Staffing Shortages – What’s Causing Them?

Staffing shortages are on everyone’s mind at the moment; not just recruiters’. It feels like every other day the papers are reporting a deficit of workers in sectors ranging from hospitality through care to even the media itself.

But what factors have caused these shortages? And what can we do about it?

Brexit and Migration

There is some debate about the extent to which post-Brexit migration has contributed to staff shortages. A problem in gaguing this is that the pandemic disrupted the collection of data on this matter, such as the Labour Force Survey.

Early estimates suggested that the number of migrants in the UK dropped by as many as 1.3 million. But ONS numbers now suggest a less pronounced exodus, with just 200,000 employed EU nationals leaving the UK between January – March 2020 and April – June 2021.

As many EU nationals filled roles in the sectors now facing staffing shortages, either number represents a problem. And, as reported by Alan Manning, Professor of Economics at LSE, it’s difficult to get them back. There are inconsistencies in who is eligible for a skilled worker visa. For instance, people working in poultry and fish processing are eligible, but meat processors are not.

Changing Perceptions

Manning continues by observing that Britain now seems less attractive to European migrant workers. He suggests that this could be to do with the cultural fallout of the Brexit referendum, better offers in other countries (like Norway), or the fact that the pandemic encouraged many people to return to their home countries to be with their families.

But it’s not just EU workers who have had a chance to reflect. The pandemic has given many British people, not least the 1.9 million who were still on furlough by the end of June 2021, the chance to weigh up their options. We’ve seen this writ large in the so-called Great Resignation; the surge in people quitting their jobs and seeking new opportunities as pandemic-related restrictions ease.

Sectors which are perceived to offer less attractive pay and conditions, like hospitality and food processing, have therefore suffered staff shortages as workers take the chance to try something different.

What Can We Do About It?

A number of long-term solutions have been mooted by commentators like Manning. For instance, he suggests addressing the widely-publicised staffing shortage in HGV drivers by looking at the perceived imbalance between the time and money taken to invest in an HGV licence and the pay and conditions of the job. He also recommends expanding the shortage occupation list (SOL) and building upon seasonal workers’ schemes for non-EU migrants.

But these are big plans which take time and the participation of a range of stakeholders; from prospective migrant workers in non-EU countries to the UK Government. There are steps which individual recruiters like you can be taking to fill your bookings, even in these times of staffing shortages.

For example, you can capitalise on resources which you already have. Odds are your company has a Facebook page. We’re working with firms like yours to supercharge their presence on the platform. And in doing so, we’re delivering more than one thousand extra candidates for high-volume temp bookings every week.

For a friendly chat about what we can do to help you as we head into peak, contact us today.


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