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Employment fears as EU net migration drops to 10 year low

Date published: 28 February 2019


The number of EU citizens coming to the UK has dropped to a ten-year low and overall immigration to the UK for work has fallen to its lowest level since 2014, prompting concerns for British industries reliant on EU workers.

According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), published on 28 February, a decrease in EU immigration led to net-EU migration dropping to a level last seen in 2009. Conversely, net migration from countries outside the EU hit its highest level for 15 years.

More EU8 citizens – those living in central and eastern European countries – left the UK than arrived in the year ending September 2018, in the last ONS report on migration before the Brexit deadline on 29 March.

Sellick Partnership warns that the number of British industries who rely heavily on workers from EU8 countries – such as agriculture, hospitality and care sectors – will face a huge shortfall if the downward trend continues.

The recruitment firm noted a 15 percent rise in the number of temporary workers placed in February 2019, compared with the same period of 2018, suggesting that business owners are turning to short-term solutions when dealing with the imminent candidate crisis in certain sectors.

Jay Lindop, director of the Centre for International Migration at the ONS, said: “Different patterns for EU and non-EU migration have emerged since mid-2016, when the EU referendum vote took place. Due to increasing numbers arriving for work and study, non-EU net migration is now at the highest level since 2004.

“In contrast, EU-net migration, while still adding to the population as a whole, has fallen to a level last seen in 2009. We are also now seeing more EU8 citizens – those from central and eastern European countries, for example Poland – leaving the UK than arriving.”

If the downward trend in EU workers continues, it is possible that salaries will rise in order for businesses to compete to secure the best talent, which would put increasing financial pressure on business owners.

This follows the latest ONS report on gross domestic product, revealing that the UK economy grew at its slowest annual rate in six years in 2018, blaming falls in factory output and car production, as well as Brexit uncertainty.

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