Britain’s labour market is undergoing a huge shift in terms of migrant workforce, despite overall levels of net migration remaining stable since the EU referendum, independent think tank the Resolution Foundation has pointed out.

It was responding to the latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which show that overall net migration remained stable at 283,000 in the year to September 2018.

Looking in more detail, however, net EU migration has fallen to its lowest level in a decade — to 57,000 — while migration from the rest of the world has reached a 15-year high.

Examining these trends in the light of the proposals set out in last year’s Immigration White Paper, Make UK (the manufacturers’ organisation formerly known as EEF), has warned that the Government risks decimating manufacturing’s labour force.

In particular, plans to introduce a minimum salary threshold of £30,000 will have disastrous impacts on the manufacturing industry, it argues, as 88% of employees working in skilled roles in manufacturing would not meet the salary threshold.

Even those job roles that are almost at graduate level (such as design draftspersons) would also fail to hit the threshold in many cases, Make UK highlights.

Pointing out that firms are already struggling to find candidates to fill vacancies in sectors as varied as technology, health and hospitality, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation argues that providing workers from the EU with clarity on their future working opportunities and rights is a huge priority.

Tej Parikh, Senior Economist at the Institute of Directors (IoD), also sees clear warning signs in the ONS figures.

He said: “With job vacancies at record highs, recruiting from abroad has never been more crucial for British businesses. Flexible and hassle-free access to international skillsets is part and parcel of having a globally competitive skills regime, so adjusting to the Government's post-Brexit immigration agenda, with its new restrictions, will present some challenges.”

Mr Parikh put the spotlight on the retail, hospitality and construction sectors and said that they are facing real obstacles as some EU workers are returning home.

“Larger organisations have looked to hire from further afield to compensate”, he said, “despite the additional paper work, but this can be harder for many resource-constrained SMEs.”

The IoD has called for immigration policy to “move beyond political footballing“, while the Resolution Foundation has pointed out that firms in high-turnover sectors such as hospitality will find themselves having to adjust to lower migration well before the Government can get any new system in place.

Last reviewed 14 March 2019