UK hospitality industry loses nearly 200,000 overseas workers

UK hotel businesses have lost almost 200,000 international workers since the end of 2019, according to an industry survey, as the effects of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic squeeze the jobs market.

The EU labor pool has shrunk at the fastest rate, according to data collected by recruiter Caterer.com. According to the latest count, around 172,000 EU citizens worked in the hospitality sector, down around 41% from a total of almost 293,000 before the pandemic.

The number of international workers from all continents has fallen over the past two years, with around 76,000 workers from foreign countries outside the EU also leaving the labor force. A total of about 197,000 foreign employees have left the industry since 2019, according to the study based on a July survey of 250 hospitality hiring managers.

The hospitality sector employs around 7% of the UK workforce, according to the Office for National Statistics. Foreign staff have always represented more than 40% of the hotel workforce.

No sector has been hit harder by the tight labor market resulting from the fallout from Brexit and the pandemic, with hospitality facing a vacancy rate of 7.9%, the highest of any sector, according to the ONS.

Caterer.com director Kathy Dyball said the industry was in the midst of a “sustained and severe labor crisis”. She added that giving chefs access to skilled worker status, which allows UK companies to sponsor them for a work visa, was “a good start”, but added that employers still faced obstacles to recruit foreign workers.

“Vacancies are forcing some businesses to reduce trading hours or close for entire days,” UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said. The industry body estimates vacancies are costing businesses £21billion in unmet demand and lost revenue, and the Treasury around £5billion in lost tax. “It is vital for the UK economy that we successfully tackle this crisis,” added Nicholls.

A West End restaurateur, which operates a dozen locations across London, said its payroll had risen by almost 20% in the past year as it struggled to attract staff.

“Growth in the hospitality industry over the past 30 years has been fueled almost entirely by a non-UK workforce,” he said.

“The effect of Brexit, combined with the pandemic, has been to remove this component of the workforce – and with no staff recruited, the only option is to raise prices or close some businesses “, did he declare. adding that the labor shortage was greatest among reception staff.

Some 43% of companies surveyed said they had to reduce their activities due to staff shortages. In the survey, 89% said strict immigration rules deterred them from hiring overseas. One in four reported more applications from British candidates.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said another remedy was to give employers more flexibility over how they spend an industry levy to fund apprenticeships, allowing them to use money for recruitment campaigns as well as salaries.

“We have encouraged the government to introduce more mobility visas for young people to enable skilled workers to be employed overseas, but the government must also facilitate the recruitment and retention of staff more locally,” said- she added.

A UK government spokesperson said: “We want to see employers making a long-term investment in the UK’s national workforce. . . instead of relying on cheap labor from overseas.

They added that companies could also hire immigrant workers who meet “the required English language and salary thresholds and who are sponsored by a registered Home Office sponsor”.

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