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Is the UK’s reliance on EU workers healthy?

is the uks reliance on eu workers healthy

Is the UK’s reliance on EU workers healthy?

Ever since the UK became part of the EU they’ve been able to attract some of the best talent from Europe.  In the past, many skilled professions in the UK were experiencing long-term vacancies due to the lack of qualified manpower but after joining the European Union the UK has been able to plug some of these vacancies with European talent.

A study conducted by Social Market Foundation, a think-tank, with Adecco found that “UK employers rely on 1.6m employees from the EU, or 6 per cent of all UK workers.”

The numbers may not seem like much however, many of these Europeans are employed in skilled positions that are not easily replaced.  In fact, according to the English Health Service’s Electronic Staff Record, "55,000 out of the 1.2 million staff in the English NHS are citizens of other EU countries. This includes doctors; nurses; other professionals like paramedics and pharmacists; support workers providing care; and administrative staff."

So is it such an issue that the UK is so heavily reliant on EU workers? Normally no it wouldn’t be, but now that Brexit has occurred it could actually end up being a major concern.

What would happen if all the skilled labourers, doctors, nurses, scientists and other professionals suddenly had to depart the UK?  How would the UK recruitment industry be able to fill all those job shortages?

The obvious difficulty is that currently, unless the vacancy is on the government’s shortage list, then it is almost impossible to recruit from the rest of the world.  If Brexit does take place and results in a mass exodus of European workers, then the government may need to work quickly to increase the job types that are found on the list and thus enable you to expand your recruitment to other countries.  And while that will work for permanent employees, it is a puzzle as to how you will cope with the huge contractor/locum market with the current visa opportunities available.  Again, there may need to be a rethink there too.

Some recruitment outsourcing companies already specialise in sourcing from countries like India where candidates possess skills that are easily transferable to the UK market, for those shortage skill vacancies.  Candidates from places like India and Philippines also speak fluent English which adds to their recruiting value.

Unless something drastic happens the dependence on EU workers is not going to diminish anytime soon however, precautions can be taken to curb the necessity.      

If your agency is having difficulty meeting the demand for skilled professionals, then international recruiting may be a practical solution. For more information, you can request a callback or email us on

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