Migratory Birds Flying at Sunset

Organisations in some industries could face major challenges to their usual recruitment routes if Britain leaves the EU, researchers from the University of Oxford have warned.

The University of Oxford’s Migration Observatory unit has released analysis of official data showing the extent to which different sectors would be able to hire migrants under rules currently used for non-EU citizens.

The Migration Observatory said that while the policies that would follow a leave vote were unknown, its data helped draw broad conclusions about which industries would face the greatest implications if admission requirements were drawn up.

Its analysis of official Labour Force Survey statistics from 2015 showed that more than one in five EU migrants working in the UK last year were in the ‘distribution, hotels and restaurants’ sector.

Yet only six percent of all employees in that sector were earning at least £20,000 and in a ‘graduate job’ as broadly required to qualify for the Tier 2 visa chiefly used by non-EU labour migrants.

A further 15 percent of EU migrants working in the UK were in the manufacturing industry, where just one in four of the sector’s overall workforce met the broad criteria for Tier 2 migration.

Overall, only one in five of those born outside the UK in EU countries and working in the UK last year were in a skilled job earning more than £20,000, according to the report.

The share of EU-born workers who arrived in the UK since 2010 and were in graduate jobs earning £20,000 or more was just 12 percent.

The report said:

“It is clear that there are scenarios in which admission requirements for EU nationals could represent a substantial departure from the status quo, particularly if work-visa rules similar to the current ones for non-EU citizens were put in place in place,”

“It is also clear that in any selection system based on earnings and proposed occupation, there would be large differences in the implications for different industries.

“Employers in industries with low shares of highly skilled jobs – such as the distribution, hotels and restaurants category, which is now the largest employer of EU migrants – could find it particularly difficult to hire new workers from EU countries through the employer-sponsored Tier 2 system.”

Punam Birly, head of legal services for employment and immigration at professional services firm KPMG, said last month that a vote to leave the EU could be hugely disruptive to certain sectors. “The rules are complicated and may well change depending on exactly what is negotiated in terms of Britain’s exit from the EU if the vote is to leave,” she said.