There’s No Place Like Home: European Jobseekers Turn Their Backs on Brexit Britain
Online job search patterns show a sustained drop in EU jobseeker interest in British jobs, particularly in construction and healthcare.
From builders and butchers to dentists and au pairs, many jobs in Britain are carried out by people from the European Union. However, as migration falls in the run-up to Brexit and uncertainty about the future openness of Britain’s labour market rises, there are fears of skill shortages in key areas of the economy. Are those fears justified? How interested are European jobseekers in British jobs? And which sectors are most vulnerable to the departure of those Europeans who are already here?
Indeed job search patterns are well-suited for answering these questions. International job search traffic reflects migration flows and serves as a real-time indicator of interest in specific jobs and regions. By looking at the activity of visitors to Indeed’s UK site, we can paint a detailed picture of the potential supply of international workers to Britain’s tight labour market.
That picture is one of a general decline in European jobseeker interest in British jobs. Among the areas of the economy that particularly rely on people from the EU, healthcare and construction stand out as most exposed to a potential worker “Brexodus”. At the same time though, Europeans looking for jobs that involve technology, finance and language skills have not been put off by Brexit just yet. This suggests that Britain could keep its position as a global tech and banking magnet in a post-Brexit world, provided that migration policy is sufficiently flexible to accommodate an internationally mobile workforce.
European jobseekers are losing interest in British jobs
We begin by looking at job searches from EU countries as a share of all activity on Indeed’s UK site as a way to measure the relative contribution of European jobseekers. The trend shows a decline, suggesting that European interest in working in Britain is waning. More surprising is that this fall-off started well before the June 2016 Brexit referendum.This line graph shows searches from the EU per million UK searches on Indeed since April 2014. In 2014 searches were around 16,000. In 2018 the data shows that searches decreased to 15,000.
The downward trend in searches coincides with persistent weakness of the pound relative to the euro and other European currencies since mid-2015. A weaker pound makes Britain a less attractive destination to work in, particularly for people keen to translate their earnings into purchasing power back home. This happened at a time when labour markets in many European countries were strengthening, reducing the incentive to move abroad. More recently, the weakness of the pound has once again come to the fore in the context of “no deal” Brexit and its potential impact on the sterling.This line graph shows searches from the Eurozone per million UK searches versus GBP-EUR rate highlighting jobseeker interest correlates with sterling’s value.
Another way to see the decline in European jobseeker interest is to measure searches for British jobs relative to all EU cross-border searches. Britain’s share of those searches has fallen, meaning that those Europeans who search for jobs abroad increasingly are finding other destinations more appealing.
Which areas of the economy are most vulnerable to a “Brexodus”?
We compiled a list of jobs where EU nationals currently represent the highest proportion of the workforce, based on the Labour Force Survey. These “Brexit-exposed” jobs are spread across low-, middle- and high-skilled professions, and across many areas of the economy.
Veterinarians top the list of high-skilled jobs, followed by scientists, quality control engineers and environment professionals. Professions outside the top five include architectural and town planning technicians (15%), architects (14%) and dentists (14%).
Vehicle paint technicians come first in the ranking of Brexit-exposed medium-skilled jobs, indicative of the high proportion of Europeans in the automotive industry. Food-related professions like fishmongers and poultry dressers, butchers and chefs also make the list, as do welders. Outside the top five are bakers and flour confectioners (16%); construction and building trades (16%); and painters and decorators (16%).
Food is also prominent on the low-skilled end of the job spectrum, which features jobs related to packaging, sorting and processing food products. Outside the top five are housekeepers (26%); forklift truck drivers (26%); launderers, dry cleaners and pressers (22%); vehicle valeters and cleaners (22%); and childminders (21%).This table shows the percentage of people in employment who are EU nationals, year to March 2018 highlighting the top Brexit-exposed jobs by skill level. High-skilled jobs, Veterinarians – EU nationals 21%, Natural and social science professionals – EU nationals 20%, Quality control and planning engineers – EU nationals 20%, Biological scientists and biochemists – EU nationals 16%, Environment professionals – EU nationals 16%. Middle-skilled jobs, Vehicle paint technicians – EU nationals 27%, Fishmongers and poultry dressers – EU nationals 25%, Butchers – EU nationals 24%, Chefs – EU nationals 21%, Welding trades – EU nationals 17%. Low-skilled jobs, Packers, bottlers, canners and filers – EU nationals 48%, Weighers, graders and sorters – EU nationals 47%, Food, drink and tobacco process operatives – EU nationals 41%, Street cleaners – EU nationals 32%, Plastics process operatives – EU nationals 26%.
The risks Brexit poses to trade in goods have received prominent attention — and it has even been said that trade barriers may lead Britain to run out of sandwiches! The table shows that disruptions to the flow of people may not only interrupt lunch, but also disturb the smooth running of the labour market. Sectors that deal with key areas of everyday life, like food production and service, housing, health and childcare, could be disrupted by a “Brexodus” of European workers.
Will Britain run out of builders, butchers, dentists and au pairs?
Many of the jobs that rely heavily on EU nationals fall into four broad categories: food, housing, health and childcare. We therefore looked more closely at the interest of European jobseekers in those areas as expressed by clicks on specific jobs advertised on Indeed. To account for growth in overall job search activity over time, we report clicks by European jobseekers as a share of all clicks on British jobs.
Against the backdrop of Brexit and a falling sterling, clicks on childcare jobs surged 49% in the three years since April 2015, just before the general election that enshrined a commitment to a referendum on EU membership in the government programme. We calculate the change to April 2018 to remove seasonality effects. Clicks on food jobs, which include both food production and service, remained broadly stable compared with other categories, growing 1%. In contrast, interest in healthcare and construction jobs dropped 21% and 42% respectively.This line graph shows clicks from the EU as a share of all UK clicks by job type. The job types represented are healthcare, food, construction, and childcare. The data highlights that EU jobseeker interest in key roles is changing. In 2015 all jobs compared here began at 100, in 2018 Construction roles dropped to 50, healthcare jobs dropped to 60, food jobs saw a dip then recovery in 2018, and childcare jobs rose to 130.