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Where will we get the workers? Immigration and skills after Brexit

6:45pm, Wednesday 6 September 2017, Free Word Centre, London EC1R 3GA

With Brexit approaching, UK employers are uncertain about where they will find their future workers, while European nationals working in Britain are uncertain if they can or should stay. There also appears to be a consensus that any undermining of the free movement of labour will trigger a crisis for our economy. Britain currently has about 3.5million EU migrants defined by nationality, or just under 11 per cent of the workforce. The National Institute for Economic and Social Research forecasts that reducing immigration by two-thirds would see the UK economy shrink nine per cent by 2065. 
Employers, especially those operating in hospitality, construction, health and social care, agriculture and manufacturing are making the same point again and again: British workers do not want to work in these industries, making employers reliant on EU labour. For example, just one in 50 applicants for jobs at Pret-A-Manger is British.  Twenty-five per cent of employers say it is difficult to fill semi-skilled or unskilled jobs with British workers. British people appear not to be attracted to these jobs even when wages are increased. Meanwhile, the work ethic of EU employees is widely lauded. 
Similar problems face other industries. For example, technology industries need people with education in the STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Not enough UK students study these subjects: hence the employers’ fear from no longer having free movement of labour.
What does Brexit mean for labour supply? Will it mean economic problems for employers or will it provide a long-needed stimulus to training and automation? What should UK government policy be in the future?


Para Mullan
senior project manager, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development


Facing the future: tackling post-Brexit labour and skills shortages
CIPD, June 2017

How immigrants affect jobs and wages
Full Fact, 15 May 2017

EU nationals can register to enter UK during Brexit transition
Guardian, 27 July 2017

Migration and Brexit
Migration Observatory, University of Oxford

Immigration: who should control our borders?
Watch video of the debate at Battle of Ideas 2014

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