.

It is believed the theft specifically happened between midnight and around 2am.

The approximate value of the stolen goods[3] is £100,000. At least three different models were stolen, they are:

• Xiaomi pro 2, which are mainly black in colour with a red rim around the front wheel

• SAB tech 9 pro, which are black in colour

• MS65 replicas, some of which are black and some white in colour.

Due to the volume of stolen items detectives believe those involved in the theft arrived in a vehicle and most likely were using a van or lorry to carry out the theft.

Detective Constable John Lumsden from Dalkeith Police Station[4], said: “Initial enquiries have been carried out into this theft and we continue to review CCTV from the premises and those nearby. I’d ask anyone with private or business CCTV covering the area to check their footage and provide any to us as soon as possible.

“Despite this happening overnight, I’d ask anyone who may have seen any suspicious vehicles in our around the premises in the early hours of Friday morning to report any sightings to officers. Due to the number of stolen goods it is likely that the suspects had to load these into a van or lorry over a period of time.

“I’d ask anyone who has recently been offered an e-scooter, or seen new advertisements online for selling sites matching the above description, to report this to officers so that we can investigate.”

Those with information should report this to Police Scotland on 101 and quote incident number 0616 of 11 June. An anonymous report can be given to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

References

  1. ^ Dryden Road (www.edinburghlive.co.uk)
  2. ^ 100-150 boxed e-scooters (www.edinburghlive.co.uk)
  3. ^ stolen goods (www.edinburghlive.co.uk)
  4. ^ Dalkeith Police Station (www.edinburghlive.co.uk)

The mystery of the UK’s missing workers

By Robert Plummer
Business reporter, BBC News

Lockdown easing in the UK

image copyrightGetty Images

As the UK economy emerges from the effects of the pandemic, various sectors are reporting shortages of staff.

The lockdown easing has prompted employers to start recruiting. UK job vacancies[1] have hit their highest level since the start of the pandemic.

Yet, puzzlingly, the latest employment figures show one-in-20 people who want a job can’t find one.

Hospitality, for example, is struggling to find staff, and there is a shortage of lorry drivers. Several other sectors face similar problems.

Where have all the workers gone?

In the words of Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, the sector has “the wrong workers in the wrong place at the wrong time”.

Kitchen staff

image copyrightPA Media

Students and apprentices, who often work part-time in hospitality, have had their studies disrupted by Covid and are not in their normal place of education. Other workers have moved away from big cities to save money during the pandemic.

But, as the director of the Institute for Employment Studies, Tony Wilson, points out, the hospitality sector has trouble holding on to staff at the best of times.

“This sector has a very high turnover,” he told the BBC. “Nearly half of people change jobs every year. A lot of firms have found people just move on to other things.”

Kate Shoesmith, deputy chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), says there was a shortage of chefs even before the pandemic.

But during lockdown, she says, many people sought out other kinds of work and are reluctant to return to the “quite brutal” culture of long hours and night work.

“They’ve transferred to other sectors where they can work during the day, have proper breaks and more time with their family,” she says.

Is this shortage of workers spreading?

There are indications that the retail sector is also now feeling the pinch.

In the early days of the pandemic, supermarkets and other essential stores were able to recruit workers who had previously been employed by restaurants and pubs. Now there is more competition for those people’s labour.

vacancies

Tamara Hill, employment policy adviser at the British Retail Consortium, says shortages would traditionally have been filled by non-UK workers.

“This shortfall has been impacted by barriers within the UK’s new immigration rules and a restricted apprenticeship levy that does not address the skills that are currently scarce,” she says.

Are some age groups more affected than others?

Young people have been particularly badly hit. “The proportion of young people facing unemployment is higher than in other age groups, because they don’t have the experience and employers might be risk-averse,” says Ms Shoesmith, of the REC.

Graph of unemployment rate for young people compared with all adults

Mr Wilson, of the IES , says more young people in full-time education have stopped trying to hold down a job at the same time – 2.4 million, as opposed to 2.1 million a year ago.

However, he adds that many young people have managed to find more rewarding work during the pandemic: “One-third of young people now in high-skilled work were in medium or low-skilled jobs a year earlier.”

And younger workers are more wary of customer-facing roles than they used to be, says Mr Wilson. “They don’t want to put themselves at risk of catching Covid. They haven’t been vaccinated.”

Are there other sectors particularly under pressure?

According to the REC’s Ms Shoesmith, the haulage industry is suffering from a shortage of drivers. “There were high numbers of people from Romania and Bulgaria undertaking driving jobs,” she told the BBC.

Lorries at a motorway service station

image copyrightGetty Images

They stayed in the UK after the Brexit referendum, but started leaving when the pandemic struck. “They have either sourced work in their home countries or they feel it’s not right to return to the UK, either because of Brexit or the pandemic.”

Ms Shoesmith says there is an estimated shortfall of 30,000 large goods vehicle drivers in the UK.

What about overseas workers in general?

It does seem to be the case that many EU nationals who worked in the UK have returned home. According to Ms Nicholls, of UKHospitality, 1.3 million foreign workers left the UK during the pandemic.

“That’s taken out a large part of the economy, and that has a knock-on effect on the economy as a whole,” she says.

Warehouse

image copyrightReuters

However, Mr Wilson, of the IES, argues this has more to do with Covid than Brexit.

“With these quarantine arrangements, many people who have rights to work here are not taking them up. If you’re in Spain or Poland, you’re not coming to the UK to take up jobs,” he says.

But he cautions that international job search websites such as Adzuna have seen a “massive collapse” in the number of foreign workers seeking jobs in the UK.

“There is an acute problem in some industries right now, but in the long term, it could become chronic because of Brexit,” he adds.

Other factors affecting the labour market

The government’s furlough scheme has helped millions of people stay in jobs. But there are unintended consequences says the REC’s Ms Shoesmith.

“With government support still in place until the end of September, the danger is that if people come off furlough and there is another lockdown, they can’t go back on to it. You have to start again,” she says.

graph

As a result, some people who are being approached about job opportunities are reluctant to come off furlough to take them, she says.

Xiaowei Xu, senior research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, reckons the impact might go deeper.

“If the pandemic does lead to a structural change in the economy, with less demand for the High Street and more for e-commerce, then furlough might be delaying that shift,” said Ms Xu.

What else do we know about the long-term implications?

Mr Wilson, of the IES, reckons that in future, businesses will need to pay more attention to how they recruit, train and treat staff.

“When firms say, ‘We can’t get the staff,’ they mean, ‘We can’t get the experienced staff,'” he says.

But with unemployment still at 1.7 million, there is a “big labour pool” of people who could take up those jobs, he adds.

That means accepting staff who are less experienced and training them, as well as offering more support to those with health conditions or caring responsibilities.

“It’s not necessarily about pay, it’s about offering better terms,” he adds. “Employers haven’t had to do that for a decade.”

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References

  1. ^ UK job vacancies (www.bbc.co.uk)