The Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) has warned that decisions about future UK immigration policy should be based on impartial, expert advice rather than politics to avoid risks to the jobs market and the economy at a time of record employment.
The professional body for the recruitment industry has today published comprehensive analysis of how the 2.2 million EU nationals currently participating in the UK labour market contribute by sector and region, in partnership with the Migration Policy Institute and Fragomen LLP.
The findings of Building the Post-Brexit Immigration System reveal EU nationals represent 7% of the total UK Labour force but reliance is higher in sectors such as manufacturing (11 %), retail and hospitality (9%) and construction (8%)
The research warned the UK labour market faces three potential challenges post-Brexit:
- Retaining its competitive edge in highly globalised sectors such as higher education, finance and digital technology (tech) that rely both on an immigration system that can bring in specialist skills and an ecosystem that attracts high-value individuals;
- Softening the landing for sectors that rely heavily on EU workers, such as agriculture, manufacturing, hospitality, and construction – particularly where these concentrations are especially high in certain subsectors and regions; and
- Maintaining flexibility both in sectors that rely on their ability to ‘flex’ on a seasonal basis (such as agriculture or hospitality) and in sectors where freelancers, self-employment and temporary labour are at the root of their business model, ranging from construction to tech and, to some extent, even higher education.
The REC has outlined 21 recommendations to government based on these findings, including:
- grant greater independence and autonomy to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), to inform policy and establish evidence-based targets
- develop a five-year roadmap for the implementation of new immigration policy which avoids a ‘cliff-edge’ when the UK leaves the EU, providing clarity for business
- build a visa system that reflects the UK’s dependency on workers from the EU for a wide variety of roles, including provisions for seasonal and temporary workers.
REC chief executive Kevin Green says:
“Decisions about the future immigration system are too important to be subject to political whim - we need policy to be built on sound evidence and data. This report is a significant contribution to the critical debate on immigration. It shows that businesses need access to people to deliver growth, and that the current UK workforce alone cannot meet demand.
“Designing the post-Brexit immigration system is an enormous task and it cannot happen only in Whitehall. Recruiters are on the frontline of the labour market, and we are ready to work with the government to design and deliver policies that will help the country prosper.”
You can download the full report: Building the Post-Brexit Immigration System. An analysis of shortages, scenarios and choices here.