UK Flushed with Immigrants, Labor Market Remains Tight and Unfilled

The United Kingdom is putting back up the “Help Wanted” sign it tore down with Brexit as it looks to fill one million open jobs.

(Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash)
(Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash)

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The UK is putting back up the “Help Wanted” sign it tore down with Brexit.

A new S&P Global report found that while more people are moving to the UK than leaving, the majority lack the age, status, and skills needed to fill the nearly 1 million vacant positions in the UK’s labor pool, exacerbating an already tight job market.

Brexit Stage Left

After the UK withdrew from the European Union in 2020, the country enacted restrictive immigration policies that made it so EU nationals could no longer freely move to England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. EU nationals are now required to obtain visas, and if they are joining family members settled in the UK, they must meet an £18,600 income threshold. With all the extra paperwork and limitations, moving to the UK became unattractive for many in neighboring countries.

Also, the British government has bolstered its efforts to take in asylum seekers. In 2022, refugees from countries like Ukraine, Afghanistan, and more accounted for roughly 20% of immigrants to the UK, according to Parliament data. But these are people who are fleeing war and oppression. They’re not going to the UK because their firm expanded its international offices.

All this adds up to hundreds of thousands of vacant positions in the fields of healthcare, education, tech and more:

  • S&P data showed that 672,000 more people moved to the UK than left in the first half of this year. Plus, thousands more immigrated to the UK last year than originally thought.
  • Those coming for work made up roughly a fifth of the newbie Brits while non-working family members, students, and refugees made up much of the rest.

Doom Loop: To obtain workers with the right skills, employers are under pressure to offer much more attractive salaries. However, the Bank of England, which is trying to get inflation back down to 2%, is worried that tactic could cause a wage-price spiral. So as the person on a conference call who never knows what to say would say, “it’s just about finding a balance.”