Number of EU migrant workers in UK shows biggest fall on record, official data shows

There are now 2.3 million EU-born workers in the UK, down from a peak of 2.41 million in the third quarter of 2017

Ben Chu
Economics Editor
Tuesday 13 November 2018 12:20
Leave voter says his fruit farms could collapse without EU workers

The number of European migrant workers in Britain has shown the sharpest fall since records began in 1997, according to the latest labour market data.

Numbers fell by 4.5 per cent (107,000 workers) from July to September in 2018, according to the Office for National Statistics.

“The sharp fall in EU migrant workers over the last year shows that Britain’s labour market is already changing ahead of its exit from the EU, and long before its post-Brexit migration plan is in place,” said Stephen Clarke, senior economic analyst at think tank Resolution Foundation.

There are now 2.3 million EU-born workers in the UK, down from a peak of 2.4 million in the third quarter of 2017.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) reported earlier this week that employers are finding vacancies harder to fill due to the decline in migrants coming to the UK since the Brexit vote.

“The data implies that the pendulum has swung away from the UK as an attractive place to live and work for non-UK born citizens,” said Gerwyn Davies of the CIPD.

The government’s Migration Advisory Committee controversially recommended earlier this year that ministers should seek to keep out low-skilled EU migrants, earning under £30,000 a year, after Brexit, despite the heavy reliance of many industrial sectors on them.

It’s estimated that three quarters of European Union workers currently in the UK would have been ineligible to come and work in Britain under such a policy.

Record fall

The ONS also reported on Tuesday that regular wage growth picked up in September to its fastest rate in almost a decade.

Its data suggests that average wages are now around 3 per cent below their pre-recession peak.

However, the Resolution Foundation has previously estimated that average real pay will not return to its 2008 level until 2024.

And wages in many parts of the country are well below the peak, with the gap biggest in London (-6.8 per cent), the East Midlands (-5.6 per cent) and Northern Ireland (-4.7 per cent).

The think tank says that under the Office for Budget Responsibility’s central pay projection, earnings would not return to peak until 2028 in the East Midlands and 2030 on London.

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