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Brexit five years on: European interest in UK jobs has plummeted

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Five years on from the Brexit referendum new research by jobsite Indeed has found UK employees in the lowest paid jobs have been most negatively affected by the decision to leave the EU.

Searches for UK jobs from EU workers are down 36% compared to 2019, and 45% down since 2016, the year of the referendum.

The declining interest from the EU has been attributed to the ending of freedom of movement for EU citizens at the beginning of 2021.

Jack Kennedy, UK economist at Indeed, said clicks on low-paid jobs on jobsites are down 41% and this has not been offset by interest from jobseekers outside the EU.

He told HR magazine: “Employers who want to hire foreign workers for lower-paid roles face substantial obstacles.

“We see evidence of a clear Brexit effect, rather than just a pandemic travel effect.

“Falling searches from the EU contrast with rebounding searches from non-EU countries and from Ireland, whose citizens are unaffected by post-Brexit immigration policy thanks to the Common Travel Area.”


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Low-skilled sectors that typically employ a large number of workers from the EU have faced recruitment challenges over the past five years.

Vacancies in retail, manufacturing, health and accommodation, and hospitality make up almost half (45%) of all vacancies, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Eugenio Pirri, chief people & culture officer at Dorchester Collection, said the clearest impact Brexit has had on UK people teams is a lack of European diversity in teams.

He told HR magazine: “The UK’s past relationship with Europe also meant we were able to align our workplace and employment policies alongside it. 

“Brexit has meant an evaluation of practices and of course recruitment, which now more than ever has affected my industry completely.” 

Pirri said that people professionals have had to adapt and look for creative alternatives and review ways of working.

“The main issue for my industry has been recruitment,” he explained. 

As businesses continue to operate both in the UK and the EU, Pirri said the past five years have shown HR leaders they have to continue to educate teams on how the changing immigration rules and regulations.

“We have had to seek alternate attraction methods and review ways to address new immigration and work permit rules to address our needs.

“The greatest role we have had to play is around education, as many did not realise how Brexit would change the way we operate and the movement of people overall,” he said.