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Braced for Brexit – Britain’s waning attractiveness

Pawel Adrjan

NHS set to face staff shortages as European interest in British healthcare jobs slumps by 21 percent, research by the global job site Indeed shows. Construction is the sector hit hardest, with building job enquiries from EU countries down 42 percent. Contributor Pawel Adrjan, UK economist – Indeed.

Interest in UK jobs falls sharpest among jobseekers in Ireland (down 44 percent) and Poland (down 26 percent) but is holding up among the French, Italians and Spanish. Britain’s waning attractiveness began with the fall in sterling and has been compounded by Brexit fears.

The NHS staffing crisis could be set to worsen as tens of thousands of EU jobseekers turn their backs on Britain and look elsewhere for work, data released today by the world’s largest job site Indeed reveals. In the three years to April 2018, the proportion of European candidates looking for UK healthcare jobs on Indeed fell by a fifth (21 percent).

Indeed’s data shows Europeans’ appetite for UK jobs has fallen steadily since 2015 – the year before the EU referendum – coinciding with a fall in the value of sterling and improving economic conditions in a number of EU countries. The UK sector hit hardest is construction, which has seen its share of European job enquiries tumble by almost half (down 42 percent).

Both healthcare and construction rely heavily on European workers. One in 10 doctors in English hospitals is an EU national, as are 10 percent of UK construction workers. London’s construction industry is particularly at risk from a fall in European recruits; nearly a third (32 percent) of the capital’s builders are EU nationals, according to official figures.

The study, by Indeed’s Hiring Lab economics research unit, found that from mid-2015 European jobseekers as a whole became less interested in UK jobs. However the drop-off was sharpest among those in Ireland (down 44 percent) and Poland (down 26 percent). By contrast, demand for UK jobs held up well among the Italians, French and Spanish.

Nevertheless the waning popularity of Britain as a destination for European workers will sound alarm bells for the UK’s most “Brexit-exposed” employers. Indeed’s analysis of the Labour Force Survey shows the high-skilled profession most reliant on European expertise is veterinary science, with 21 percent of UK vets being nationals of another EU country.

Other high-skilled professions with a high reliance on EU nationals are town planning (15 percent), architecture (14 percent) and dentistry (14 percent). The proportion is even higher among some manual jobs; nearly half (48 percent) of Britain’s packers, bottlers, canners and fillers are EU citizens, as are 41 percent of food production operatives and a third (32 percent) of street cleaners.

However Indeed’s data offers some solace to the tech and finance sectors, both of which have seen interest from European jobseekers hold up well. Meanwhile the childcare sector has enjoyed a surge in European interest, with Indeed recording a 49 percent increase in Europeans searching for British childcare jobs.

Pawel Adrjan, UK economist at Indeed, commented: “While talk of a full-blown Brexodus may be premature, official figures show thousands of Europeans who came to the UK to work are already returning home. By showing who is searching for jobs and where, Indeed’s job search data gives a powerful snapshot of what the future holds for Britain’s labour market.

“Our findings will make alarming reading for employers in the healthcare and construction sectors. Both are already suffering skills shortages, and our research suggests this problem may worsen as more skilled Europeans stay home.

“What’s striking is that the trend began in 2015, before the Brexit referendum. After a decade as a magnet for European workers, the UK’s appeal waned as the Pound weakened and several European economies returned to growth.

“But what began as a gentle decline has morphed into a rapid slowdown as fears of a messy Brexit, falling sterling and strong labour markets in other parts of Europe prompt many jobseekers to look elsewhere. Brexit is still six months away, but the tap of European workers on which Britain relies is already being turned off.”

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