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UK's 'dramatic' fall in inflow of migrant workers could trigger skills shortage

Kumutha Ramanathan
·2 min read
Drop in migrant numbers from EU has sparked skills shortage concerns. Photo: Getty
Drop in migrant numbers from EU has sparked skills shortage concerns. Photo: Getty

There has been a “dramatic fall” in the number of migrants registering to work in the UK, which could trigger a skills shortage and create recruitment difficulties for UK firms, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), a registered charity.

National insurance number (NINo) registrations to EU nationals decreased by 99% between July and September 2020 compared with the same period in 2019, according to the latest quarterly official migration statistics cited by CIPD. Meanwhile registrations to non-EU nationals decreased by 65% during the same period.

“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,” said Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market adviser at CIPD.

The body said that due to the ending of the free movement and ongoing restrictions on migrant movements to the UK due to the pandemic, the number of EU workers entering the UK is set to remain subdued for the foreseeable future.

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The UK government needs “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 migrant workers from the EU, which will be particularly felt as the economy recovers,” said CIPD.

To fill the gaps, the charity said sufficient access to training and support is necessary to allow them to develop both technical and core transferable skills 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,” according to CIPD.

The news comes as UK chancellor Rishi Sunak warned that an “economic emergency” caused by COVID-19 was only just beginning as he delivered the government’s spending review in parliament on Wednesday.

His comments follow the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasting that the UK economy will contract by 11.3% in 2020, the biggest fall in output in 300 years.

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