The number of EU migrants starting jobs in hospitality is on the rise despite Brexit fears.
After several months which saw the number of EU migrants working in the sector decline, November saw a significant spike – with 44% of new starters coming from EU nations compared to 38.5% in September.
Seasonal pub workers appear to have driven the shift, according to analysis by Fourth. Over the previous four months 78% of pub workers had hailed from the UK, with 17% from the EU, and 5% from the rest of the world – however in November 26% of pub workers in the sector came from the EU.
Mike Shipley, analytics and insight solutions director at Fourth, said: “Against an uncertain political backdrop as to the future of the free movement of labour from the European Union, it is welcome news to see there has been an influx of EU workers entering the industry, after several months of falling numbers.
“Interestingly, driving this influx, is the pub industry which has experienced a surge in workers from the EU as we approach the busy Christmas period. This trend reflects fluctuations experienced in June, suggesting that EU workers enter the industry and pick up extra shifts, during busy periods.
“This further reveals our industry’s reliance on foreign workers, particularly in the restaurant and quick service restaurant sectors, as well as back of house roles. Amongst the many challenges our industry currently faces, people are often listed as the biggest concern and ensuring a pragmatic immigration system after Brexit, along with a conscious, combined and concerted effort to attract young UK talent into the industry, is imperative.”
The news comes as the government announces its plans for the immigration system after Britain leaves the EU. The policy will give high-skilled migrant workers – those with qualifications equivalent to A Level or higher, and a minimum salary which is yet to be determined – easier access to the country.
However industry body UKHospitality fears that, with much of the hospitality workforce likely to be pooled from low-skilled migrants, the policy may cause havoc for the sector.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of industry body UKHospitality, said: “The central plank of government’s immigration policy, to cut off lower-skilled migration with a salary threshold, is fundamentally flawed and will damage the hospitality sector and the wider UK economy. It also does little to build bridges with our European friends.
“We need the government to keep to its word, listen to business over the next 12 months and realise that these proposals will be crippling for business, and Britain’s high streets in particular. An immigration policy that recognises the contributions of migrants of all skill levels is one that works for Britain.”