Dramatic fall in immigration could spark skills shortage

The UK government had to relax quarantine rules for migrant workers due to a skills shortage on turkey farms.
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The CIPD is urging the government to take steps to boost training and re-skilling of domestic workforce to compensate for a huge loss of migrants’ skills.

The latest official migration statistics, published yesterday, have highlighted a dramatic fall in the number of migrants registering to work in the UK.

The number of national insurance number (NINo) registrations to EU nationals decreased by 99% in the three months to September 2020, compared with the same period in 2019. NINo registrations to non-EU nationals fell by 65%

Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market adviser at the CIPD, said: “This is a staggering fall in registrations, reflecting not just the current restrictions of the pandemic but the fact that the stock of overseas workers in the UK may be falling sharply.

“With unemployment set to increase sharply over the next year as more stringent migration restrictions are introduced, it’s inevitable that more overseas workers, especially EU jobseekers, will find it easier to work or seek work in other parts of the EU.”

The CIPD said that this won’t concern employers too much in the short-term, while recruitment activity is weak, but that the combined impact of the apparent exodus of EU workers and the continued, subdued inflow of EU jobseekers would cause recruitment difficulties in the medium-term.

“The good news is that this should force employers to make full use of available UK workers, especially those recently made redundant with relevant skills and up to date experience.”

The end of free movement on 1 January 2021 and ongoing travel restrictions due to the pandemic, means the number of EU workers entering the UK will remain subdued.

The CIPD is highlighting the urgent need for government to take steps to increase investment in training and ensure UK-born workers have the skills to compensate for the sharp fall in availability of EU workers.

Davies added: “To help tackle these challenges, it’s crucial that the unemployed have sufficient access to training and support so they can develop both technical and core transferable skills to find work in sectors which are likely to face skill or labour shortages as the economy recovers.”

“Reforming the apprenticeship levy into a more flexible training levy would also enable employers to use their levy funds for other forms of accredited training and skills development, as well as apprenticeships, boosting overall workforce skills investment.”

The Office for National Statistics cancelled its quarterly migration statistics report following the suspension of the International Passenger Survey as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead it published data from a range of sources on international mobility.

The ONS found that the UK’s March lockdown accelerated the declining trend which began with the June 2016 Brexit referendum.

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