The latest official migration statistics provide further signals that the supply of EU workers has slowed dramatically since the introduction of migration restrictions. The data shows that employers now source the bulk of migrant labour from outside the EU via the Skilled Worker route (formerly Tier 2), which is the main long-term work route for non-UK citizens.

In the 12 months to September 2021, the five most popular sources of labour for skilled worker visas are India (53k), Phillipines (9k) and Nigeria (9k), the US (6k) and Pakistan (4k). Almost three fifths of sponsored skilled worker visa applications were drawn from the health and social care (42%) and information and communications (16%) sectors.

In addition, a disproportionately high share (73%) of seasonal workers (formerly part of Tier 5) were given to Ukrainian citizens during the same period. Other countries that make up most grants from this route are also from outside the EU; including Russia (1,862 or 8%), Belarus (853 or 3%) and Moldova (706 or 3%). 

Responding to today’s figures, Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market adviser for the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development comments: 

"Substantial growth in the supply of labour, due mainly to increased immigration from the EU, has helped meet strong labour demand over the past decade and more. However, the abrupt halt in the supply of EU workers continues to cause shockwaves for employers across all sectors; particularly for hard-to-fill vacancies in low-paying sectors where EU citizens have been disproportionately employed. The dramatic reduction in the inflow of EU workers will also be a big concern to the Bank of England, as this may also contribute to mounting recruitment difficulties, which together with the current surge in price inflation, may lead to a pay-price spiral.

“The findings reinforce the case for the immediate introduction of a temporary immigration safety valve, via a unilateral Youth Mobility Scheme for young EU citizens, to help alleviate rising labour and skills shortages. Under the scheme, a limited number of young EU citizens would be allowed to come to the UK in search of work without a job offer, which would appeal to the many employers who are deterred from using the immigration system due to the administrative burden.”

According to the data, the number of Youth Mobility visas (which are restricted to a few countries such as Canada and Australia) in the 12 months to September 2021 was 38% lower than the previous year.

Davies continues: “Employers also need to adopt the full range of tactics available to them to help recruit, develop and retain workers that go beyond just raising wages. These include apprenticeships, a greater focus on line management capability, more opportunities for existing employees to train and progress and a wider availability of flexible working arrangements.

“We also need significant changes to skills policy, starting with reforming the Apprenticeship Levy into a more flexible training levy, to boost employer investment in skills development.” 

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