Saturday, May 18

UK worried to loss EU migrant labour after Brexit



British firms are worried about the loss of EU migrant labour after Brexit because their UK counterparts are lazier and take more time off work, an official government report has found.

The Migration Advisory Committee found that workers from Europe are a high quality, eager workforce compared to UK-born workers, leading employers to rely on them instead.

EU workers, especially those in low-skilled jobs, are also paid less.

Businesses fear they will not be able to employ staff from the EU after Brexit, forcing them to spend more on less productive British staff which could drive up prices or force production abroad where it is cheaper.

It could also impact the ratio of elderly people to youngsters and would very likely lead to lower growth, although it is unlikely to hit the productivity rate.

Overall the MAC found that workers from EU states are happier to work longer hours, including evenings and weekends, and are paid 4 per cent less on average compared to low-skilled UK staff.

Experts said many firms in lower-skilled sectors have built a business model in which the ready availability of migrant labour played an important and sometimes vital role since 2004.

The implications of any new migration system on their financial future has therefore caused uncertainty, the report found. However it also cast doubt on the argument made by many companies that they employed EU staff because of their work ethic, and not because they are cheaper.

The committee took evidence from more than 400 businesses, industry bodies and Government departments as part of a major inquiry ordered by Home Secretary Amber Rudd .

Officials are attempting to draw up post-Brexit immigration rules that incorporate an end to free movement while avoiding any major damage to the economy.

Publishing an interim update on Tuesday, MAC chairman Professor Alan Manning said employers in all sectors are concerned about the prospects of future restrictions on European Economic Area [EEA] migration.

The report found that: Many employers expressed the view that EEA migrants are more motivated and flexible than UK-born workers this included a greater willingness to work longer and unsociable hours, to welcome overtime, and a consistently strong work ethic.

In addition, EEA migrants are often better-qualified than the UK-born for the jobs they do.

The committee confirmed that rates of absenteeism among British workers are higher, even when accounting for differences in age, industry and occupation.

It added: The differentials are largest for medium and lower-skills levels and for new member state migrants [for example Romania].

A new member state migrant in a low-skilled job reports an absenteeism rate 40 per cent lower than that of a UK-born worker with similar characteristics.

Some employers do not feel they could improve the supply of UK-born workers by offering higher wages, according to the assessment.

However, the MAC said it does not think this is credible, saying: Individual employers would almost always be able to recruit resident workers if they paid wages sufficiently above the going rate.

But the study concluded that the vast majority of employers do not deliberately seek to fill vacancies with migrant workers.

They employ EEA migrants when they are the best or, sometimes, the only available candidate, it said.

Neil Carberry, managing director for people at business group the CBI, said: This report rightly highlights employers’ concerns regarding future  access to skills and labour from our largest and closest trading partner.

The EEA comprises EU member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Switzerland is also covered by the analysis.

Official figures show there were around 2.35 million EU nationals working in the UK between October and December.  Analysis published last year showed EU migrants account for as many as one in 10 employees in some sectors. The committee’s final report will be published in September.