UK will struggle to replace low-skilled workers – report

A new report has revealed that half-a-million EU workers are employed in low-skilled jobs in the UK, and suggests that employers will struggle to fill these positions after Brexit.

The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford report found that an estimated 500,000 EU citizens are currently working in low-skilled jobs, such as picking fruit, cleaning offices, and working in warehouses and food factories.

In the most extensive analysis of the jobs EU nationals are filling, Migration Observatory found 132,000 in elementary cleaning jobs, 120,000 in basic hospitality jobs such as coffee shops, 96,000 in warehouses, 91,000 in factory plants and 26,000 on building sites.

Another 89,000 were truck, van and taxi drivers; 82,000 worked in care services; 74,000 working in food processing; 68,000 as shop assistants and 54,000 in other administrative jobs.

The reports said that a potential lack of available employees post-Brexit, when it is expected low-skilled workers from the EU will no longer be able to live and work in the UK, could heighten the risk of labour exploitation.

The government has said it wants to extend an existing youth mobility scheme for Australians, Canadians and other specified non-EU countries including Japan and Monaco to allow them work in these low-skilled jobs.

However, the Migration Observatory does not believe such a program will bring in a sufficient number of workers.

“There’s no guarantee that youth mobility can provide staff for unpalatable roles in out-of-the-way places,” said Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory. “That’s because the scheme gives workers lots of options, and people with options often prefer to work in shops and bars rather than muddy fields or food processing plants.”

Anti-trafficking charity Focus on Labour Exploitation were also keen to express their concerns regarding how Brexit could increase exploitation.

“The UK already has one of the weakest labour law enforcement structures in Europe, which means abusive employers are often able to operate with impunity,” said the director, Caroline Robinson. “Increased restrictions on immigration and removal of the right to work for EU nationals will place yet more workers at risk of exploitation.”

Article published 4th September 2018