There are many uncertainties surrounding this hot topic, including the state of Britain’s trading, economic and employment sectors in the aftermath.
Recent research on the outcome of Brexit on such employment sectors as catering, agriculture, cleaning, food processing and warehousing has suggested that alternative options for hiring labour from the European Union may include exploitation and unreasonable expenses.
This research comes from The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford report, which suggests there are two alternative options for post-Brexit labour migration to the UK: work permits for low-skilled jobs and youth mobility schemes. Freedom of movement is due to expire in the year 2021, meaning European labour will be inaccessible. Europeans have made up a large percentage of the low-wage labour workforce for years in the UK – around 500,000 EU nationals were employed in low-skilled sectors in the year 2017.
The Oxford report acknowledges, however, that there is no sure-fire way to gauge the exact amount of labour required to fill this low-skilled job bracket. As the director of the Migration Observatory at Oxford, Madeleine Sumption, advises, the UK has no objective way to calculate the numbers needed. In addition, she questions how to surmise which industries should benefit from the migrant worker population and which should have no access.
With youth mobility schemes, migrant workers between the ages of 18 and 30 are able to seek employment in the UK for a period of up to two years. While this is currently only available to countries beyond the EU – for example, Australia, Canada and New Zealand – the government have stated that they would plan to extend this scheme to European countries. However, youth mobility encourages an unbalanced age range in the available workforce.
Those looking for work through youth mobility schemes are able to choose where they would like to work. As Madeleine Sumption says, when given a choice, people tend to choose work in comfortable locations like bars or shops instead of factories or cold, muddy fields.
Work permits, on the other hand, limit the migrant worker to a specific job, and they have to remain as employees of a particular company. This gives the government more control over which professions migrant workers can have access to, but it also means that the government have more responsibility to the worker. While this targets the desired employment areas, if the migrant workers are employed under illegally harsh conditions, they are bound to the position no matter what, meaning they are at bigger risk of exploitation.
In 2017 there were 2.4 million European migrant workers in the UK across all professions, compared to the lower number of 1.6 million in 2012. This is in comparison to those of non-EU migrant workers – 2.7 million in 2012 and 3.2 million in 2017. Figures for those migrating into lower-skilled roles between 2012 and 2017 were 83,000 from non-EU countries compared to 116,000 from the EU.
The Home Office has stated that post-Brexit Britain will employ an immigration system that will be in the country’s best interests.
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