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Fewer EU citizens moving to Britain

By JONATHAN POWELL in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-08-16 10:05

Workers in low-skill jobs, hospitality sector impacted by Brexit, pandemic

The number of European Union citizens moving to the United Kingdom has dropped significantly since Brexit, a new report has revealed.

The report, titled The end of free movement and the low-wage labour force in the UK, highlights a large decline in immigration from the EU.

Authors of the report from the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford and ReWage, an independent group of experts, caution against blaming Brexit for the high number of job vacancies in the UK, although they acknowledge the nation's departure from the EU has "exacerbated" chronic labor shortages in Britain.

Estimates from the Office for National Statistics, or ONS, indicate that just 43,000 EU citizens received visas for work, family, study, or other reasons in 2021.

This compares to approximately 230,000 to 430,000 EU citizens coming to the UK each year in the six years to March 2020.

EU citizens accounted for only 5 percent of visas awarded to people wanting to migrate to the UK in 2021.

The waning numbers of EU workers has put pressure on hospitality and support services in the UK, as well as a number of other industries, reported The Guardian.

Aside from Brexit, other factors for the decline include the COVID-19 pandemic, high employment levels across Europe, and international labor shortages, but the decision of people in their 50s to leave the workforce early is "the most important contributor to the decrease in the size of the workforce compared to what might have been expected based on pre-pandemic trends".

"While there is some evidence that the end of free movement has contributed to shortages in some areas of the UK labor market, it is by no means the only driver. In fact, recruiting difficulties are not unique to the UK and several other countries have experienced high vacancy rates post-pandemic," said Chris Forde, a professor at Leeds University and co-author of the report for ReWage.

The study found the hospitality and lower-skilled sectors were hit hardest by the end of free movement of EU citizens into the UK.

In the two years to June 2021, support services, including cleaning and maintenance, were down 64,000 EU workers while hospitality lost 98,000 EU citizens in jobs.

"While it is clear that ending free movement has made it harder for employers in low-wage industries to recruit staff, changing immigration policy to address shortages brings its own set of challenges," said Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory.

Filling low-paid vacancies would remain an issue, said Sumption. This is despite Home Office statistics showing there has been an increase in overall migration numbers, noted The Guardian.

The report cautioned that the rising overall numbers may not necessarily be workers arriving on the visa route, and that they may be coming from the existing non-EU population in the UK who arrived on family visas or the refugee route.

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