ONS migration figures: UK is failing to keep EU workers as skills shortages deepen

Today’s Migration Statistics Quarterly Report – released today, for the year ending March 2018 reveals that, just one year before Brexit, the UK is facing a major talent crisis ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU.

Jonathan Beech, Managing Director of Migrate UK, a law firm specialising solely in immigration law for organisations and individuals says the UK should be concerned.

The statistics show a worrying drop in EU workers, many of whom are employed in industries such as IT, banking and finance where there is already a major shortage of skilled professionals.  Jonathan says:

“Today’s net migration figures for the year ending March 2018 show EU net migration continues to decline from its peak of + 189,000 in June 2016 to +87,000, its lowest level since 2012. This is just one year before Brexit and shows greater numbers of EU migrants are now opting to remain in their respective countries, rather than working or studying in the UK.

“The majority of the current fall in numbers is from citizens of western European countries that make up the ‘EU15’ group coming to the UK for a definite job. There has also been a continued fall in EU2 eastern European countries such as Poland, Romania and Croatia and EU8 citizens moving to the UK to seek work.

Largest fall in EU nationals since records began – 39% of Employers have already lost key staff

Jonathan says that in addition to today’s figures,  the labour market statistics from the Labour Force Survey up to the latest period (April to June 2018) show that there were 2.28 million EU nationals working in the UK, 86,000 fewer than a year earlier; this is the largest annual fall since comparable records began in 1997.  Jonathan continues:

“These figures are to be expected given our latest research of 1,000 HR directors which found that 39% of employers said they had already lost EU workers because they are either returning home or leaving to work in another country, while 59% of employers said they had paid out up to £100,000 since Brexit on extra benefits in a desperate bid to retain much needed EU skills.

“Indeed, our research found that 66% of HR directors polled have struggled to find sufficient skills since the Brexit referendum, particularly within the banking (86%), finance (83%) and IT (79%) sectors and a combined 67% of HR directors reported that an uncertain future and unknown immigration legal requirements after an EU exit were the main reasons why workers were leaving the UK.

Jonathan called for urgent clarity on the post-brexit status of EU workers in the UK to avoid the exodus becoming worse.  He said:

“After years of uncertainty, the Government must give some form of guarantee that the status of EU workers in the UK is legally binding and safeguarded against any threat of change in the future, otherwise EU workers will just continue to leave – its recently proposed EU Settlement Scheme granting settle status to EU citizens who have lived continuously in Britain for five years is in the right direction, it’s currently still just a proposal, not a guarantee.”