The number of European Union citizens moving to the UK has plunge by up to 90 percent since Brexit, according to Office for National Statistics estimates.
In 2021, 43,000 received a visa for work, study or family purposes compared with up to 430,000 in the six years to March 2020. Hospitality, support services and low paid jobs are thought to be the worst affected sectors.
Commentators have noted that there are causes beyond the UK’s departure from the European Union. However, the end of free movement is said to have exacerbated the problem with EU employment 30 per cent down in 2021 in London alone compared to earlier years.
The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford and ReWage, a think tank, have said other factors of causation for the rising vacancy rate include a trend of earlier retirements, the pandemic and opportunities in other countries.
Observatory director Madeleine Sumption said: While it is clear that ending free movement has made it harder for employers in low-wage industries to recruit staff, changing immigration policy to address shortages brings its own set of challenges.
The loss of EU manpower has seen industries such as hospitality lose up to 28 per cent of its labour. Professor Chris Forde, of Leeds University and ReWage, told the Guardian that Brexit is not the only driver of the fall in numbers.
Recruiting difficulties are not unique to the UK and several other countries have experienced high vacancy rates post-pandemic, he said. In construction and health the number of EU workers rose.