UK hotel industry loses almost 200,000 workers abroad

UK hotel industry loses almost 200,000 workers abroad

UK hotel companies 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 tighten the labor market.

The EU workforce pool has shrunk at the fastest rate, according to data compiled by recruiter Caterer.com. At last count, there were around 172,000 EU citizens working in the hospitality sector, down 41% from the pre-pandemic total of nearly 293,000.

The number of international workers from all continents has fallen in the last two years, with approximately 76,000 workers from foreign countries outside the EU also leaving the workforce. In total, around 197,000 foreign employees have left the sector since 2019, according to research based on a survey of 250 senior hospitality hiring managers in July.

The hospitality sector employs around 7 percent of the UK workforce, according to the Office for National Statistics. Historically, foreign staff have made up more than 40 percent of the hotel industry’s workforce.

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

Caterer.com director Kathy Dyball said the sector was in the midst of “a severe and sustained jobs crisis.” She added that giving chefs access to skilled worker status, which allows British companies to sponsor them for a work visa, was “a good start”, but added that employers still face barriers to recruiting workers from abroad. .

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

A West End restaurateur, who operates around a dozen places in London, said his wage bill had risen nearly 20 per cent in the last year as he struggled to attract staff.

“Hospitality growth over the last 30 years has been driven almost entirely by a non-British workforce,” he said.

“The effect of Brexit, combined with the pandemic, has been to remove that component of the workforce, and in the absence of having to hire staff, the only option is to raise prices or close some businesses,” he said. adding that labor shortages were greatest among reception staff.

Some 43 percent of the companies surveyed said they had to scale back operations due to staff shortages. In the survey, 89 percent said strict immigration rules deterred them from hiring staff abroad. 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 in how they spend an industry levy to fund apprenticeships, allowing them to use the money for recruitment drives and wages.

“We have been encouraging the government to introduce more youth mobility visas to allow skilled workers to be employed abroad, but the government must also make it easier to recruit and retain staff locally,” he added.

A UK government spokesman said: “We want employers to make long-term investments in the UK domestic workforce. . . instead of relying on cheap labor from abroad.”

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

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